As leaders in many U.S. cities have appealed for a return to civility, citizens across Springfield and Greene County have also begun calling for greater civility in public discourse about politics, diversity, even local planning and development.
More than a year ago, the Good Community Committee, an informal cross-section of community leaders, began discussing and learning how a growing trend of incivility was stifling community participation. The committee’s goal became one of restoring civic engagement to the democratic process, and fostering an atmosphere in which people can freely speak their minds.
The group will kick off "The Springfield-Greene County Civility Project" at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 13 at The Gillioz in downtown Springfield. The Good Community Committee is hosting the free, public event, featuring Dr. P.M. Forni, a founder of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University and author of "Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct" and "The Civility Solution."
Forni’s lead in the movement toward civility has been adopted by cities across the United States and by private and public institutions. As their expression of commitment to civility, many have adopted Forni's tenets of civility and posted them in public areas.
The Springfield-Greene County Civility Project focuses on 10 main tenets of civility, and encourages private businesses, public agencies and government entities to adopt and display them in their buildings. The Greene County commissioners and Springfield City Council have already adopted resolutions that call for "spirited public discourse" while maintaining "mutual respect for all opinions."
The Good Community Committee recognized support for such a movement in the responses to the 2010 Ozarks Regional Social Capital Survey conducted among Springfield-Greene County residents. Some 88.9 percent of people responded that they strongly agree or agree with the statement that "Civility in politics is important for a healthy democracy."
"One of our ideals when the Good Community was founded in 1995 was to help ensure 'a vigorous civil society'," said Good Community Committee Chairman Brian Fogle. "Democracy can only flourish when there is a strong civic engagement. Our hope with the Civility Project is that our citizens can feel comfortable to participate in civil dialogue without fear of verbal attacks and incivility. By having a more civil discussion, we ultimately hope all voices are heard and considered."
The 10 tenets of the Springfield-Greene County Civility Project are as follows:
Live with awareness toward others and your surroundings.
Greet people, ideas and values with respect.
Recognize and welcome all people every day.
Seek to understand by concentrating on what people say.
Respect Other Views
Respond to different opinions with a fair and open mind.
Speak Out With Courage
Express yourself with honor and conviction.
Act with Compassion
Treat others with kindness and honesty.
Give and Accept Constructive Feedback
Consider criticism thoughtfully and factually.
Treat Your Environment with Respect
Show regard for nature, resources and shared spaces.
Acknowledge mistakes and take responsibility for your actions.