Civil Society, Spirited Discussion

Imagine you could invite 30 of the smartest, most committed people in America to a dinner party where each guest had 10 minutes to discuss a single big topic: What can we do to make this country better? Not what government can do, not what business can do, but what can we do as concerned individuals, coming together in community?

That’s the basic concept behind Civil Society for the 21st Century, an in-depth article series that Independent Sector has just launched in partnership with the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In a time of deep polarization, mounting cynicism, and declining trust, we think this conversation is both essential and exciting.

The guest list for this party will probably surprise you. We tapped into our own network, nearly 40 years in the making, and then invited friends of friends of friends. We hope the mix of voices and viewpoints will make for a conversation that’s stimulating, provocative, and ultimately constructive.

Following some introductory thoughts from Dan Cardinali, here’s what you can expect to see in the coming months, with new authors and links added each week:

American Context: The American Context of Civil Society by Yuval Levin 

Lines and Ties: Parallel Universes? Lines and Ties in Civil Society by Janet Murguia

  • Aspirin and Democracy by Jan Masaoka
  • In a world of diverse and specific missions, what binds civil society together?
  • How do organizations within civil society self-identify (charity, nonprofit, etc.) and why does it matter?
  • What is the role of religion in civil society?
  • Crowd-sourced topic
  • Crowd-sourced topic

The Human Factor: Civil Society and Authentic Engagement in a Diverse Nation by Angela Glover Blackwell

  • Does civil society reflect the diversity of America?
  • What motivates people to participate in civil society?
  • What is required for successful leadership in 21st century civil society?
  • What are the barriers to participation in civil society?
  • Crowd-sourced topic
  • Crowd-sourced topic

A Question of Values: Looking to Civil Society for the Values that Shape a Culture by David Brooks

  • Are there values that unite all segments of civil society?
  • If civil society is about the common good, who defines “good”?
  • Does civil society address values questions in ways that government and business cannot?
  • What is the conservative case for civil society?
  • What is the liberal case for civil society?
  • Crowd-sourced topic
  • Crowd-sourced topic

Like any good discussion, we can’t say exactly where this will lead, and that’s why we’ve left lots of room for new voices. Please use these pieces’ respective comments sections to weigh in, make your voice heard via social media (#CivilRenewal), and tell us about new authors or topics to drive the conversation forward.

This party won’t be complete without you.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Civil Rights, IS Member, IS Staff, Public Policy, Race, Equity, and Inclusion