Volunteerism said to be at 5-year low

New data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans volunteering decreased by over 4 million between 2005 and 2006, the lowest since 2002.

To mark the five-year anniversary of the establishment of the Freedom Corps, President Bush invited scholars and nonprofit leaders to the White House for a discussion on the findings and what they say about the state of civic engagement in America. The speakers included Professor Robert Putnam, who reportedly


suggested the president do more to help get working-class youths involved in volunteering, the political system, and other aspects of civic life.


The nation risks creating a "caste system" if middle-class children are far more engaged than their less affluent peers, [Putnam] said.


Read more: Philanthropy News Digest, Volunteerism Figures Fall to Five-Year Low, Study Finds, 19 February 2007; Chronicle of Philanthropy, Volunteerism Figures Fall to Four-Year Low, Federal Study Finds, 14 February 2007

Posted by Mike

Harvard and the Real World

I was pleased to read on the front page

Actor promotes civics education

Actor Richard Dreyfuss has been vigorously promoting civics education recently, appearing on ABC's Real Time with Bill Maher and lecturing on civics at Oxford University in England.

Governor Creates Public Liason Office

In his second weekly podcast, Governor Patrick announced the creation of a new Public Liaison Office. The Public Liaison Office is intended as a connector between the state Executive and the public. Citizens can contact the Office by clicking the link above or calling 617-725-4005. The Governor has also elaborated on plans to create the Commonwealth Corps, a new statewide volunteer opportunity.

Residents can contact the Public Liaison Office by calling 617-725-4005, or by visiting the new Office's homepage and clicking "contact us online."

Full details on both these programs can be found in the complete press release from the Governor's office, reproduced below.

Posted by Mike


BOSTON—Friday, February 2, 2007—In his weekly podcast airing today, Governor Deval Patrick announced the creation of the Public Liaison Office, the Civic Engagement arm of the Executive Office that will help connect residents across the Commonwealth with each other and with their state government.Read more

Wal-Mart, Downtowns & Social Capital

According to a recent study by economists by Stephan J. Goetz and Anil Rupasingha, the presence of Wal-Mart in communities depresses their social capital with a number of negative consequences. I haven't reviewed the full study, so I won't comment on the merits of this particular piece of research.

Woburn residents enjoyed a finale concert in Citizens Park this September

What I can say, from SCI's experience, is that a thriving local downtown business community helps to generate social capital. In Woburn, we have seen more viable businesses coming into downtown, providing people with more opportunities to informal connect with their fellow community members. We have worked to encourage this trend by partnering with the Woburn Redevelopment Authority on a number of projects, including a summer concert series that brings people into downtown.

Measuring social capital is certainly challenging. But sometimes you know it when you see it, and our concert series is a great example of that. Families stroll along with their families, stop and listen to some music that draws a diverse crowd, chat with neighbors, and then move on for dinner at a local restaurant. That's some social capital!