Civic Engagement Activities
The ‘Hood Group
The ‘Hood Group consists of CSU, Chico students who have been trained to help communities build stronger and better neighborhoods by enhancing the ability of residents to form sustained relationships characterized by effective communication, shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect, and a readiness to collaborate. The ‘Hood Group is an undertaking of the Neighborhood Connections Project.
Through membership in the ‘Hood Group, students serve as “civic consultants” to advise and assist local residents in their efforts to improve their neighborhoods. Consultants provide support ranging from facilitating communication, running meetings, providing technical assistance, and planning projects to recruiting and “hiring” other students to help meet residents’ civic needs.
Civic consultants bring to actual community tasks the knowledge and “know-how” they’ve acquired from their studies. In the process, they develop and apply skills that will serve them well in their careers and community life after college.
Academic credit in the amount of 1 unit (45 contact hours), 2 units (90 hours), and 3 units (135 hours) can be arranged. All majors and pre-majors are welcome.
For details, contact the Office of Civic Engagement by phone (898-5486),
e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or in person (MLIB 171D).
Like many U.S. cities and towns today, communities in California’s “North State” are hampered in their efforts to respond to challenges (e.g., structural unemployment, homelessness, K-12 education quality) by the failure to include residents in the policy-making. The traditionally-adversarial character of government decision-making, combined with the growing belief that government tries to do too much, leaves decisions in the hands of small groups of political “attentives” whose strident advocacy impedes constructive discussion and alienates the larger public from the local democratic process.
People need to take responsibility for the likely consequences of reduced government spending coupled with fierce resistance to higher taxes. They won’t take responsibility, though, unless they reassert their authority to deliberate, set priorities, come to public judgments, and make collective decisions about how they, as a community, wish to move forward.
It is our purpose to facilitate the rebuilding of the “civic infrastructure” every community requires in order to govern itself effectively and democratically. Building civic infrastructure, in turns, depends on accumulating an adequate store of “social (civic) capital”: the mutual trust, respect, shared responsibility, and readiness to cooperate that constitute the most-basic assets of a community’s civic wealth. Social capital is generated when people invest in building civic relationships with their fellows through conversation, priority-setting, planning, public work, events, and activities.
- Bring residents of neighborhoods—both permanent and temporary—into closer, more-frequent contact with each other, facilitating the establishment of positive relationships and open lines of communication (i.e., a civic “infrastructure”) that will become self-sustaining and will support locally-initiated conversations, events, activities, etc. that build a sense of community, collective responsibility, and collective empowerment that enable residents more effectively to resist erosion of quality of life.
- By helping form neighborhood associations (formal or informal, loose or structured), create the first “nodes” of a community-wide network of associations that will foster constructive communication both (i) between neighborhoods and (ii) between neighborhoods and community organizations and institutions (CUSD, City of Chico, etc.).
- By involving students in the project, build and strengthen relationships between temporary and permanent residents through improved communication, consultation, and cooperation.
- By involving students, provide a significant civic learning opportunity, one that will do more to prepare students for life-after-college citizens and leaders than any other single learning experience available to them by helping them learn to work with diverse populations; speak in public; organize and mobilize people; deal constructively and productively with resistance, criticism, and conflict; collect and analyze data; etc.
- We see expansion of this work leading eventually to the establishment of an informal or formal organization (similar to longstanding civic structures in other cities  comprising all of Chico’s 80-plus neighborhoods. As a result, we expect residents to become better informed, more active, more disposed to cooperation with local government and each other, better able to identify their needs and develop responses they can implement, and possessed of more-positive attitudes toward both democracy and participatory government.
See also Building Community By Building Neighborhoods (pdf)
Usually called “Neighborhood Councils,” these civic structures exist “to promote public participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs by creating, nurturing, and supporting a citywide system of grass-roots, independent, and participatory” organizations. They exist in many U.S. cities, including St. Paul, Minnesota; Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles and San Diego, California; Houston, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Tacoma, Washington.