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 civic vitality is strengthened by its dense network of neighborhood associations, civic institutions, business and religious groups, public forums and the flagship Boston Public Library in Copley Square, with 25 neighborhood-based branch libraries.
Boston’s civic wealth includes two daily newspapers, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, weeklies ranging from the Boston Business Journal to the Boston Phoenix, Bay State Banner and El Mundo, two public radio stations, WBUR and WGBH, Neighborhood Network News and Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN) TV, numerous college and commercial television and radio stations, neighborhood newspapers ranging from the East Boston Community News to the West Roxbury Transcript, tireless “new media” outlets such as PATCH, and a booming blogosphere.
The Commonwealth’s philanthropic sector, with wide and geographic and topical reach, is also based in Boston. It includes Associated Grant Makers (AGM), the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley, the Barr Foundation, the Yawkie Foundation, Catholic Charities, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and the Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation.
Alongside these anchoring civic institutions, Boston contains more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations whose mandates range from arts and advocacy to the Franklin Park Zoo, from community development to human services. (To explore the Boston and Massachusetts’ nonprofit landscape in greater depth, click here to link to the 2012 Passion and Purpose Report 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 organizations dedicated to bridging differences such as the Commonwealth Compact. It also includes a wide range of volunteer opportunities coordinated by such organizations as Boston Cares, and electorally focused organizations such as Mass Vote.
Finally, Greater Boston’s civic sector includes initiatives whose work is strengthening and diversifying local leadership structures such as the UMass-Boston Center for Collaborative Leadership and YWCA’s Lead Boston program, and new civic mechanisms designed to foster cross-sector collaboration and problem-solving such as the John LaWare Leadership Forum.
Combined, Boston’s civic infrastructure provides ample opportunity for engagement, participation and exchange among all members of an increasingly dynamic and diverse Greater Boston region.