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Our goal at ECDI is to help strengthen the capacity of communities to solve their own problems. We see our role as "listener, connector and catalyst" much more than "expert".
Civic engagement is integrated into all ECDI programs and activities - whether in education, research, or community outreach. Everything we say and do reflects the basic idea that community vitality is determined by the quantity of leaders in a community and how, individually and collectively, they talk, decide, act, and interact with one another.
ECDI conducts training sessions in public deliberation and civic engagement and provides technical and financial support for County Extension Coordinators (CECs) who want to become more involved in citizen engagement. In partnership with the Southern Rural Development Center, ECDI managed the "Turning the Tide on Poverty" project where Extension Coordinators in Perry and Dallas counties took the lead in conducting community study circles on the issue of poverty. Several CECs have partnered with the David Mathews Center for Civic Life to conduct deliberative forums in their counties. Over the next year, all 67 CECs will be conducting "Connected Community" forums to discuss and address local broadband adoption issues.
ECDI believes that public deliberation is a valuable tool for engaging citizens and for helping to unleash their power to change communities for the better. But we also feel that the use of National Issues Forums issue books, employed in one-shot forums, fails to fully realize the potential communities have for sustained deliberation and citizen mobilization to address important community concerns. Thus, ECDI developed a new tool for engaging citizens. Community Questions: Engaging Citizens to Address Community Concerns is a question-based instrument for bringing citizens and stakeholders into a deliberative process to identify the heart of the problem, identify options for addressing the problem, weighing costs, benefits, and tradeoffs associated with each choice, designing a possible course of action, and engaging others in working toward a solution. It may be used by many types of organizations, for many types of purposes, in many types of settings. For more information on civic engagement and Community Questions, please contact Joe Sumners: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: October 22, 2012