Leveraging a Civic Moment: New Roles for Citizens and Leaders | Craigslist Foundation

Leveraging a Civic Moment: New Roles for Citizens and Leaders

Presenter: Chris Gates

Subject: Civic Engagement, Community Building, Community Resources & Cultural Assets, Leadership

Presented in: 2011

As the Internet and social media force governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations to become more democratic and transparent, exciting new possibilities for democracy and civic engagement have started emerging in America, said Chris Gates, executive director of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE).


America is in a “civic moment,” a period of dramatic transformation that mirrors the political reform movement of a hundred years ago—at the turn of the 20th century, the country was in crisis, its political system was corrupt and inefficient, and dramatic change was needed to keep democracy alive.


“In this uniquely American way, when America was in crisis, when things weren’t working at all, instead of turning away from democracy, we reinvented it—and created public life as we know it today,” Gates said.


Today, people’s “civic antennas are up, and they are “thinking more expansively,” said Gates. As the country has moved from a monolithic manufacturing society to a diverse, service and technology-based society, public life must undergo a radical shift to keep up.


Real change is happening all over the country at the community level, with innovation being the key to success. “The most American thing you can do is to innovate, push forward, create something new, and that’s where this civic moment is very real,” Gates said.