In honor of National Cooking Day, September 25, 2018, I offer the following recipe for civic success. This is offered with tongue-in-cheek, as civic work can never be addressed with cookbook solutions. However, this “recipe” is intended to spur your thinking about some of the key ingredients that are helpful when tackling a public issue that you care about.

Essential Ingredients:

1   important public issue

1   pinch of raw idealism

1   large measure of active citizens willing to take on their governing role on an issue they care about

1   part civic imagination (a belief that you can make a difference and that it doesn’t take 100’s of people to create change)

1   large scoop of tolerance and patience

4   parts disciplined civic process aimed at governing for the common good

10 parts civic leadership skills

10 parts trusting relationships

8   measures of mutual understanding (agreeing on to how to define and solve a problem)

5   parts constructive tension, essential to determining the common good

1   meaningful role for each interested citizen

5   parts time committed to organizing people

5   parts group dialogue and deliberation, and a willingness to listen to others whom you may disagree with

A   generous portion of accountability – for each person who has committed to your effort

2   parts evaluation so that you can track your outcomes


  1. Decide that as a citizen you have both rights as well as obligations to address problems that concern you.
  2. Be clear on your governing approach, your civic principles and purpose.
  3. Meet with key stakeholders to better understand all sides of the issue.
  4. Convene concerned stakeholders and work together to reach a mutual understanding about the problem you are trying to address.
  5. Using a just and fair process, discuss draft goals and determine the common good around your key issue.
  6. Stir carefully and gently. Adjust the recipe, as needed.
  7. Determine priority actions, develop a strategic approach and work plans.
  8. Create a disciplined civic process to ensure progress is made in meeting goals and work plans.
  9. Ensure that everyone who wants one, has a role that suits them, and which uses their talents.
  10. Meet on a regular basis with those who are ready to act and organize others.
  11. Ensure each member remains accountable to the process and governing approach.
  12. Organize other civic leaders and active citizens to your cause.
  13. Learn the power of networks to speed your work.
  14. Do adaptive management to continue to tweak the recipe and learn from others.
  15. If you are successful, share your recipe with other local partners.
  16. Teach other civic leaders how to make use of your recipe and make a difference in their communities.
  17. Celebrate success. Savor the moment. Cherish human capacity and believe in the power of people to do good work.

Watch the pot carefully as you go. Record small outcomes as you follow the recipe. Once the process is finished, sit back and marvel at the optimism, sense of purpose and hope you have created.

error: Content is protected !!