50 tips on how to become more involved in your community in 2022.
Between drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercise, and vegetables, being a person can be downright exhausting. But there's much more to being human than simply getting by. In fact, some argue that all people have a civic duty—that is, a universal responsibility expected of all members of society to serve and do right by their community.
What does it mean to be civically engaged? To be civically engaged means to be an active member of your society who deliberately tries to make a difference on behalf of all members of the community. It means voting, understanding what's going on in local (and national) government, belonging to clubs, engaging with neighbors, volunteering and so much more.
In the year 2022, it may feel like your peers are more civically engaged than ever or, are at least attempting to be. The political climate in recent years, combined with the coronavirus still being a concern, and recent, renewed support and momentum gained by the Black Lives Matter movement internationally, may have sparked a new meaningful wave of civic engagement.
What is civic engagement?
In short, civic engagement refers to being an active member of society. According to a now archived piece from The New York Times, civic engagement is defined by "working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes."
Furthermore, to be involved in civic engagement is to be a civically responsible citizen. The NYT article adds, "A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate."
Civic engagement could be anything from voting, being involved in local government, understanding what's happening in national (or international) governments, protesting, belonging to clubs, engaging with your neighbors, volunteering, getting involved in or starting a community garden and so much more.
Here, we rounded up 50 meaningful ways to be more civically involved in your community—no matter where you live!
50 Ways to Be More Civically Engaged in Your Community
1. Check your voter registration.
Visit Vote.org to make sure that you are indeed registered to vote.
2. Register to vote.
If you check your voter status and realize you're eligible but haven't yet registered, you can register to vote at DoSomething.org.
3. Request an absentee ballot.
4. Locate your polling place.
Unsure of where to go on Election Day? Use Vote.org's Polling Place Locator tool.
5. Know who's on your ballot in advance.
It won't be only recognizable names on your ballot come Election Day. Know who else will be on your ballot, plus what their stances are on each matter, in advance, that way you can make an informed decision. Ballotpedia provides a Sample Ballot Lookup tool so you know what to expect come Election Day.
6. Encourage others to vote.
Do you know someone, maybe a family member, who recently turned 18? Or else, someone who is eligible to vote but hasn't yet registered? Encourage them to vote and offer your help in getting them registered. They can register to vote at DoSomething.org.
7. Restore the Vote.
If you or someone you know has a past felony conviction, that doesn't mean that the right to vote is out of the question. Find out if you or someone you know is eligible to vote, or eligible to start the process of restoring the right to vote after a felony conviction at Restore the Vote.
Related: Voting Quotes
8. Join a protest or rally.
Use Rallylist to locate upcoming rallies and protests near you. If you don't live in or near a major city where rallies are happening, you could always take matters into your own hands and organize one yourself.
9. Sign a petition.
Or five. Use Change.org to peruse active petitions based on matters that are important to you.
10. Contact your local representatives.
It's your right as a member of society to contact your local representatives regarding an issue that's important to you. Read up on how to most effectively contact representatives on Call the Halls.
11. Know your representatives.
Before contacting them, we recommend knowing who they are and what they stand for. Check out iCitizen, a civic engagement resource that helps you read up on where representatives stand on the issues. If this seems insignificant, consider this: a 2018 study by Johns Hopkins University found that less than 20 percent of Americans could name their state legislators, while one in three Americans cannot name their governor.
12. Attend local meetings.
But what meetings? If you live in a gated community, go to the monthly meetings, read the minutes of Board Meetings, and submit questions to the Board. If you live in a non-gated community, join the local association. If your town or street does not have a neighborhood civic association, organize one. Civic associations can jumpstart a conversation between the community and local government, ultimately getting things done in the community faster. If you have children in school, attend the PTA meetings and Board Meetings.
13. Join your local Neighborhood Crime Watch.
Neighborhood Watch groups pay attention to what's going on in the community, especially when some neighbors are away or during the night when burglaries are more likely to happen. According to a recent study from the U.S. Justice Department, neighborhoods with Neighborhood Crime Watch experience 16 percent less crime on average.
14. Attend City Council meetings.
It's crucial to attend these, too, as attending City Council meetings and/or reading the meeting's minutes are the most effective ways to know what's going on locally. You will learn of new and/or proposed ordinances, budget concerns, new businesses and so much more.
