Citizen engagement is the way in which the public governs themselves and is “essential for a democracy to run” (Guy & Ely, 2018). Without citizen engagement, there would be no way to enforce laws, no education systems, no government resources, and no sense of comradery between the public (Guy & Ely, 2018). The goal of citizen engagement is to maximize the volume of participants, so we can maximize the views, opinions, and contributions of others for the best agreeable outcome for everyone. There is typically so much citizen involvement that is goes overlooked by the public (Guy & Ely, 2018).
Citizen engagement takes place in many forms such as voting, volunteer work, and even through the jury system. Each of these different forms of engagement are integral for effective governance, especially in a democracy. Citizen engagement is very powerful because it builds up our community and ensure that our people have a voice in the evolution of their cities, states, and nation. It also acts as a measure to provide solutions that will bring communities together and ensure strength and progression.
Another important form of citizen engagement is volunteering. Whether that be individually, or in a group, volunteer work is so crucial in order to build up communities and bring the people together. Volunteering “creates resilient communities” and “helps build commitment for programs (Guy & Ely, 2018). This type of citizen engagement can range from a wide variety of cooking for the community, helping out with a local garden, volunteering time to help out at hospitals, coaching local sports teams, and many more opportunities.
Volunteers are crucial for the betterment of the communities, as well as the states. We rely on volunteers to help run local and state libraries, zoos, parks, and museums. Without people giving up their free time to help these programs oversight and growth, we would see a lot of these programs end. Volunteering goes beyond building trust and strong communities, but it also helps promote physical activity, and gives the participants purpose (Barber, Mueller & Ogata, 2013).
According to (Musick & Wilson, 2003), it was found that volunteers experience a more positive emotional health, have friends readily available to call, and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Volunteer work is instrumental for a successful, working democracy. There is evidence stating that “communities are more likely to succeed when citizens engage with each other” (Lee & Levine, 2016).
This evidence states that citizens should come together to weigh in on public issues, collaborate solving problems, and most importantly, connect in order to form civic relationships (Lee & Levine, 2016). These actions are important for a democracy because it creates a trust and reliance between the people and their communities, as well give opportunities for the people to devote their time towards what they believe In and care for. This is paramount for a democracy because it allows the public to devote their time to what they believe in rather than what they would be told to believe in other types of government.
Another form of citizen engagement that “helps practice democratic principle and citizenship behavior” is having a jury for court proceedings to come to a majority, and sometimes unanimous, decision (Guy & Ely, 2018). A jury is a group of individuals, selected at random, from the society that come together to make decisions on civil and criminal matters. Jury duty is a civic right and the right to a fair civil trial is guaranteed by the seventh amendment in the United States Constitution (Barnard & Trask 2016,). The founding fathers chose this right of citizen engagement to ensure a self-governed democracy.
A jury allows for citizens to be fairly judged by their peers, which is important to effective governance because it is not based solely on one person, but the collective groups judgement as a whole. Not only does this help create a fair trial for citizens, but also gives jurors the ability to weigh in on the “administration of justice” (Barnard & Trask, 2016). Having a jury for court proceedings is especially important for a democracy because it helps safeguard against a tyranny by allowing the people to have a voice in our justice system.
In conclusion, there are many forms of citizen engagement, and they all play a primary role in putting the citizens first. All of the many forms of citizen engagement are substantial for effective governance, especially in a democracy, because it puts the citizens in a position of collaborating with the government. This type of system is referred to as “coproduction” and puts the public in a role as a partner for governance (Guy & Ely, 2018). Voting, volunteering, and jurors are just a few of the many examples in which the people work together with the government, to create successful communities and programs. Without this collaboration, a successful democracy would fall apart. Thus, citizen engagement is essential for effective governance, especially in a democracy setting.
- Barber C, Mueller C, Ogata S. Volunteerism as purpose: examining the long-term predictors of continued community engagement. Educational Psychology. 2013;33(3):307–26. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.772775
- Barnard, D., & Trask, T. (2016). Jury Expert Citizen Juror: Justice Sotomayor and Steve Susman Discuss Why Jury Duty Matters. Jury Expert, 28(1), 11–16.
- Guy, M. E., & Ely, T. L. (2018). Essentials of public service: an introduction to contemporary public administration. Irvine, CA: Melvin & Leigh, Publishers.
- LEE, M. J., & LEVINE, P. (2016). A New Model for Citizen Engagement. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 14(4), 40–45. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=117596398&site=eds-live
- Musick MA, Wilson J. Volunteering and depression: the role of psychological and social resources in different age groups. Soc Sci Med. 2003;56(2):259–69.