Are you the type of person who believes we should take every opportunity we have to help each other and the environment? Or that life will only get better for us as individuals if we improve things as a community? If so, you're already engaged in the basic principles of civic engagement, whether you realize it or not.
Indeed, civic engagement is an important part of modern society for a wide range of reasons. In fact, there are five core societal issues that can benefit from civic engagement.
What Is Civic Engagement?
At its core, civic engagement involves people coming together to help improve the overall quality of life for everyone who lives and works in a community. They do this through processes that are both inherently political in nature and those that are not.
Examples of civic engagement activities can include political activism, community service, and environmentalism, among others. But how does civic engagement benefit society?
Why Is Civic Engagement Important?
Broadly speaking, civic engagement is important because it helps to create a more just and equitable society and allows individuals to have a voice in shaping the future of their communities and countries. It fosters a sense of community, bringing people together with shared values and beliefs to work toward a common cause and effect positive change.
Civic engagement promotes social justice and strengthens democracy. Democracy depends upon citizen participation. When people are politically engaged, they hold their elected officials accountable and can influence policy decisions that shape their lives. Engaged citizens can cause what the late Representative John Lewis called “good trouble,” fighting against discrimination and promoting equality.
This kind of involvement not only improves our society but can also improve the individuals involved: the personal growth and development of the civically engaged cannot be overstated. Civic engagement can help you develop new perspectives, develop a sense of purpose, and build leadership skills.
5 Societal Issues That Can Benefit from Civic Engagement
Many societal issues can benefit from civic engagement, not to mention career opportunities that can allow people to help make the world a better place. Here are a few examples of societal issues that can be addressed through civic engagement that deserve further exploration.
By far, one of the biggest societal issues that can benefit from civic engagement takes the form of homelessness. According to one recent study, as of 2020, there were more than 580,000 people who are unhoused in the United States alone. This was, of course, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic uncertainty that came with it, both of which have undoubtedly made things worse.
There are a number of different career paths that people can follow after they've finished their education that can help contribute to this issue positively. This could be case managers who help assist people with mental health issues and homelessness outreach specialists who can help connect people experiencing homelessness with relevant resources.
Another major societal issue that can undoubtedly benefit from as much civic engagement as possible is pollution. As of 2022, there is an estimated 75 to 199 million tons of plastic waste in the oceans alone. People don't realize that pollution is more than just a "minor inconvenience" or a problem with consequences limited entirely to aesthetics. Pollution poisons our water supplies, increases sickness, harms our ability to produce enough food to feed people across the globe, and more.
An environmental scientist is one example of a leadership in science career that can absolutely help with the societal issue of pollution. They are tasked with not only finding solutions to pollution-related issues we already have, but also preventing further ones from developing down the road.
3. Climate Change
Similarly, climate change is a pressing issue that does not discriminate. There will soon be no place on Earth that has not experienced some climate change-related impact firsthand, the vast majority of them overwhelmingly negative in nature.
Research has indicated that the adverse effects of climate change are far more extreme and far-reaching than previously anticipated, with the United Nations Secretary General describing it as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
Climate change will impact developing nations and those already in poverty the most. About half the world’s population already struggles with water scarcity and rising temperatures. And every year, millions of people are forced from their homes due to flooding and storm damage.
Thankfully, atmospheric scientists are among the professionals looking into new and innovative ways to hopefully reverse some of the damage that has already been caused before it is too late. If you’d also like to help, consider pursuing a master’s degree in biological sciences where you can craft a plan of study around biology, climate change, and ways we can combat this issue.
4. Food Insecurity
Food insecurity occurs when people lack access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and support an active and healthy life. It can result from a range of factors, including poverty, unemployment, low wages, high food prices, and limited access to food sources such as supermarkets and farmers markets.
Food insecurity can have serious health consequences, including malnutrition, stunted growth, and an increased risk of chronic diseases. It can also have social and economic consequences, such as reduced productivity and increased health care costs.
Food scientists can use their expertise to address food scarcity by developing new technologies and processes that increase food availability, reduce food waste, and improve the nutritional value of food. They work to develop new food products that are more affordable, easier to produce, and safer to eat. Food scientists also develop sustainable food production methods, such as vertical farming and hydroponics, that allow farmers to produce more food while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. To learn more about what food scientists do and the multiple food production methods they use, consider earning a Certificate in Regulatory Affairs for Food Professionals.
5. Race & Gender Inequality
Did you know that, according to another recent study, white men out-earn their black and Hispanic counterparts, not to mention all groups of women, by a significant degree? It's true, and if we don't do something about it by way of civic engagement, this issue is not going to resolve itself.
That's why positions like urban and regional planners are so important. These professionals develop land use plans and various programs that help create resilient communities in every sense of the term: those that help support population growth, that revitalize the economies of entire areas, and that help give everyone an equal chance at thriving despite race and gender inequality issues elsewhere.
How to Increase Civic Engagement
Overall, increasing civic engagement is often less the product of any one major move and more about a series of smaller and more meaningful ones.
If you're involved in community outreach yourself, for example, you should always go out of your way to showcase the important work that dedicated individuals are doing every day. When people see hard work and dedication paying off, it can motivate them to participate in the future.
Likewise, opportunities for community participation should always be promoted, both in-person and online. People want to help others—they just need to know that those opportunities are out there so that they can get started.
Increasing civic engagement is also something that can be accomplished through encouragement in the education system at all levels. This includes not only colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions but high school and even grade school as well. You are never too young to start learning about ways in which we can all come together to make the world a better place.
Learn More Today
At the U of M, we understand the important of societal issues. After all, we all have a duty to try to leave this planet in a better condition than when we found it. Becoming educated and helping to funnel our passion toward solutions for some of the common problems we collectively face as a society goes a long way toward accomplishing precisely that.
If you're interested in finding out more information about the types of societal issues that can benefit from civic engagement, or if you'd like to learn more about our educational opportunities like our Master of Professional Studies in Civic Engagement degree, please contact us today.