Between the MLK marade, the inauguration of our new president, the massive Denver Women’s March, and our recent INC Neighborhood Awards Dinner, I’ve been communicating with so many active community members, and activists in our city. When I am a part of the massive crowds participating in our elections, our marches, and our celebrations I believe that our Denver neighborhoods are strong and our community is strong as well. It enlivens my spirit and fills my heart with joy once again. However I’m also reminded that the vast majority of our citizens do not participate in civic life or community engagement. With over 11,000 city employees, 30 – 40,000 members of our various Registered Neighborhood Organizations, and a rough estimate of 20,000 more citizens, not with the city or RNOs, engaged in volunteer work and non-profit activism to better our city and its residents, I estimate the sum to be about 80,000 citizens that are sporadically active or fully engaged in building our city for the good of all citizens. Take that with the best census available that says Denver’s population was 682,545 in 2015 and we can estimate that only about 12% of Denver’s population has even some involvement in how our city grows and operates. We can also estimate that about 5% of households are members of their RNOs and I’ll guess that about 1% or less of Denver residents are active participants in their RNOs.
When I see the massive public outpouring from marches and demonstrations of resistance I see an enormous potential for public engagement that goes beyond marches. We have an opportunity for public engagement that creates instead of resists. Our city has a store of energy in our citizens that can be used to grow and motivate, not just struggle and repel. As city representatives and neighborhood leaders we have the organization to turn their energy and motivation into improvements and community growth. The power of sustainable outreach and engagement comes from a willingness and ability to ask for their involvement, and the amazing thing is; Most potential participants are just waiting to be asked and shown how to get involved.
Community is defined by our activism and our unity. We can disagree on specific subjects and city topics and still be unified in our pursuit of a better Denver. In the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 we have seen activism on full display. We have also witnessed the unity that comes when larger issues demand communal action. I hope that all of you city and neighborhood leaders will work to keep these new, and sporadic, participates in our public process active and ask them to be engaged in their neighborhoods and in local politics. Community is truly built neighbor-to-neighbor and it is also constructed neighborhood-to-neighborhood. Reach out to your neighboring RNOs and exchange ideas. Come up with ways to share the effort that it takes to engage more of our Denver residents in the Registered Neighborhood Organization system. Doubling our number of active participates from 1% of our population to 2% doesn’t seem like too lofty of a goal and it will make a Yuge difference in each and every one of our lives and in the kind of city that we will become.