During a press event and panel discussion at the Clinton Presidential Center on Dec. 4, 2023, a cohort of Arkansas organizations, in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship, introduced the first-ever Arkansas Civic Health Index (ACHI) Report.

Until now, no report has ever been published that describes the on-the-ground conditions of civic and political engagement in Arkansas. The ACHI brings together data from the U.S. Census Bureau (which covers approximately 60,000 households), campus voting statistics, surveys of mayors from all Arkansas municipalities, and interviews with Arkansas residents, civic and nonprofit leaders, and public engagement professionals.

The National Conference on Citizenship defines civic health as the ability of communities to organize and solve public problems, which is vital for the flourishing of democracy. Active citizen engagement increases the legitimacy and effectiveness of policies and public programs, heightens accountability, and improves governance. Heightened civic health is also associated with positive economic growth and physical health outcomes for all citizens.

Dr. Chul Hyun Park, associate professor at the Clinton School of Public Service and one of the report’s primary authors, introduced key findings and recommendations at the Dec. 4 event. Other primary authors include: 

  • Dr. Joyce O. Ajayi, policy analyst at the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics at the University of Central Arkansas
  • Kwami Abdul-Bey, MPS, from the Clinton School of Public Service
  • Brittany Chue, MPS, from the Clinton School of Public Service
  • Dr. Robert C. Richards, Jr, assistant professor at the Clinton School of Public Service

The ACHI shows mixed findings, highlighting Arkansans’ strengths, like high charitable giving and friendliness, alongside weaknesses, such as high rurality, poverty, and persistent racial divides. The authors detail multiple paths to address these issues, explaining them in full on page 31 of the report. Below are a few examples:

Increase opportunities for residents throughout the state to engage in civil discussions on public issues by partnering with organizations that promote public debate, dialogue, and deliberation.

Encourage employers to offer paid time off for community service to boost volunteerism among employees with lower income and lower levels of educational attainment. 

Expand Arkansas students’ access to effective formal and informal social studies instruction in state school curricula, including service-learning and extra-curricular activities; revise Arkansas’s public high-school civics standards to require training in the practice of civic engagement and deliberative discussion; ensure that school civics courses provide civic engagement role-playing opportunities and that Arkansas Black History courses are offered; and use best practices to increase funding for cross-sectoral coalitions to address complex public issues.

Prepare for new rural civic engagement initiatives that can be implemented as the quality of rural broadband internet services improves, as is expected in the coming years.

Primary partners for the ACHI include the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, Clinton School of Public Service, Central Arkansas Library System, Engage Arkansas, and National Conference on Citizenship, with support from the Arkansas Community Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement.

Janet Harris, Executive Director/CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, concluded the Dec. 4 event by announcing a supplemental program produced by the Institute called Civic Arkansas. This new initiative will begin in early 2024.

“This exciting new program will include a series of convenings and listening sessions around the state, discussing the Arkansas Civic Health Index Report findings and creating plans of action,” Harris said. “Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller once said that ‘Every citizen has a duty to be informed, to be thoughtfully concerned, and to participate in the search for solutions. Only by working together can we make the contribution necessary for building the future we all yearn for.’ These words serve as the foundation for Civic Arkansas, and we look forward to benefiting from your involvement.”


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    Jane McGregor on January 27, 2024

    Do you plan to do this outreach in Russellville? I hope so! Our mayor, Fred Teague has been working hard preparing emergency services and informing the public about what to expect and how to prepare for the expected influx of tensing thousands of people.
    So the Civic Arkansas meetings would need to start after April 9. But dates and venues could possibly be set before then and be ready to roll. Evaluation of the eclipse event would be an informative time for Civic Arkansas to note our strengths and weaknesses.
    Btw I check my email weekly, not daily. Never constantly. I notice texts to 479-857-4847.
    We are close enough to Petit Jean Mtn that leaders from here might travel to the Rockefeller facilities to convene.

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