Everyday Democracy’s Work Highlighted at National Conference on Citizenship Annual Gathering

Sandy Rodriguez
November 14, 2017

While our nation's civic fabric has frayed, the backbone of our country - its people - has demonstrated resilience in community that has inspired powerful change.  On October 19-20, civic engagement leaders, practioners, students, and community members got together for the National Conference on Citizenship's annual gathering in Washington D.C. to demonstrate their commitment to civic health, community renewal and a path forward in addressing challenges that face our nation.

Representing Everyday Democracy and the Connecticut Civic Health Advisory Group, Valerianos Ramos, Director of Strategic Alliances and Equity Officer, spoke on a “response” panel for Dr. Robert Putnam’s keynote address on the opportunity gap and what we can do to enable equal access for all to the American Dream.  Mr. Ramos alluded to the need to also talk about “civic opportunity gaps” when talking about economic opportunity gaps in low-resource communities. This process creates opportunities for marginalized voices to be empowered and for community residents to work with each other and public officials in dialogue and action that leads to problem-solving and solutins suited to each individual community. 

One example Mr. Ramos provided was that of Pajarito Mesa, one of five community coalitions in Albuquerque NM, and part of Strong Starts for Children, a multi-year initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with a focus on early-childhood education. Pajarito residents have struggled with little or no access to water, no electricity and sewer system, no paved roads, supermarkets or sanitation services.   There are no schools at the mesa, so the children have had to walk miles to take a bus that takes them to the Pajarito Elementary School and other schools in the city. Yet, through partnerships, training, community dialogues and ongoing coaching, Pajarito Mesa residents gained skills to organize, and change their community for the better. Within 5 years, common understanding and trust led to funding for solar panels, the planting of community garden plots, a water station, a first responder system and a small portable building that serves as a community center and tutoring site.

Also participating on the panel were:

John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises, Chair, NCoC National Advisory Committee (Moderator)

Diane Douglas, Executive Director, Seattle City Club

Shawn Healy, Democracy Program Director, Robert R. McCormick Foundation

Valeriano Ramos, Director of Strategic Alliances and Equity Officer, Everyday Democracy 

Stuart Comstock-Gay, President and CEO, Delaware Community Foundation,   representing Community Foundations Opportunity Network (CFON)   

Robert Putnam, Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University

Winning an American Civic Collaboration (Civvy) Award at the conference was Everyday Democracy Anchor Partner, New Hampshire Listens. Here is their press release.

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is a congressionally chartered institution committed to strengthening civic life and participation in our country through partnerships and projects. Everyday Democracy is a national partner of NCoC in its “civic health index” initiative.


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