In June 2018, Independent Sector and Stanford Social Innovation Review launched Civil Society for the 21st Century, an article series featuring some of today’s leading thinkers and practitioners exploring current issues in civil society.
Civil society is all about solving difficult social problems, right?
Well, not exactly, says Daniel Stid, director of the Madison Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Collective problem-solving is important, but civil society also provides the space where people can broaden their narrow, individual perspectives and hone their civic skills.
Alexis de Tocqueville thought it was this “indirect” function of civil society – encouraging more engaged citizens with more expansive views – that would guarantee the success of America’s democratic experiment.
For anyone who’s worried about the current state of our democracy, Stid suggests three things all of us can do to strengthen the “voluntary associations” where individuals learn to take responsibility for the common good.