As the 2020s unfold, traditional institutions are being upended, once-sturdy systems are being strained, and trust is on the decline. On top of it all, an unprecedented amount of noise surrounds our daily lives and threatens to unravel our shared reality – and our democracy.
Disruption isn’t inherently bad. It’s how we react to it and engage with it that matters. If our history is any guide, this current era of turbulence will eventually give rise to a period of change and positive progress, a time that is more efficient, equitable, and durable than what came before it.
Every day in 2023, Civic Nebraska has worked to ensure this future is realized. We’re a trusted guide toward a more inclusive and representative democracy, even during near-constant tumult, crisis, and change. On our streets, in our schools, and in government institutions, we have uplifted Nebraskans to connect, organize, and advocate. We’ve employed groundbreaking tools and ways of thinking so that the “new normal” includes everyone. And when our democracy is threatened, we don’t hesitate to act. We do this loudly and proudly as a powerful signal of hope and empowerment to all who strive for a better future.
Here’s a quick look back at Civic Nebraska’s year.
Our Civic Health Programs focused on …
›› Civil discourse and media literacy. Civic Health staff spearheaded Crossing Divides, a statewide effort as part of a national project to examine root concerns on distrust of institutions and sources of information. The one-on-one interviews with Nebraskans resulted in new strategies emerging, as well as support for initiatives to heal conflict and make meaningful, positive change. Meanwhile, our team regularly worked with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska to host civil discourse courses for members and held screenings of the short film PURPLE to bridge Nebraskans’ ideological gaps.
›› Lifting neighborhoods. Collective Impact Lincoln – a partnership with Nebraska Appleseed that strengthens the capital city’s core neighborhoods – took its advocacy work to the next level, launching a housing affordability campaign to rein in source-of-income discrimination. This ongoing campaign, known as Turned Away, aims to protect working families and renters while bringing Star City a step closer to true housing equity.
›› Rural initiatives. From Scottsbluff to Falls City, from South Sioux City to McCook, Civic Nebraska evaluated, trained, and promoted relationship-building within our state’s communities to enhance social capital and trust, and brought diverse groups together to address local, regional, and statewide challenges.
Our Voting Rights Initiatives focused on …
›› Ensuring no eligible Nebraska voter became disenfranchised from a Constitutional mandate to impose new identification restrictions on the state’s electoral process. Our work at the State Capitol resulted in LB514, far and away the most accommodating of the proposals offered by state senators. In 2024, Civic Nebraska will focus heavily on educating voters about the new law’s effects and how to mitigate them.
›› Advocating for LB20, a bill to end our state’s arbitrary two-year waiting period for those formerly convicted of a felony to vote. LB20 easily moved out of committee to the statehouse floor, where it will be considered in 2024. We’re committed to getting LB20 across the finish line and signed into law.
›› Canvassing the city of Lincoln in the leadup to the city’s municipal and mayoral elections. Our nonpartisan, get-out-the-vote field organizers provided voters with information about registering as well as the various methods of casting a ballot. The team made nearly 5,000 phone calls, knocked on nearly 1,000 doors, and sent more than 21,000 texts.
Our Youth Civic Leadership team focused on …
›› Building community. One example: Students at three Community Learning Centers established community gardens to beautify their schools and neighborhoods, provide healthy food alternatives to families in local food deserts, and promote cross-cultural understanding.
›› Collaboration on Civic Buddies, in which middle-schoolers at Lewis & Clark Middle School read civics- and citizenship-related children’s books to their counterparts at Sherman and Lothrop elementary schools via Zoom. Thanks to generous sponsors, each of the younger children kept their books to enjoy over and over.
›› Tying prosocial aspects of democracy to academic success by equipping young people with the tools to navigate our socially, emotionally, and politically complex world. We integrated those tools into each student’s academic journey, resulting in well-rounded, responsible, empathetic youth who create meaningful change.
America is noisy. But because of support from people like you, Civic Nebraska cuts through the clutter to remind everyone who we all are, where we all came from, and what we can still be as a people. As this signal continues to spread, more and more of us have gone from unheard to heard, from misunderstood to understood, and from unequal to equal. With your help, we’re coming in loud and clear.
Learn more about Civic Nebraska’s year: