Engaging Citizens in Seattle’s Civic Life

In early August, the Jackson Foundation will partner with Seattle CityClub for the second time this year to present its latest Civic Boot Camp series. The day-long program targets young adults and new arrivals to the city and is a fast-paced course into local history, culture, and politics. The Jackson Foundation supported the program to help CityClub engage new populations into the civic life of our community, and, in so doing, to promote some of the values that Senator Jackson embodied.

May Boot Camp Participants
May Boot Camp Participants

During the day, Civic Boot Camp visit​s​ key historical and civic institutions​, hears from civic leaders in the region, networks, ​develops participants’ civic skills, and gives them tools to design their own personal plan for civic engagement. Diane Douglas, Executive Director of Seattle CityClub, says “the partnership with the Jackson Foundation is a natural fit; Civic Boot Camp was envisioned to start conversations, build knowledge, and ignite civic action. This program has done just that.”

In the spirit of Senator Jackson, Boot Campers gain an in-depth appreciation of the history around an issue in our region and have the chance to practice civic leadership skills. CityClub provided the historical curricula and the Jackson Foundation provided the civic tools to activate people’s inspiration into action.

A Visit to a South King County Nonprofit
A Visit to a South Seattle Nonprofit

While the core curricula of each Civic Boot Camp program is to instill in its participants the knowledge of how civic leadership and participation shapes our community, ​CityClub narrows down the discussion around a chosen theme. In May, Civic Boot Camp focused on​”Local/Global Seattle” and highlighted the history of the “American dream” across King County as it relates to equity and demographic change. As part of a panel luncheon discussion, participants listened to  ​civic leaders in South King County working to support civic health in immigrant communities and answered difficult questions about how to achieve equity across our community.

In two separate days in August, Civic Boot Camp will take place along Seattle’s downtown waterfront and will focus on the history and politics surrounding the downtown waterfront development plans. Participants will get a guided tour of waterfront sites from a local historian from the nonprofit HistoryLink, visiting the Pike Place Market, Olympic Sculpture Park and the Port of Seattle, and as at all Boot Camps, learn about philanthropy, social services, and opportunities for civic engagement in the region. A panel discussion will feature representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the Pike Place Market Foundation, and the Port of Seattle.

Throughout each day, the Foundation’s publication The Nature of Leadership  ​helps Boot Campers identify ideal civic leadership traits in the leaders with whom they interact, and importantly, in themselves as public citizens. Participants wrestle with hard questions to evaluate their own civic engagement strategies: “How do you seek out partnerships to solve problems? How do you learn from others? What do you do in your community to build trust and motivate others?” With the Senator Jackson leadership story before them, participants have a valuable resource to explore their own civic engagement goals.

Sharing civic stories and learning about our community’s past is integral to the Civic Boot Camp mission. Christina Billingsley, CityClub’s coordinator for the Civic Boot Camp program, notes “The partnership with the Jackson Foundation and CityClub has provided an innovative platform for newcomers to the region and young people to get connected, appreciate our past, and become better informed about their own political choices and civic involvement.” The Foundation and CityClub hope Boot Campers will continue the conversations started here and translate this knowledge to improve civic health across King County. The Jackson Foundation is proud to be part of this effort to engage young people, new immigrants, and diverse populations into the heart of civic life in the Seattle community.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

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