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Expanding Democracy: A Framework for Bolstering Civic Power and Rebuilding Communities

Expanding Democracy: A Framework for Bolstering Civic Power and Rebuilding Communities
2012Civic Engagement

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This report is the result of a planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Between November 2011 and May 2012, a group of Detroit residents committed to the civic engagement of marginalized communities met in Detroit with staff from MOSES and from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. A small group of the Fellows traveled to Los Angeles to experience the Empowerment Congress in Los Angeles in January. Another group of Fellows went to the Gulf Coast in April to meet with social justice and sustainability activists. The result of these meetings and site visits is a conceptual model of engaging traditionally underserved communities in civic activism. This report is intended to complement data and mapping analyses of the region, present and future; it does not include a typical Kirwan opportunity mapping exercise.

The work of the Fellows focused on finding solutions to inequities that can leave minorities, low-income residents, and other traditionally marginalized groups with very few options to make a better life for themselves. The Fellows were concerned with improving civic power — the ability to influence the policy decisions that impact who has access to good schools, jobs and economic opportunity, adequate healthcare, and safe neighborhoods. If traditionally marginalized groups have few opportunities to impact local policy making, further marginalization can occur, leading to a downward spiral of marginalization and disinvestment in these communities. However, these residents have a myriad of assets that can be used to change these circumstances. This report provides a conceptual model for using these community assets to change the civic engagement landscape so that marginalized citizens can become equal “deciders.”