What is Civic Vitality?
Civic vitality reflects a community’s connectedness and bonds of trust, or social capital, created through neighborliness, friendship, kinship, civil discourse and collaboration. These are strengthened by places to gather, open access to information, opportunities for civic and electoral engagement, effective leadership and philanthropic giving -- although these same assets can be used to exclude outsiders.
Civic vitality also reflects a community’s commitment to fairness and its members’ capacity to come together in challenging times to act effectively on behalf of the greater good. Ideally, civic vitality fosters a welcoming, inclusive, cohesive and resilient society.
THE CIVIC VITALITY SECTOR IN BOSTON
Boston’s rich civic life is strengthened by a dense network of neighborhood associations, civic institutions, business and religious groups, public forums and local sources of news and information.
Along with the flagship Boston Public Library in Copley Square and 25 neighborhood-based branch libraries, Bostonians have access to many sources of information, from two daily newspapers, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, to weeklies such as the Boston Business Journal and Boston Phoenix, Bay State Banner and El Mundo. It also contains major public TV and radio station WGBH and the nationally known public radio station WBUR as well as Neighborhood Network News and Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN) TV, numerous college and commercial television and radio stations and neighborhood newspapers – from the East Boston Community News to the West Roxbury Transcript – as well as “new media” outlets such as PATCH and a blooming and booming blogosphere.
Massachusetts’ philanthropic sector, with its wide geographic and topical reach, is also based in Boston. It includes large funders such as the Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley, the Barr Foundation, the Yawkey Foundation, Catholic Charities and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, as well as Associated Grant Makers (AGM), numerous corporate philanthropies and smaller community and family foundations.
Boston is also home to more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations large and small whose missions range from the arts and advocacy to the environment, housing, human services and neighborhood revitalization to the Franklin Park Zoo. (To explore Boston and Massachusetts’ nonprofit landscape in depth, click here to link to the 2012 report Passion and Purpose by the Boston Foundation.)
Boston’s nonprofit and civic sector includes resources for new residents such as the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians, organizations dedicated to strengthening specific communities -- the NAACP and Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, the Asian American Resource Workshop, Oiste, organizations focused on engaging young people such as the City of Boston’s Onein3 initiative and the Future Boston Alliance, and a wide range of volunteer opportunities coordinated by such organizations as Boston Cares, and electorally focused organizations such as MassVote.
The sector is also comprised of initiatives designed to strengthen and diversify local leadership such as UMass Boston’s Center for Collaborative Leadership, the YWCA’s Lead Boston, the Commonwealth Compact, and new civic mechanisms designed to foster collaboration and problem-solving such as the John LaWare Leadership Forum.
Collectively, Boston’s civic resources provide ample opportunity for engagement and participation among all members of an increasingly diverse Greater Boston.