Civic Engagement in the Commons

By Bronlynn Thurman

Akron Civic Commons, a part of the national Reimagining the Civic Commons network, is a demonstration of the power of the civic commons to produce increased and more equitable shared prosperity. In Akron, it is a new way of working in communities that focuses on collaboration, listening, and putting neighborhood residents first. We work across three neighborhoods in Akron: Downtown, Park East, and Summit Lake, and the process is guided by four pillars: Civic Engagement, Socioeconomic Mixing, Value Creation, and Environmental Sustainability. But what do these mean in the context of our work? Well, every month through January, we’ll be taking a deep dive into how we promote each pillar in the work that we do. On social media, we’ll be asking questions and sharing stories about the people we encounter that relate to the four pillars.

We’re kicking off this month with Civic Engagement. But what is it that we mean when we talk about civic engagement? To us, it means that “we will build a sense of community that brings people of all backgrounds back into public life as stewards and advocates shaping their city’s future.” 

So how do we know that we are being successful in this work? We focus on three key indicators: Are people spending more time in our civic commons? Are they being better stewards and advocates of their spaces? Are trust and relationships being formed?

Summit Lake and Park East are two prime examples of where this pillar was put into action. We won’t go into the deep and complicated history of these two neighborhoods, but you can learn more about Summit Lake here. Both of these neighborhoods have had a lot done to them instead of with them, so when the Civic Commons process began, people were understably skeptical.


This is why building a relationship first is the most important step in all of this work. Our team members collaborate with the community leaders and residents to develop a shared vision that can work for all. It has been a long road, but with a lot of door knocking, listening in meetings, and being intentional with our actions, we are making headway. Over the next month, we’ll be talking more about how we increase civic engagement in the neighborhoods in which we work. Those articles will be listed below:

Adopt-A-Trail Program Takes Its First Steps: Article

Humans of ACC: Evelyn Harper and Alvin Hurt: Article

Where We Begin: A Photo Essay of Akron: Photo Essay

Interested in learning more about Reimagining the Civic Commons? Visit the national Civic Commons’ Medium page for more stories. Visit our Baseline Report for more information on where we've started.