Results from July 2015 Civic Engagement Focus Groups
In July CHEER convened two focus groups to look at the barriers to civic participation in Takoma Park and Long Branch and how to overcome them. The groups included both low income and immigrant residents. Below is a consolidated list of the barriers and six suggested areas of focus for developing strategies to overcome these barriers to civic life.
“What are the Barriers to Civic participation for people in Long Branch and Takoma Park?”
People don’t have time – Work and family responsibilities make civic participation hard to manage.
People don’t have resources – Many with little or no wealth are so focused on providing basic needs, such as food, rent, and health care, that they cannot focus on civic participation.
People are discouraged – They lack of confidence, lack of ability to achieve success)
People are afraid of retaliation, conflict, deportation
Unequal Status due to discrimination by immigration status, race, gender)
People are not interested – They don’t see benefits from participation
People don’t understand basic government and how the civic system works
People can’t access information
People don’t understand the information when they do have it due to language barriers, and difficult concepts
People don’t have a sense of belonging, don’t feel represented, or feel excluded.
What are potential strategies for addressing these barriers?
The Focus groups suggested many potential strategies which generally fell into six areas of focus:
Help community members to organize achievable small scale time limited projects that address a specific need that is a priority concern in their neighborhood.
Identify community leaders and support them with resources and training.
Develop a curriculum tailored to the culture and circumstances of each the major Takoma Park and Long Branch social networks that informs and motivates participation in civic life.
Identify community focus points where people can be engaged to exchange information and conduct activities in those places that draw interest in civic affairs.
Conduct events that engage the community in civic affairs, such as an election forum or a civic discussion group.
Use social media to focus on building interest and connections to civic affairs, especially among young people.
A group of five people will use the input from the focus groups and information about best practices in civic engagement to formulate a preliminary plan. If you are interested in volunteering or participating in CHEER’s civic engagement activities, contact firstname.lastname@example.org