Curated Story

We Used to Build Things

This article originally appeared on The New York Times

"When you look around today, you see a lot of history-making new companies being created, but you don’t see too many big civic organizations. There are some great social entrepreneurs, like Bill Drayton, who started Ashoka, but the only vast national civic movements I can think of are the charter school movement and the Tea Party.

We’ve got just as many problems as previous generations faced — as many as in the progressive era, I’d say. Why has there been this decline in civic institution building?

Political polarization has got to be a big culprit. The federal government can’t build anything new, even something as obvious as a national service program. The churches have let us down, too. The Christian churches have been behind most of the big social movements in American history, like abolition, poverty programs and civil rights. But for the past generation the church has been fighting a defensive war against the sexual revolution, not an offensive assault for opportunity and human dignity. The affluent have also been less entrepreneurial. American foreign policy, which used to be about building positive coalitions to make life better, now seems to be based on the idea that we should defensively withdraw from things...

There has been a loss of civic imagination.

The good news is that one could have said the same thing in 1890, when politics was steeped in corruption and the economy wracked by crisis. But by 1910 the landscape was transformed. There were new organizations, new movements, a new mentality and a new burst of optimism.

Even the worst fires clear the way for new growth."

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Ashoka insight

Ashoka is an organization devoted to supporting social innovations and social innovators that address the biggest problems facing humanity around the world. By empowering and investing in social entrepreneurs, university students, and youth in societies around the world seeking to make a change to the status quo in pursuit of a better tomorrow, we seek to help bring steer the world back towards the necessity of supporting and actualizing civic imagination and innovation in our societies through new structures and organization. This investment in the longterm is as this article says: it will create a stronger and more connected civic society rife with new solutions, and incentivize all individuals devoted to enacting them to join in.