What is Community Engagement or Civic Engagement?

Community engagement, also called civic engagement, is not a term most people use regularly. However, most of us have experience with what community engagement is all about! Community engagement is active participation in your community and being invested in what happens in your community. It includes direct service, policy and governance, community organizing and activism, community-engaged learning and research, and social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility. 

“Civic engagement is acting upon a heightened sense of responsibility to one’s communities and a heightened understanding of one’s identity. This includes a wide range of activities, including developing civic sensitivity, participation in building civil society, and benefiting the common good. Civic engagement encompasses the notions of global membership and interdependence. Through civic engagement, individuals—as members of their communities, their nations, and the world—are empowered as agents of positive social change for a more democratic world.” —adapted from B. Jacoby, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, 2009

Pathways of Public Service & Civic Engagement

CEL categorizes community or civic engagement activities into the following types or pathways. This typology informs the Pathways of Public Service & Civic Engagement workshop. The Pathways describe a range of possibilities by which people can make a contribution to the common good. The pathways overlap and it is common for people to work in more than one pathway or move between pathways over time. Learn more about each pathway below. 

Community Engaged Learning and Research: Connecting coursework and academic research to community-identified concerns to enrich knowledge and inform action on social issues.

Community Organizing and Activism: Involving, educating, and mobilizing individual or collective action to influence or persuade others.

Direct Service: Working to address the immediate needs of individuals or a community, often involving contact with the people or places being served.

Philanthropy: Donating or using private funds or charitable contributions from individuals or institutions to contribute to the public good.

Policy and Governance: Participating in political processes, policymaking, and public governance.

Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility: Using ethical business or private sector approaches to create or expand market-oriented responses to social or environmental problems.

*Adapted from Pathways of Public Service, in partnership with the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University.


Pathways of Public Service and Civic Engagement