Last Thursday, Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP) hosted its first annual YP Summit, where I was a speaker on Civic Engagement 101: How to Get Involved With Your Community. We demystified how to get involved when you don’t know where to start.
The room was packed and when we asked who had been to a town meeting, almost all the hands shot up. Civic engagement is trending on Cape Cod (#engagecapecod), with young professionals serving on finance committees, running (and winning) elections for school committee, and even the most tepid putting their toes in the cold New England water.
Q: Becoming civically involved is overwhelming. Where do I start?
- Go to town website: look at committees for something that interests you
- Find a cause (potholes, playgrounds, wildlife)
- Keep an eye out for public notices (in the newspaper, at town hall, or on the town calendar)
- Like your local community newspaper’s Facebook page
- Attend your town’s Citizens Police Academy
- Peruse the town’s Annual Report
Q: Say I’m not ready to get on a committee but I still want to get involved. What are some baby steps I can take?
- Volunteer on a political campaign (#capepoli)
- Bring a buddy to town meeting. The Secretary of State offers this guide on how it works.
- Ask your Town Clerk if there are any short-term town sub-committees
- Join your local civic association
- Find out if your selectmen/town councilor has a monthly coffee hour
- Join the town’s Citizen Advisory Committee
Q: Say I’ve found a cause or committee I’m interested in. What steps should I take?
- Look for stories about the committee or issue in your town’s weekly newspaper
- Public Meetings: watch it in person, online or on tv, or read the minutes
- Contact the chairman or the administrative assistant for the committee
- Have coffee with a member of the committee
Q: How can I figure out what kind of time commitment a committee is? And how do I know what the proper way to conduct myself in these settings is?
- Talk to chair of the committee
- Learn Robert’s Rules of Order
- Familiarize yourself with the state’s Open Meeting Law
Q: Are there any Mentoring & Education Resources out there?
- Cape Women’s Coalition
- League of Women Voters
- Town Democratic or Republican Committees
- State Ethics training
- Watch the CCYP Shape the Cape Speaker Series: Young, Elected, and Connected event (organized by yours truly)
- Don’t forget to talk to your Town Clerk!
Now you have some concrete next steps – and no excuses – to get involved. How will you #engagecapecod? Comment here or tweet @nexuswerx your engagement!