Imagine stepping back from the pressures of daily life and thinking about why you do what you do. Imagine getting together with other civically engaged people and talking about your values and the choices you make in serving your community. Now imagine beginning this conversation by discussing short readings that help you gather and articulate your thoughts. This, in a nutshell, is civic reflection.
In civic reflection, a group of people with common civic work step back and think about their activities and commitments. Gathering in a hospitable place, they share refreshments and engage in facilitated conversation. The conversation focuses first on a short, thought-provoking reading and gradually opens up onto larger questions about civic engagement.
What obligations do we have to others in our community? Why join one group and not another? To whom should we give? What do we really expect of those we serve? By reading and talking together about these underlying questions, participants gain a richer connection to one another—and to the important tasks of civic life.
Several thought-provoking pieces of prose and poetry from the civic reflection anthology The Perfect Gift are offered here in the Community Resources. Discussion questions for each piece are available. You can also visit the Project on Civic Reflection online library for more reading suggestions and ideas for discussion.
Civic reflection is now being used by high school service-learning initiatives, AmeriCorps programs, Rotary clubs, foundations, social service agencies, and many other civic organizations. Participants say that they return to their civic activities with a renewed sense of purpose and community. They tell us that civic reflection has had a profound impact on their professional and personal lives.
To quote one participant, “The more we share our deep reflections with each other, the more we learn how to work together easily and effectively for the common good.”
The Project on Civic Reflection can help your group or organization get started with civic reflection. We lead model discussions, train facilitators, suggest readings, and consult on program development. We provide seed grants to start conversations. We build partnerships to help larger networks learn to do civic reflection. We study, speak and write about the practice of civic reflection. Contact the Project on Civic Reflection for questions.