The following was written by Angie Sechler, co-leader of the community-based Como Active Citizen Network and member of the Como Civic Governance Organizing Agency. Angie describes her experience in claiming the identity of citizen, meaning governing member, in her neighborhood organization, which is working to address Como Lake’s water quality impairment in St. Paul’s Como neighborhood. Through her citizen role she influences water governance in Como, her home community.
For me, the Como Civic Governance pilot provided an alternative approach to addressing a complex problem affecting our local lake. Rather than just simply volunteering some of my own time once during the fall to clean up leaves from my curbside, I was able to expand my individual participation as a volunteer and develop my role as an organizer, talking with my neighbors about how our ongoing role as a community can help improve the water quality of Como Lake.
The Como Civic Governance pilot expanded my imagination, to think beyond simply being a resident and consumer of city services. I’m now inspired and see myself having a contributing role that could actively address community issues that often seem too overwhelming and complex.
After receiving regular, monthly training around the importance of governing for the common good, building the capacity for active citizenship, developing a network of neighbors, and engaging with existing civil service agencies, I was able apply these skills to the Como curbside cleanup, giving me the confidence to become more of a civic leader in the community.
The Como Civic Governance Pilot provided an innovative approach for citizen engagement. It offered a greater, long-term vision for continued active citizenship compared to simple volunteerism. Participating in the Como CG pilot gave me a greater sense of ownership to finding a solution to the phosphorus problem impacting the lake. It also provided the capacity to think differently and develop a greater interest in how other issues impacting the community could be addressed.
The Como CG pilot has renewed my faith in the power of citizen involvement. It has resonated with me given the usual volunteerism model provided only a temporary sense of altruistic satisfaction. What I find most appealing is it provides anyone searching for greater citizen involvement an alternative to the volunteerism or advocacy approaches to addressing local community issues.