By Nancy Welch
Vice President, Arizona Center for Civic Leadership
We aren’t just living in interesting times. We’re in the midst of a remarkable period. Partisanship and polarization have risen to a fever pitch. Some observers assume a technology-driven future in an ever-more-connected world, while others are looking only to the past for the way forward. Oddly enough, all of the drama may be motivating more people to be involved in civic life.
Given where we are, state government, policies, and actions are again in the spotlight, particularly for those who want a role in public problem solving. They may appreciate the state level anew as a source of knowledge and expertise, as well as a necessary bridge between local and federal levels. As a result, many Arizonans are seriously considering the roles they could play within the ranks of state government and leadership: as elected officials, agency executives, and board and commission members.
Such individuals may well be ready to join the mission of a Center where working across the political spectrum is a guiding principle and helping to develop well-informed state-level leaders is a day-to-day focus.
Applications are now being accepted for the Fall 2017 Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy.
Take Advantage of a Window of Opportunity for Greater Involvement
The Flinn Foundation created the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership in 2010 to strengthen civic leadership in Arizona at all levels, especially the state level. This unique entity, built on deep knowledge and a belief in bridging differences to find consensus on data-driven solutions, is even more timely now than seven years ago.
Is Flinn-Brown or CivEx your next step?
What is different now is the opening of a window of civic opportunity and responsibility—the chance to involve many more Arizonans and the need to redouble efforts to encourage a new middle ground, which doesn’t shy away from today’s realities. The task is to attract new (or renewed) civic participants, from all perspectives, to the critical job of working to span divides and create solutions viable in the present and adaptable for the future.
Some will respond to the power of learning from those who are different. For others, it will be the genuine call of public service, or finding new ways through complex issues. Whatever Arizonans’ motives are, the time to act is now.
Explore Perspectives to More Deeply Understand Arizona and the U.S.
The nonpartisan Flinn-Brown Fellowship, the flagship program of the Center, selects Arizonans from all political persuasions and focuses on sharing many perspectives about issues (along with rigorous facts and figures). Whether conservative, liberal, or independent, the program’s Fellows often report they benefit most from learning from and alongside those with viewpoints different from their own. Discussion leads to reflection, better understanding, and, sometimes, new opinions. Understanding can spark deep give-and-take dialogue, a critical step in making a new middle ground.
See Dialogue as a Catalyst for Public Service
Dialogue can inspire new ways of working across divides that honor viewpoints but still result in practicable, even groundbreaking, ways forward. In short, dialogue is a gateway to public service.
Some observers will see a middle ground built on dialogue and understanding as outdated, that it ignores the messiness of public life today. But in the Flinn-Brown Fellowship—and in CivEx, another program of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership—this strategy has worked. Participants at all stages of civic involvement, with different experiences and perspectives, learn from colleagues on the way toward public service.
The history of this remarkable time won’t be written for years. But we may be able to look back on the approach of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and see the genesis of a new era of participation and the emergence of a new middle ground.