Date of this Version
This service learning project aims to utilize positive psychology research to foster inclusive, sustainable, and generative civic engagement among residents of Midland, Michigan. We conceptualize civic engagement as an outgrowth of social capital, and we leverage the constructs of mattering, fairness, belonging, and bridging to offer positive interventions aimed at increasing Midland’s social capital. Specifically, we propose several changes to evolve the city government’s existing educational civic leadership program called the Citizens Academy. First, we suggest adjusting the academy’s recruitment process to expand access and inclusion by increasing the number and diversity of participants. Second, we introduce a more participatory and citizen-centered approach to the program content that builds on Midland’s four strategic pillars as a guiding framework. We offer four positive psychology-based exercises to be interwoven into the Citizens Academy curriculum: Strengths and Values, Community Exploration Guide, Citizen-to-Citizen Coaching, and Storytelling. Third, we recommend a Civic Engagement Scale as a simple tool to measure initial outcomes. It is our hope that this service learning project will serve not only as an initial catalyst for Midland’s goal of increasing civic engagement, but as a model for other cities and communities looking to utilize the science of positive psychology to effect large-scale change.
positive psychology, civic engagement, social capital, mattering, fairness, belonging, character strengths, community
Date Posted: 04 May 2017