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Connecticut Civic Health Initiative

Everyday Democracy believes we can create more vibrant and resilient communities by participating in civic life. Learning about national and local issues through newspapers and other media, donating to charity, voting in a local election, participating in faith-based community service activities – these are just some of the ways we engage with our community. They are also indicators of “civic health” - a measure of the wellbeing of a nation, state, or community that takes into account the depth of people’s engagement in local social and political life. Communities with better civic health tend to have higher community satisfaction rates, lower unemployment rates, and greater economic resilience.

In 2006, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) published the first national civic health report, with the goal of promoting public discussion about our country’s civic condition. The report was based on census data spanning nearly 30 years, from 1975-2004, and measured nine key indicators of civic health:

  1. Connecting to civic and religious groups
  2. Trusting other people
  3. Connecting to others through family and friends
  4. Giving and volunteering
  5. Staying informed
  6. Understanding civics and politics
  7. Participating in politics
  8. Trusting and feeling connected to major institutions
  9. Expressing political views

Since publishing that report, through partnerships with local universities and nonprofits, NCoC has supported 27 states and nine cities in evaluating their own civic health.

UPCOMING EVENT

 

Connecticut Civic Health Project

Following the release of the 2006 national report, Connecticut followed up with the 2011 Connecticut Civic Health Index to gain an even deeper understanding of the State's civic health.  The Connecticut Civic Health Advisory Group was formed - 50 stakeholders from a wide variety of sectors - civic, community, education, government, business, media, youth, and philanthropy - co-chaired by Everyday Democracy’s Executive Director, Martha McCoy and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. 

The Connecticut Civic Health Project and Connecticut Civic Health Index have served as national models in the implementation of innovative partnerships around civic health.  Since 2012, people involved in the Connecticut Civic Health Project have consulted with more than 10 other states that are implementing similar initiatives.  Be sure to visit the Project Facebook Page: @ConnecticutCivicHealthProject  Here is the NCOC Civic Health Project's 2016 Connecticut page link:  https://ncoc.org/research-type/2016ctchi/

Connecticut Civic Health Index Reports - 2011, 2016

The 2011 Report

 Cover image for the 2016 Connecticut Civic Health IndexEveryday Democracy led the effort to create Connecticut’s first Civic Health Index report in 2011. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill were key partners in creating this report. Merrill was the first such state official to take a leadership role in this NCoC national initiative. In the 2011 report, it was noted that Connecticut residents rank higher than the national average when it comes to voting, donating to charity, volunteering, and discussing politics. However, these overall statistics can be misleading. The data compiled in this report also confirmed what many already know – that our state has some of the greatest inequalities in the country. The report showed that socioeconomic and demographic categories are strongly tied to levels of civic engagement.

Some experts have used the term “two Connecticuts” to bring light to the disparities that exist based on wealth, race/ethnicity, and education in the state. Two very different pictures of Connecticut emerged: one that is highly civically engaged and another far more disconnected from civic life. Being white, wealthy, or college-educated was linked with higher rates of political engagement, volunteerism, group participation and community leadership. While all people of color had lower levels of political engagement, Latinos were especially underrepresented in political life.

The 2016 Report

Cover of the 2011 Connecticut Civic Health IndexThe report was followed up in 2016, and suggests ways for people across the state to get involved.  Data collected for the 2016 report shows a small but noticeable improvement in voting participation, compared to data in the 2011 report. It also shows rising civic engagement in some areas – working with neighbors to fix community issues, contacting public officials, eating dinner with family, and talking with neighbors.

With this report, we were able to provide richer information about the civic health of our state by supplementing national census data with neighborhood-level data from DataHaven’s Community Wellbeing Survey of over 16,000 adults in Connecticut.  Here are the recommendations from the report.

 

Everyday Democracy is part of a broad coalition that helped launch Connecticut’s Civic Health Index Research Reports (2011, 2016).  The Coalition also serves as the foundation for the Connecticut Civic Health Project and Advisory Board, and the Connecticut Civic Ambassadors Initiative.  Co-Chairing the Connecticut Civic Health Advisory Group are: Connecticut’s Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Everyday Democracy Executive Director, Martha McCoy.

