Defining Civic Engagement
(Excerpts from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000)
"Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes."
- Preface, page vi
"A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate."
- Introduction, page xxvi
Methods of Civic Engagement
- Vote in local and state elections. Polling schedules, sample ballots, registration information, and more is available at the following links: Anderson County, Blount County, Knox County, Loudon County, Sevier County.
- Know your representatives. Call, email, and/or mail letters in support or against policy or to generate awareness. Find your representative here.
- Attend City Council meetings. These meetings are open to the public, and you are allowed to express your opinion or concerns at these meetings. You can also watch recordings of the meetings online to see what pressing issues are being addressed in your community. To find meeting schedules and additional information about your city council, go to this map and select your city's icon for website access.
- Volunteer. Justice-oriented agencies are listed below. Pellissippi State Service-Learning Program's official list of community partners is available on the Service-Learning home page at www.pstcc.edu/service-learning/. For information on what qualifies for ServiceCorps
- Modify your social activities. Consider ways to include new people in your social group activities. Establish reoccurring, public outings with diverse groups of people. Join interfaith communities. There is no end to the creative options that create an impact without derailing your personal schedule.
- Understand and engage in what it means to be and have an "ally." There are many resources online that cover the responsibilities, activities, and exchanges between allies and the allied. Find resources that apply directly to your ally group. California State University has published this thorough overview on all things ally, here.
Defining Social Justice
The Center for Social and Economic Justice defines social justice as, "the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others, at whatever level of the “Common Good” in which we participate, to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development."
There are several ways to be involved in justice-oriented causes. The agencies and groups listed below offer different kinds of service capacities, causes, and commitments. If you do not see an opportunity that is right for you, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know your interests, what kind of commitment is sustainable for you, your talents, skills, and future career goals if known.
Arnstein Jewish Community Center builds community, serves people in need, fosters an environment of inclusion, and provides ongoing, diverse, and meaningful ways to assist others.
Where: 6800 Dean Hill Dr. SW, Knoxville, TN 37919
Black Lives Matter is an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and allies to fight anti-black racism, to spark dialogue amongst Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement. For information on events, go to www.facebook.com/blmknox/.
Contact: Elandria Williams at 865.933.3443 x244
Community Action Committee/Office on Aging provides a broad spectrum of health and nutrition-related services, in-home services, and educational, recreational, and volunteer opportunities for seniors.
Community Shares is an Appalachian Community Fund designated for the support of economic, environmental, racial, and social justice issues. The umbrella includes the following nonprofit organizations:
- CISV (formerly Children’s International Summer Villages)
- Community Mediation Center
- disAbility Resource Center
- Jubilee Community Arts
- Little River Watershed Association
- Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center
- NAMI-TN (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance
- SOCM: Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment
- Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Additional information for all of these organizations is found at http://communitysharestn.org/membership-directory/.
Disability Rights Tennessee is Tennessee’s Protection and Advocacy System, and it has represented more than 40,000 clients with disabilities at no cost. DRT provides services to people who experience issues related to employment discrimination, safety in schools, abuse and neglect, and access to community resources and services.
Family Justice Center is Knoxville’s domestic violence and sexual assault support center that provides services to adult and child victims. The services include prosecurtors, detectives, clergy, and social service professionals.
Contact: email@example.com or 865.215.6800
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. There are a variety of ways to get involved. Go to www.glsen.org/chapters/easttn/getinvolved to find out how. All potential volunteers submit online applications.
Highlander Research and Education Center is a progressive, social change organization that raises resources in a variety of ways to fund its work. Highlander’s history includes fighting segregation in the labor movement, Civil Rights movement organizing including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and anti-strip mining and worker health/safety struggles. Today, Highlander continues to fight for justice and equality with focuses on immigration and the advancement of multi-racial, inter-generational movements.
Where: 1959 Highlander Way, New Market, TN 37820
Contact: Andre Canty at 865.933.3443 ext 230 or firstname.lastname@example.org
League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County is a nonpartisan, political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy. The LWV currently advocates for improved access to safe, supportive, and educational childcare programs, community schools, healthcare education and access, expansion of mental health services, reduction of jail populations, increasing teacher salaries and employer contributions for health care insurance, establishing sustainable urban forests, and more.
Contact: All communication is handled electronically via online forms at the LWV website.
Muslim Community of Knoxville: Outreach Committee seeks to increase understanding of Islam among Muslims and people of other faiths and traditions. This committee arranges presentations and mosque visits from other churches and organizations.
In addition to the Outreach Committee, the Muslim Community of Knoxville strives to help and support people in need through charity. To participate in volunteer efforts, contact email@example.com.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) advocates Civil Rights across the state of Tennessee with the mission to foster excellence and equity in legislation. The NAACP seeks to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
Contact: 865.622.4748 or firstname.lastname@example.org
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) advocates for a culture where domestic violence is not tolerated and where society empowers victims and survivors while holding abusers accountable. NCADV is located in Denver, Colorado; however, the agency’s presence is national. Most volunteers assist via the internet. To find out how you can assist, fill out the form located at www.ncadv.org/get-involved/volunteer.
Pellissippi Pride is an on-campus community that provides support and resources for all LGBTQIA and ally students, faculty, and staff of Pellissippi State Community College.
Positively Living serves vulnerable groups struggling to service challenges created by HIV/AIDS, homelessness, mental illness, addiction, and disabilities. Their mission is to improve the lives of people through advocacy, counseling, socialization, housing, case management, and support.
Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee provides compassionate services for survivors of sexual assault and to empower communities through education and social change. Volunteer opportunities include special events, programs and services, group service projects, and clerical/administrative duties. Go to the agency’s website to find out more.
Where: 201 W. Springdale Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37917
Contact: (865) 637-9711 or (800) 255-9711
Showing Up for Racial Justice 865 (SURJ) – SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. The East TN chapter is just getting started and was formed to support racial justice work in the region, including the Black Lives Matter Knoxville group. Get additional information at http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ or go to www.facebook.com/surj865/.
Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED) provides young adults with pathways out of poverty through training and development in sustainable careers in clean energy.
Contact: 8653766.5185 or email@example.com
Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA brings together people of different languages and cultures in a world-wide community. The charitable organization seeks to promote cultural exchange and help others.
Where: 1205 N. Central Street, Knoxville 37917
Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services provides access to civil legal assistance, promotes and models diversity and inclusiveness, advocates for justice for those in need, and has a vision of equal access to justice in Tennessee. The main office is in Nashville; however, efforts and members exist across the state. Volunteers can assist with areas such as administration, training, communications, design, and more.
Tennessee Equality Project provides educational programming for advocating and engaging local media and governments to advance non-discrimination. All potential volunteers must fill out an online form.
Tennessee Justice Center addresses health care system failures and treats access to health care as a moral issue through advocacy. The nonprofit is based in Nashville; however, there are capacities in which volunteers can help without being in the office. Go to www.tnjustice.org/get-involved/volunteer/ to find out more.
The Nature Conservancy is a nonprofit organization with locations established around the world to protect a myriad of habitats in order to preserve the diversity of life on Earth.
Contact: Katherine Medlock at 865.531.5883 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer Ministry Center is an interfaith organization that seeks to provide supportive housing for those who are homeless and provide services to prevent homelessness. VMC programs include a “housing first” approach to ending homelessness, dental clinics, utility and transportation assistance, and more.
Where: 511 N. Broadway, Knoxville, TN 37917