In today’s world- what drives civic engagement in communities around our state? In the below opinion editorial, Lila Jaber of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A. shows how businesses can lead the efforts to improve Florida’s civic health:
While every business is formed to offer a service, solve a problem, or fulfill a need, long gone are the days of thinking that’s all they do or should do. As a society, we are asking more of the business community. Naturally, businesses have a symbiotic relationship with the communities they serve. They cannot succeed without the nurturing and revenues from the communities in which they serve. In return, Florida businesses, for the most part, provide great products and services. But, in today’s environment, businesses are called upon to do much more. They mobilize people and organizations, giving their time, talent, and resources to meet critical community needs for the common good.
In turbulent times the business community fosters cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration. The good news is that it does not take a disaster for more and more companies to see the value that is added in contributing to civic life and even further to encouraging employees to volunteer and engage in community. Civic engagement and socially responsible corporate practices are moving to the mainstream for businesses across the country and in Florida. Exceedingly more, corporate culture and corporate value statements foster volunteerism and community engagement. At its core, such engagement offers thought leadership, creates bonds among employees, encourages a value-based company culture, and increases the overall morale of the organization. That’s the good news in my opinion.
The bad news is that, according to the National Conference on Citizenship’s Civic Health Index, Florida has a longer way to go than the majority of our states in forming a more effective alliance amongst businesses if the civic health of its communities is to be improved. In national measurements, Florida’s civic engagement stands at 48th out of 50 states and Washington, D.C. In fact, out of 51 surveyed large metropolitan statistical areas, the civic health rankings of Florida’s four major metropolitan areas also fail to paint a happy picture, ranging from Jacksonville at 21st to Tampa Bay at 42nd to Orlando at 46th to Greater Miami at 51st on the dot.
Tony Carvajal with the Florida Chamber Foundation has suggested that “[c]itizens engaged in their communities are vital, not just because engagement fosters trust in public institutions and legitimacy in public processes, but also because it is correlated to a strong educational system, a competitive workforce, and a dynamic economy.” I agree. The Florida Chamber of Commerce has identified civic engagement amongst the six pillars it deems instrumental in upholding our state’s economic growth for years to come. If the civic health of our state was to improve even further, imagine what the impact would be on our state’s economy, our communities, and our businesses.
The Florida Civic Advance, an emerging network of over 45 private, nonprofit, and public organizations, has been created as a solid step forward to serve as a catalyst in promoting civic and community engagements by business. On November 6 and 7 in Orlando, the Florida Civic Advance is holding a Summit. I encourage you to visit consensus.fsu.edu/summit2017 to learn details and join me at the event.
Lila A. Jaber is the Regional Managing Shareholder and Governmental Affairs Practice Group Leader of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A., a former Chair of Leadership Florida, and board member of FCRC Consensus Center.
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