We have an incredible job here at the Center for Civic Innovation. Every day, we work with leaders who spend their time, heads down, focused on improving the communities they live in and/or serve. Some of the organizations we work with have been doing this work since before I was even born, and others are just getting started. They give us such strength and energy each and every day.
Whether with a sense of joy or a gut punch of disappointment, thousands of my peers and I still came to work yesterday. We will continue to keep showing up and doing the work for the communities we work in. The way we do our work may change, but why and whether we do it does not.
This past September, I gave a TED talk on building trust between community and government. The message still, and especially, resonates right now. Tuesday marked the end of an extremely polarizing national election. The numbers paint a picture of deep division. This election brought attention to a number of issues, from the state of our public school systems to equity in our housing. These issues are national debate topics, but they are, more importantly, a local reality that we struggle with every day. Many of the decisions about what we do and don’t do about these issues are made by our mayors, city councils, and school boards. All of these positions are up for election in 2017.
We have an opportunity to keep people informed and engaged, even beyond a national election. In 2017, the Center for Civic Innovation will focus time and energy on building trust in communities and pushing for historic engagement in Atlanta in its local elections. We will work with partners and peers to make sure the amazing work being done in Atlanta continues to progress. We want to be a place where we can talk openly and honestly about issues and leadership in our city. We’re going to learn from your voice, support, pushback, and love every step of the way.
For those of us doing public service work, elections can feel like a referendum on whether what we are doing matters, but it shouldn’t. The work we do will only suffer if we waver one way or another because of an election. Public servants need to stay steady during times of division to offer an opportunity for people to get involved in the work that they are already doing. We need to figure out how to keep pushing one another to do better.
Social work is so easy to critique and put under a microscope because it can be slow, progressive work that often changes only incrementally from generation to generation. Our impatience is both our country’s strength and Achilles’ heel. It drives us to do incredible things, but we can easily forget how hard change and progress really is.
Thank you to everyone who has been doing this work, is doing this work today, and will still be doing it tomorrow.
Founder & Executive Director
Center for Civic Innovation