8th Annual National Forum on Public Policy and the Third Sector
May 23-24, 2008
Over the past decade, the civic landscape has shifted in important though subtle ways. The record low levels of voter turnout, falling membership in political parties, weakening participation in volunteering, and the low levels of trust in institutions, are all evidence of the changing nature of civic engagement. Equally significant has been the shift in citizen demands and expectations away from traditional structures of representation towards more direct forms of voice and engagement. While citizens seemingly remain interested in politics, they seek fresh vehicles for personal expression and connectedness to others. These trends represent new challenges for policy makers and for voluntary organizations, making it more difficult to rely on a single notion of community. Yet with an ever-more heterogeneous population, with greater social and economic diversity, and rising inequalities, there is a more pressing need to expand mechanisms so that a plurality of voices can be heard in policy debates. Not surprisingly, civic participation is on everyone's agenda at the moment.By bringing together public servants, academics and community practitioners, this conference provides a valuable forum for dialogue that looks at current practices today, formative emerging trends, and choices on how best to move forward. The conference will explore the following questions: What are the central trends in civic participation and engagement? Is there a generational divide? Does the increasing diversity of our citizenry necessitate varied approaches to engagement? How will these trends affect the place of the voluntary sector in our society? What are some the new and creative mechanisms for engaging hard to reach groups in society? What can we learn from current practices?