Crowdresearching: How to Create Civically Healthy Communities

I am launching a new idea, a new concept that marries the practice of community-engaged research with the social and innovation process of crowdsourcing. My research question is this: How do we create more civically healthy communities?

This is an initiative driven by my receipt of an inaugural Reach for the Stars research award from the University of Central Florida. The award gives me $10,000 per year for at least three years in a discretionary research fund. I intend to use these limited dollars as leverage for additional financial and non-financial resources to answer my question: How do we create more civically health communities?

A civically healthy community is one in which participatory processes are inclusive and diverse and in which participants have the skills, tools, and confidence to contribute meaningfully to the social, economic, and intellectual strengthening of communities.

I am going to launch a series of interactive online tools over the summer to engage the community defined as broadly as it wants to be to piece together a series of related but distinct actionable research projects that engage geographic communities, government officials, citizens (including the passive, active, and civically disconnected by every measure), scholars, nonprofit leaders, and private sector leaders.

These stakeholders will share an interest in investing in our people and communities so that citizen engagement and public participation is elevated for all citizens and governments, enabling more trusting citizens, more trustworthy governments, more responsive government, more civil citizens, and enhanced social and economic outcomes in our communities. 

Why crowdresearching? I am perfectly capable of designing a research study in a vacuum, but on the question of creating more civically healthy communities, I know only what my experiences and passive reading of research reports have taught me. To design a study, or set of interlocking studies, I need the community. The community can help identify geographic locations and government jurisdictions that are willing to partner in experimentation, can help raise funds to conduct the experimentation, can help implement and provide mass oversight of the study process, and can help translate the findings to civic and government leaders around the United States and beyond–thus spreading innovation and ideas about what works, why, how, and for how much.

I have written in previous publications that unless we as a society invest properly in the civic and participatory efforts maintained by our various governments and other public serving entities, then we should quit the facade, because we may be doing more harm than good. We may be leading to more distrust than increased trust. It is time to invest, but to invest, we need to know more about how to invest across and within the diverse populations that makeup the majority of citizens who are just not showing up.

If you are interested in helping understand how we can give citizens the skills, tools, and confidence to participate meaningfully in our civic and political life, contact me thomas.bryer@ucf.edu. I will sign you up, sign you in, and we can begin together to create more civically healthy communities.

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