15. Join the local Chamber of Commerce.
Are you a business owner, entrepreneur, or are in some other way, self-employed? Then joining the local Chamber of Commerce is more relevant to you than to some others. Joining will help you network with other business owners and put faces to the names of other businesses in town. It will also help more people know you and your role in the community.
16. Go to Town Hall meetings.
Town Hall meetings generally don't get a lot of attendees, so chances are, your opinion will really be heard if you attend. Check your local paper or your local government's website for a schedule for upcoming Town Hall meetings.
17. Make donations.
Churches and other organizations are usually always soliciting donations—whether it's clothing, technology, books, toys or other household items. Chances are, these donated items will go toward local families who really need them.
18. Donate money.
Another way to make a difference is to put your dollar toward someplace meaningful. Donate money to local shelters, organizations, suicide prevention lines, or more. Not sure where to donate? GoFundMe has a running list of the best charities to donate money to.
19. Volunteer as a Crisis Text Line counselor.
Crisis Text Line is a texting-only suicide and crisis prevention line that is almost always accepting volunteer counselors. You'll talk to people in crisis, with mental health issues, or enduring difficult times with the goal of discouraging them from hurting themselves or others. By volunteering, you could save a life.
20. Organize a clean-up.
Whether it's a beach clean-up or an adopt-a-highway cleanup, litter is a huge environmental problem worldwide. By donating your time to organize and take part in a local clean-up, you'll be clearing your local area of trash that cheapens the community's aesthetic, and ultimately, contributes to environmental complications like global warming and climate change.
In general, any kind of volunteering is a type of civic engagement. It doesn't matter if you're volunteering your time to a local clean-up, volunteering as a Crisis Text Line counselor, or something else. You could volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, put in a few hours at the local shelter, read to kids at the library, or even register your pet as a Therapy Dog and visit hospitals with the hopes of cheering up patients. Use VolunteerMatch to help you find the right volunteer opportunity for you.
22. Read books.
One of the most imperative civil engagements you can do is read up on issues you are passionate about, as well as issues you know nothing about. Books to add to your reading list include The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan Cullors, and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland, The Stonewall Reader edited by the New York Public Library, and so many more. This list is just a jumping-off point to get you started.
Related: Best Diverse Books for Teens
23. Sign up for e-newsletters.
Reading books isn't the only necessary reading you should do in order to increase civic engagement. Subscribe to e-newsletters like The Daily Skimm or The New York Times to get daily email updates about what's going on locally, nationally and internationally.
24. Listen to a podcast.
There are political podcasts, local history podcasts, and just about every kind. Listen on Stitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere podcasts are available.
25. Take a tour of your local area.
Even if you've lived there or nearby for your whole life, have you ever seen your hometown through the eyes of a historical tour? Just because you've lived there, doesn't mean you fully understand the local history.
26. Visit a museum.
Whether it's a local history museum, art museum, or science museum, museums can be wonderful troves of information you never could have imagined.
27. Utilize your local library.
Take out books, donate books, volunteer to teach senior citizens how to use phones there, take a cooking class, or another seminar. Libraries are also troves of information and a free way to learn new skills.
28. Watch documentaries.
Watch documentaries on prison reform, transgender portrayal in the media, systemic racial injustices, environmental issues and so, so, so much more.
29. Join the Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club is an environmental organization throughout the United States that seeks to move environmental reform forward to stop climate change, global warming, environmental racism and poverty, and so much more.
30. Shop locally.
The best place to put your dollar—other than donating it to important organizations that matter to you—is in the hands of a small, locally-owned business.
31. Follow local politicians and other civic leaders.
On Instagram, Facebook, in the news, via newsletters, websites and more.
32. Always fact-check.
33. Talk to people.
Becoming more civically engaged is a journey, a journey many of us are on. Don't forget that the people around you—family members, friends and neighbors—are also critical resources for helping you in that journey. In fact, by starting a dialogue about civic duties in your community, you might just inform each other.
34. Do something (regularly) for a neighbor.
Speaking of neighbors, Pew Research reports that only 31 percent of Americans know either some or all of their neighbors. Engaging with your neighbors though is an impactful way to get involved in your community. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who needs help getting groceries or shoveling the driveway when it snows. Or maybe you find out one of your neighbors walks long hours and could use the help of someone else to walk her dog once a day. Whatever it is, getting involved in your neighbors' lives may seem small, but it is a huge part of being civically engaged.
