Over the last 18 months, the Choose Civility Initiative, in concert with many community partners (see partial list below) has explored a central query — what does civility mean when the goal is to increase civic engagement and participation among all members of a community?
Maine Humanities Council
League of Women Voters
Elders for Future Generations
West End Neighborhood Association
USM Economics Department
Coalition on the Commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
ACLU of Maine
Collective definitions of civility have almost always begun with the concept of “respect” — respect for differing points of view, differing identities, differing ways of being in the world. This conversation often begs for deeper listening – our individual experiences of “respect” can differ and a central tenant of diversity and social justice education is the recognition that intention and impact can differ.
Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot’s seminal work on interrogating the lived experience of respect is a wonderful opening for deeper thinking about the ideal.
Peeling back “respect” often opens us to the value of curiosity. The practice of civility and civic engagement depend on some element of shared learning among members of a community. The Choose Civility Initiative quickly found that participants have a deep and abiding interest in sustained conversation – that the opportunity to learn from “experts” and from each other are equally important. Curiousity leads to increased empathy and the strengthening of the skill of “listening for understanding.” Our Choose Civility collection of 125 titles explores many topics and and our programming emphasizes opportunities for conversation among attendees.
Photo Credit : Sarah Davis Ground Rules Generated “Creating Communities We Wish To Live In” December 2014
In some times and places, a call for “civility” can be understood as code for a call to “quiet down,” to suppress controversial ideas or dissent. Portland Public Library embraces a much more rich and inclusive meaning of civility – civility is the value that allows full exploration of ideas, popular and unpopular; civility creates a climate where dissent can be expressed without fear of retaliation or violence; civility allows opportunities for clear and fair access to information that shapes the policy decisions that effect us all. As our larger community engages in debate and discussion about our values, we are Choosing Civility. As we share our own understanding of the word and listen hard to the stories of others, we are Choosing Civility. As we give of ourselves, as we advocate, as we serve, as we learn, as we appreciate our community, we Choose Civility.
We are grateful to the hundreds of individuals who participated in Choose Civility programming over the last 18 months and we look forward to continuing these conversations in 2015!
EVENT POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER, new date will be announced at a later time. Our apologies for any inconvenience.
The Library’s Choose Civility Initiative began with the premise that we ALL share an interest in creating, maintaining and engaging in shared spaces and shared conversations about our broader community. We have engaged in all kinds of conversations over the last 18 months, some directly reflecting on the idea of civility and some giving us the chance to practice civility while discussing more controversial topics.
As our grant from the Lerner Foundation comes to an end, we will consider various strategies for maintaining Choose Civility programming at the Library. We welcome your feedback about the kinds of programs you like best — send us an email or look for a survey soon!
We are delighted to share the news that Lift360, one of our grant partners, will take leadership on a next phase of the initiative – organizing task forces to implement civic action.
More than anything, though, we invite you to attend our final “Portland Public Conversation” on December 9th at 8:00am (coffee begins at 7:30) to explore these queries in person: what is the status of “civility” in Portland? How might we strengthen our community through individual and organizational practices? Join us for “Picturing Portland” and share your insights and ideas!!!
Below are some of the programs we offered through this grant. What did you attend? What did you like best? What would you like to see more of?
- Civic Action in Portland : A Community Conversation
- Incivility Fatigue with Professor Dan Shea
- Welcoming : Creating More Welcoming Communities, a World Cafe conversation
- Welcoming : Posters for Citizenship Ceremony with “I’m Your Neighbor”
- Constitution USA : A Film Screening
- Capital in the 21st Century Book Discussion // Inequality for All Film Discussion
- The Guilty Pleasure of Erotica : a facilitated conversation
- Facilitation Workshop offered by Anne Schink of the League of Women Voters
- “Creating the Communities We Wish For” with Maine Humanities Council
- Active Hope : A Book Discussion
- Civic Writing : Workshops on writing letters to the editor, op-eds, blog posts, tweets and more
- Civic Education and New Mainers – Addressing the Gaps — a community conversation convened in partnership with LWV
- Muslim Journeys – a film series in partnership with Maine Humanities Council
- Celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – coalition programming
- Portland Public Conversation Series : Portland’s People, Participating in Portland and Picturing Portland
Join the Choose Civility Initiative tomorrow, November 25th at 7:30 am for a Thanksgiving week public conversation on the topic of “participating.”
(Coffee, Treats & Networking / 8:00am program start)
Thanksgiving asks us to amplify a spirit of generosity and inclusion that we hope to find in ourselves and our communities throughout the year. Despite high levels of perceived incivility in our culture, we also live in a time where “giving” happens frequently, in formal and informal ways. The connection between thankfulness, service and a stronger community is robust — that is, we know that when everyday people give their time and energy to strengthen their communities it serves everyone… but we also know that civic engagement is sometimes easier said than done.
Tomorrow (November 25th) we will share strategies for increasing pathways to civic engagement, share stories of how and why volunteering matters, and tackle some of the obstacles that make volunteering hard. We will also feature a dozen area nonprofits to share a sample of volunteer opportunities available now!Among the organizations participating, we will learn from the United Way of Greater Portland, Maine Animal Refuge League, Learning Works, the Maine Tool Library, League of Women Voters, Lift 360 and more!
Also happening this week: MPBN will offer a special “Maine Calling” on the topic of Thankfulness on Wednesday. MPBN and the Maine Community Foundation are sharing “Voices of Giving” throughout this month, documenting all sorts of reasons that people choose to give their time, money, and other care. Bangor Daily News is sharing stories of people for whom the rest of us “should be thankful.” We offer books on thankfulness, including this wonderful list of poems.