CIVIC: Community Voices Informed Choices
What is CIVIC and how does it relate to community resource development in Broward County?
CIVIC is UF/IFAS Extension community development programming and the acronym stands for: Community Voices Informed Choices.
It is a UF/IFAS Extension initiative that builds capacity for communities to work toward enhanced quality of life leading to solutions directed at local challenges by:
• Raising awareness
• Exploring differences and common perspectives
• Generating ideas for moving forward and
• Working with partners to create recommendations
The role of Extension is to offer research-based knowledge that is applicable to answer difficult questions and provide solutions. Extension educators’ roles are to support people in the development of a broadened perspective, so they are prepared to make reasoned judgments about the critical public issues we face today.
CIVIC can address many different community issues across all Extension initiative areas, such as poverty, community safety, crime, affordable housing, lack of resources, water quality, land use and the opioid crisis.
Why do we need the CIVIC program?
Communities are faced with a variety of challenges these days. For some issues, there is wide agreement about the solutions. For others, there may be a common belief that something should be done, but little clarity and discussion about the specific actions that should be taken. Other issues are filled with disagreement. People may disagree on the facts, or not trust the science that provides the facts. People may disagree on which factors should be considered, believing more attention should be paid to things such as the economy, environmental protection, or community safety. For other issues opposing sides can’t even discuss options as division deepens over time. There are often difficulties addressing these contentious issues.
People do want to participate in meaningful ways to improve their community.
Through UF/IFAS Extension, we can help build capacity in our communities to increase partnerships and enable people to obtain information, weigh costs and benefits and discuss needed options.
Community deliberative discussions may be an important step forward, helping people better understand why alternative solutions are appealing to different people. Discussing the options can help people find common ground, areas of agreement and hopefully a few solutions.
“CIVIC benefits communities through meaningful conversations among community members. By bringing together all members of the community, everyone’s voice is heard. Different perspectives are shared…maybe even a perspective that no one had considered that could lead to positive change.”
-Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Southeast District CRD Regional Specialized Agent
Extension agents in Florida are engaged in many activities working with their communities to:
1. Identify critical needs
2. Frame issues for reasonable discussions
3. Facilitate discussion groups
CIVIC forums provide an opportunity to discuss local issues of concern and explore the reasons people prefer various solutions, which is an important step in finding common ground.
CIVIC helps communities help themselves through enhanced civic engagement. Participants will gain knowledge on the concepts and theories of community development and will be able to apply citizen participation processes, methods and techniques that will assist in managing for change in local communities.
Extension educators can use research-based information to address current issues in communities and to educate policy makers, so they are informed when making policy decisions about critical issues.
Does your group need help with facilitation?
Our UF/IFAS Extension and Broward County CIVIC team members are available to guide your group to success. This forum includes community conversation, brainstorming future ideas and solutions and/or getting everyone on the same page. If you are interested in group facilitated discussion around a contentious issue, please contact UF/IFAS Extension Broward County at (954) 756-8519 and ask to speak to the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent.
For further information:
UF/IFAS Extension, How Problems Gain Importance and Become Contentious Issues through Agenda Setting http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/WC/WC17700.pdf
UF/IFAS Extension, Effective Practice for Building Cross Sector Partnerships