35. Carry Naloxone.
You might be thinking, "Why would I carry Naloxone, an anti-overdose treatment? I don't know anyone on drugs." But you don't have to be an EMT to save a life. In fact, if you carry the injectable Naloxone on your person or leave it in your car, you might just be able to save a life.
36. Research community composting options near you.
Many communities have either a composting or community garden resource that's open to the public. If you're not sure where to join, check out this Community Compost Locator tool.
37. Shop at local farmers' markets.
Shopping a the farmers' market is the ultimate way to shop local. Eating locally-grown foods is the best-case scenario for both your health and the environment. Not to mention, your money will be well spent going to local, small farming businesses.
38. Join a club.
Any club! Getting involved in a local club is a key way to provide for the community while also keeping your ear to the ground about what's going on locally. Most times, not knowing is the biggest problem, so if you're connecting with like-minded individuals in a club, you'll probably be better informed than if not. Check out MeetUp for a list of local clubs near you and sign up for one that suits your personal interests.
39. Pick up trash.
As in, whenever you see it. You don't have to organize an entire clean-up to pick up and properly discard a soda can on the side of the road. If you see litter, carefully remove it from the area and discard of it properly. If it's a material that can be recycled—like plastic, glass or aluminum—try your best to properly recycle it.
40. Get involved in your local shelter.
Volunteering at a local pet shelter or fostering animals in need of a home is an impactful way to get involved. Shelters are always looking for potential foster families and even people to cuddle, feed, and show the adoptable animals a little tender love and care.
41. Sign up for classes at the local college.
You're never too old to go back to school. Even if it means taking one class. Try a gender or feminist studies class or learn a new skill by taking a pottery or art class. The classroom is always changing, so taking a class or two is an effective way to stay on top of the current climate.
Is there something you know how to do expertly? Maybe you have a Master's degree in creative writing or are really good with computers. Teaching is another kind of volunteer work, but it can be even all the more rewarding because it means transferring the skills and knowledge you have to somebody else who could really benefit from it.
43. Watch the news.
No, seriously. We know the news can be ultra depressing, but it's one of the most important parts of being civically engaged. You can't be civically engaged and simultaneously ignorant of what is going on around you.
44. Ask questions.
It's a general, vague one, but always ask questions. Not sure how something works? Ask. Not sure who your state Senators are? Ask.
45. Do your research.
Just behind asking is doing your own research. Make sure to diversify the sources you consult, too, when researching.
46. Check your own privilege.
One of the keys to being civically engaged is understanding that your personal experience may drastically differ from someone else's. People's experiences vary based on their race, gender, sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, class, religion, disability and so much more. Social privilege refers to the special advantage or entitlement that a person may use to their own benefit or to the detriment of others, sometimes without even knowing it. Reconcile with your own privilege in order to understand how others move through and see the world.
Yes, being civically engaged means in large part, being near and supporting your local area. However, being well-traveled can also reflect civic engagement. In order to understand why things are the way they are near you, it's also important to experience other cultures and areas too. It provides a more well-rounded picture of the world and society as a whole.
48. Observe local wildlife.
Your local area is in large part defined and impacted by the local wildlife—and vice versa. If you observe local wildlife, then do some research on the kind of birds in your area, you might find out some interesting information about how the local environment is impacting those birds. And again, vice versa.
49. Calculate your carbon footprint.
Carbon footprint refers to the environmental impact of your daily activities—driving a car, energy consumption, eating red meat and other animal products and byproducts, etc. But before you can reduce your carbon footprint (meaning lower your environmental impact), you have to calculate it. Use the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Carbon Footprint Calculator tool to find out how heavy your carbon footprint is.
50. Do outdoor activities.
Just like how observing local wildlife is a type of way to be civically engaged and understand your local area, doing activities outdoors can better equip you to understand your community. Go kayaking, boating, hiking, bike riding, paddle-boarding, swimming, scuba-diving, and more. Being outdoors with help you get in touch with nature, which not only releases endorphins, but also can highlight just how linked the environment is to our communities and politics.
Next up, read up on 50 quotes on racial justice.