Partners in the Index report research include: Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), and DataHaven.Eric Liu discusses some of the findings from the 2016 Connecticut Civic Health Index Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civic Ambassador Program

 

In order to further the civic engagement efforts on an ongoing basis throughout Connecticut, Everyday Democracy, along with Connecticut's Secretary of State Denise Merrill and other partners, launched a Civic Ambassador Program in September of 2017. This initiative empowers resident to become catalysts for civic action that can lead to stronger civic health and REAL socioeconomic benefits, in terms of social capital and community well-being.  Be sure to visit their Facebook Page: @CTCivicAmbassadors.

Here is a link to the December 2017 Civic Ambassador Summit.

Here is a link to the June 2018 Univision / El Show de Analeh feature on civic engagement and the Civic Ambassador Program.

 

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Connecticut Civic Health Program Accomplishments

Promoting Greater Civic Participation among College Youth

Student organizations at UConn, together with Civic Health Project partners, have hosted several events focusing on the topics of voting, working for electoral campaigns, community engagement and volunteering.

Strengthening Civics Education in Connecticut

The Civic Health Project has worked with the State Department of Education, which led to the development of new civic education resources for teachers and provided input to Connecticut's social studies framework.

Creating Opportunities for Youth Engagement Using a Text-Enabled Dialogue Platform

In 2015, the Civic Health Project launched the Connecticut Youth Conversations and Action on Mental Health Project. Over 800 high school students in the Greater Hartford area attended facilitation training and dialogues on mental health using the national Text, Talk, Act platform. The Youth Conversations Project built facilitation, leadership, and advocacy skills among young people.

Strengthening Civic Participation by People of Color and Women in State Government

It is important to have people from many backgrounds in positions of power. The Civic Health Project set out to increase the number of women and people of color getting appointed to state advisory and policy-making panels. As a result of their efforts, the state’s women’s and minority legislative affairs commissions created awareness about their updated State Boards and Commissions Talent Banks (databases of people interested in serving on a board or commission). Over time, there has been a slight improvement in the level of participation of minority groups on government panels, but more progress still needs to be made.

Making Civics Curricula Accessible to All Public School Children

In September 2012 the Secretary of State's Connecticut Election Project launched webinars and materials for teachers and students (8th -12th grade). These resources helped teachers integrate materials about the Presidential Election across the curriculum. This is a landmark effort that is gaining visibility and significantly strengthens civics education in the state.

Educating Connecticut Residents on How They can Participate in Government

CT-N (The Connecticut Network, a public affairs station), a member of the Civic Health Project, developed a series of videos with information on voting, testifying at public hearings, and advocacy. The videos are meant to serve as resources for the public to become more engaged in civic life. Members of the Civic Health Advisory Group participated in the videos, which are available for download and streaming on the CT-N website.

Increasing Voter Participation among Latino Voters in Connecticut

In response to the 2011 Civic Health Index finding that Latinos have a low rate of political engagement, the Hartford Votes/Hartford Vota Coalition and the Hartford Public Library conducted neighborhood canvassing of 124 potential Latino voters in 2012. Overall, they found that canvassing had a positive impact on voter turnout. Sixty-four percent of the canvass participants voted in the 2012 midterm elections. Those who were canvassed twice voted were 21% more likely to vote. The Civic Health Advisory Group has been sharing stories and lessons from this initiative to encourage the growth of voter outreach programs in Hartford and across the state and country.   

Making Voting More Accessible and Easier for all Connecticut Residents

Largely through the efforts of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, in 2012 Connecticut passed An Act Concerning Voting Rights which eased the process of voter registration for eligible adults. The act introduced online registration to supplement the existing mail-in system. The state legislature also passed Same Day Registration, which allows residents to register and vote on Election Day. In so doing, Connecticut made voting more accessible, especially for youth, elderly, and communities of color. 

Improving Online Access to Civic Engagement Opportunities and Resources

The Civic Health Advisory Group worked with several partners to launch the online Connecticut Civic Participation Resource Guide on the United Way 2-1-1 website. The Guide provides information, contacts, and resources on topics that include volunteering, civic participation, voting, and donating.

 

Connect With Us                          

If you are interested in partnering with Everyday Democracy to host a Community Conversation based on the Civic Health Index or if you are interested in becoming a Civic Health Ambassador, please contact Valeriano Ramos at vramos@everyday-democracy.org or (860) 727-5967.

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.