Civic engagement is about the right of the people to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good.

--David Korten, Globalizing Civil Society: Reclaiming Our Right to Power, Open Media Series, via Wikipedia

When we think about civic engagement, we frame it as one element in the larger context of the public. We believe that particularly within the United States, we have a very limited notion of what’s possible for public life and public voice. As we say, the public is a work in progress [link to paper]. A stronger public—one that can hold its institutions accountable—requires a new scale of civic engagement. There need to be new ways to see and connect among people, new public spaces that encourage dialog, protest and play, and even new public infrastructures that enrich lives and remind us that “public” means all of us. Without these new forms, there will not be the scale of force to demand the changes needed in our civic and private institutions. 

Thus our work around civic engagement—whether it’s done on the streets, in a city-sponsored forum, or a social justice gathering—is always aimed at finding ways for the public to increase its power. We create opportunities for communities and populations to learn about plans and policies impacting their lives, to shift their perceptions of their role in shaping public life and to imagine new uses of public space, new public rights, etc.



STREET LAB: UPHAM'S was a season-long outdoor Creativity Lab where anybody could reimagine and prototype ways to liven up micro-public spaces. It took place in an alley in the Upham's Corner neighborhood in Dorchester, MA over the fall of 2013. We transformed an alley every Saturday, complete with activity stations and a small woodworking shop.


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