by Ryan Brady
One is little. One is lonely. One is insignificant.
I think the little number one is actually big, powerful and significant. The importance of the number one became apparent after I moved to Indianapolis eight years ago. Indy represented a chance to reinvent myself and experience what it was like to move to a city where I didn't know anyone. Idealistic and optimistic, I took a job with the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis on a Wednesday and moved down to Indy the following Monday. Life was going to be good!
I quickly realized that moving to a new city is difficult. While I consider myself fairly social, the process of making meaningful friendships was awkward. Indianapolis was not home. Being alone was lonely.
I gave myself one year in Indy. I had to force myself to get involved in activities. Fairly soon I realized that I was meeting great people when I was engaged in the life of the city. From striking up conversations with other volunteers at a Habitat for Humanity build to watching a football game at a bar with co-workers, my enjoyment of Indianapolis increased proportionately to my level of civic engagement. I started reading the local newspaper (something I never did previously), voting (something I never did previously) and giving money to local not-for-profits (you guessed it, something I never did previously). Before I knew it, I began to brag to my friends and family about how fantastic of a place Indianapolis was to live. By getting engaged in the city, Indianapolis became my home.
My experience of civic engagement leading to true enjoyment of Indianapolis guided me to the question that I just had to ask, “What city is the most civically engaged city in the country?” After asking around and conducting some research, I came to a conclusion: no one knows what city is the most civically engaged. In fact, there isn't even a clear agreement on what civic engagement exactly means. So, I decided that I would just have to answer the question of what city is the most civically engaged city in the country in the manner that I thought makes the most sense.
Without going into all of the boring methodology on how one measures civic engagement (Interested? Read Vegas Is No Place To Get Engaged), Indianapolis actually scores quite well in the three pillars of civic engagement: volunteering, giving and voting. (Spoiler alert: Minneapolis comes out on top). What surprised me the most is that, through relatively small changes, Indianapolis could easily become the most civically engaged city in the country. Here’s how:
- If everyone in Indianapolis volunteered just one more hour a month, Indianapolis would have the third highest rate of volunteerism among the 50 largest cities in the country. Click here for data.
- If everyone in Indianapolis gave just 1% more of their income to charity, Indianapolis would be among the five most generous large cities in the country. Click here for data.
- If everyone in Indianapolis encouraged just one more person to vote or voted for themselves for the first time, Indianapolis would be among the top large cities in terms of voter turnout. Click here for data.
Not that hard, right? Volunteer one more hour a month, give 1% more to charity and get one more person to vote and you can help Indianapolis become the most engaged city in the country.
It has never been easier to get engaged in the civic life of Indianapolis in a fun and meaningful way. IndyHub is a great place to start along with organizations such as Engage Indy (engage.indy.gov), Giving Sum (givingsum.org) and Lacy Leadership Association (lacyleadership.org), to name a few.
So, one is really quite big. Volunteer one more hour, give one more percent and get one more person to vote. It will all add up to Indianapolis becoming the #1 most engaged city in the country.
Ryan Brady is director of strategic projects at Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). He now considers himself an adopted Hoosier and lives in Butler-Tarkington. Ryan attempts to keep up with girlfriend, Mason, who runs professionally but is rarely successful unless Mason is running backwards. Ryan is also a co-founder of Giving Sum. Giving Sum is a membership organization that engages Indy young professionals in the community through volunteering, education, FUN, and a $50,000 annual grant. Members actively partner with the annual grant recipient – through evaluation of grants to determine the partner and by volunteering throughout the following year to execute the grant and contribute to the organization. Learn more at www.givingsum.org.