RSA Civic Pulse: New Model and Survey for Active Citizenship

In May 2011, the RSA published Power Lines, which continued the tradition of understanding social networks but particularly discussed networks of power and influence with an emphasis on problems of isolation.  In this report the authors argue that connectedness leads to a greater sense of empowerment and that social networks are a vital part in change and influence, making the point that those who are least connected face disadvantages in terms of employment, influence and other activities.

TCC blogged about that report and the interplay between Social Networks and Values at the time and is currently conducting research in an English local authority to explore that interplay in much greater detail.

Given the observations made by the RSA in Power Lines, they published a follow-up in July 2011 titled The Civic Pulse: Measuring Active Citizenship in a Cold Climate which presents the Civic Pulse Model and the Civic Pulse Survey.  The purpose of Sam McLean and Benedict Dellot’s article is to explain the dynamics behind this tool which broadly intends to understand, measure, and improve active citizenship.  The concern with active citizenship, a method for measurement and a strategy for implementation relate to the RSA’s previous reports because they intend to analyse and increase effectiveness in regards to social networks.  By establishing a purpose, summary, methodology, context, counterexamples and usage the authors explain what this new model is, why it was developed and how it can help active citizenship and communities.

To briefly describe the Civic Pulse model, McLean and Dellot explain that it is “a new approach to understanding, identifying, and measuring the underlying drivers of active citizenship within communities”.  Through four stages; theory, framework, survey and intervention the model will provide policymakers with vital information that allows them to recognise deficiencies and successes in communities and services.  The model itself measures the drivers of active citizenship in four domains: know-how (knowledge and skills), attitudes (feelings and identity), relations (social networks) and institutions (specifically the availability of institutions).  According to the authors, this method is more conducive to data collection and is more comprehensive, thus it is claimed to exceed four other contemporary models (Wellbeing and Resilience Measure, the Vitality Index, Clear Model, and the Citizen Audit).

Perhaps the most provocative part of the paper was a section titled “The Foundations” in which the authors presented a new concept of citizenship called republican liberalism.  This part challenges the traditional view of citizenship by being more demanding of the individual.  Civic virtue, distributive justice and public reason are the components of republican liberalism, and together they paint a picture of citizenship that is active, egalitarian and citizen-oriented.  This more demanding view of citizenship is the result of a growing confidence in the effectiveness of active citizenship.  Contextually, republican liberalism fits with the rhetoric of the Big Society and the age of austerity within the midst of insecurity amid financial woes and coalition government.

With the model established, the terms defined and the expectations stated, the authors move on to explain the five-part process known as the Civic Pulse Survey.  This procedure begins with the actual survey where the data is then used to create a Civic Pulse Profile which is translated into new initiatives and changes of which are evaluated then finally shared with other interested parties.  This new Civic Pulse Profile prides itself in the projected impact it will have on identifying communities in need and re-engineering existing services to help these communities and benefit active citizenship.

The Civic Pulse model along with the Civic Pulse Survey attempt to create a new standard and definition for measuring active citizenship that is believed to inform policymakers and benefit communities.  With a new model and a new survey, the RSA looks to tackle the problems of isolation outlined in Power Lines and in general desire to increase the effectiveness of social networks.

Brian Schroeder studies at Augustana College, Illinois and is currently working as an Intern for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

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