Civic Engagement Can Help Ordinary People Accomplish Extraordinary Things

Courtney Curatolo
Leadership Palm Beach County
April 21, 2016

As you may know, adult participants in our Leadership Engage program all do civic engagement projects.

There’s a good reason for that. And it’s not just to learn about their leadership potential which is important too, of course.

Civic engagement work, according to researchers, is also closely linked to personal growth and self-confidence.

It’s all part of learning in adulthood -- a process that’s very different from learning throughout childhood -- that, if applied to its full potential, can transform communities through civic engagement.

Due to changes in technology and population demographics as well as the growing global world we live in, there are several dimensions that should be incorporated in the learning process for adults to have a successful learning experience. Some of these dimensions include cognition (knowledge and skills), emotions (feelings and motivation), and society (environment and external interaction in communities and society). 

For this reason, many local leadership development programs like Leadership Palm Beach County (LPBC) focus on civic engagement projects that incorporate paths to societal action and community change for the betterment of the community.

Civic engagement projects provide adult learners opportunities to examine community and societal issues, foster change for the common good, and promote a civil society.  Moreover, lifelong learning, in particular with adult learners, must incorporate proactive instruction and the empowerment of adult learners in order to be successful. In addition, volunteer activities can provide unique opportunities for adult learners regarding personal growth, self-confidence, and skills and capabilities. 

Leadership development programs and volunteer activities are two excellent opportunities for adults to learn in formal institutional settings, non-formal settings, and informed contexts which are the three types of settings in which adult learning occurs. Also, participation in community leadership programs can help adult learners assess their own abilities and motivate them to transfer their knowledge. 

Researchers (Kouzes and Posner) in 2001 argued that leaders are at their best when they challenge the process, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, model the way, and encourage the heart. By following these principles, ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things, researchers believe.

This year, our Engage Class of 2016 has been able to achieve high levels of success in adult learning and make a powerful impact in the county by participating in five unique civic engagement projects.  These projects will be showcased at our Leadership Celebration on June 8.  I hope you will be able to share and celebrate their success. Tickets can be purchased here.

The Takeaway: Through civic engagement projects at community leadership programs like LPBC, participants gain personal grow and take part in societal change. It’s all part of adult learning. And research proves this.

Courtney Curatolo, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer of Leadership Palm Beach County.