Creating a National Civic Communication Corps
Go for a hike in a state or national park, and you are likely to run into some legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Formed in the depths of the Great Depression to give young men work that met public needs, the CCC constructed bridges, trails and lodges that we still enjoy today.
Imagine the legacy of a national 21st century Civic Communication Corps (CCC) program, formed during the Great Recession. Diverse Corps members fan out across the country to help ensure equal access to the digital information and resources that have become the lifeblood of our economy and crucial to our civic life. As a result of this Corps, institutions like libraries and community centers are better equipped to engage 21st century citizens, thousands receive training in digital communications, communities have better civic knowledge and stronger civic cultures thanks to a richer array of online resources produced by more diverse citizens, and the digital divide closes dramatically.
Need: The proposed CCC is a direct response to the needs framed by the 2009 Knight Commission report “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracies in the Digital Age”. The report states that “Information is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools, and public health.” But testimony before the Knight Commission showed that the information and communications infrastructure of civil society is very unequal, with serious consequences for economic opportunity and civic life.
Role of CIC: CCC member activities will include the following:
* Assess local community information needs and assets.
* Help maintain local online community hubs—and create them if needed.
* Increase capacity of community organizations to use technology to engage residents in their programs as volunteers, participants and donors.
* Conduct offline community outreach to increase residents’ awareness of web resources that offer local civic information.
* Provide training to community members to close the “digital divide” and ensure equal opportunity to use technology to participate actively in civic and economic life.
* Create new community information resources using digital arts, social media and other technology tools.
A Networked Approach: We will build upon existing institutional infrastructure to create a national network of sites that will contribute to a body of best practices and tools that will be widely disseminated. The CIC Corps sites will become local centers of excellence that can provide training to other programs on how they can effectively use technology to engage their constituents and increase their social impact. Through rigorous evaluation, we will demonstrate the impact corps members can have in improving the creation and dissemination of information that helps community members participate in democratic and economic life.
Moving Forward: We are targeting a September 2012 start date in the field for the first class of CIC members. To that end, we plan to convene two planning sessions in the spring and summer of 2011, bringing together leading practitioners and thinkers with expertise on using new technology to encourage civic engagement. We anticipate some of those planning meeting participants will join the CCC implementation proposal. The planning will lead to a detailed proposal for implementing the CCC to be submitted to the Corporation for National Service and private funders in the fall of 2011. We are actively seeking additional people that would like to participate in and/or support this planning process.
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