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How You Can Get Involved

It is a truism of our society that many (if not most) citizens, across the political spectrum, believe that our democratic processes could and should work so much better than they now do. The goal of the Civic Union is to validate that belief by educating citizens about the feasibility of real change, and then channeling that belief into a grassroots movement for implementation of the Civic Foundation's program.

This process begins by showing how what seems to be the most difficult part of the program - the quantification of agency performance - is in fact well underway, at the federal, state, and local level, across the country and, indeed, throughout the world.

Organizations as staid as the Governmental Accounting Standards Board have called the idea of governmental performance measurement "an idea whose time has come", yet there is a distinct lack of public knowledge about what that means and how it works. That is because citizens now have no direct incentive to review such information, and almost zero incentive to compare different performance results among different agencies - and that is because they have no way to act on that information, other than through the existing channels of voting for representatives who oversee the agencies in question (along with dozens of other agencies). With no ability to influence the process, it is no wonder citizens have little knowledge about it.

The best way to create interest in, and demand for, citizen involvement in the performance measure process is to compile and standardize this kind of information - a kind of Consumers Union® for taxpayers. (After all, it may be harder to rate child welfare agencies than to rate new cars, but what, ultimately, is more important?) To do this, the Civic Union will collect as much existing performance measure data as possible, including the performance measures themselves and the results of the measurements. We will then use that information to educate citizens about what their agencies are already doing - sparking demand for more accountability from the agencies that do not participate, more appropriate measures from agencies that do not measure well, and better actual results from those agencies that are already measuring the right things.

The Civic Union will also (1) show citizens that the implementation of the rest of the Civic Exchange system is feasible within today's financial, accounting, and tax systems, (2) work with existing nonprofits and to show that that the system is an opportunity, not a threat, and (3) work with financial institutions to structure pilot programs and develop the appropriate market mechanisms to implement the Exchange.

And while new legislation is not necessary for pilot and demonstration programs, the Civic Union will also work for adoption of the necessary implementing legislation at various levels of government. The legislation would (1) authorize agencies to register with the Exchange under specified conditions and (2) allow for citizens to direct their tax payments to registered agencies. It is a truism that change does not happen without clear popular support, but that is doubly true where, as here, the change involves getting legislators to give up some of their existing power to spend taxpayer's money.

The Civic Foundation, The Civic Exchange, and Civic Union are not affiliated
with or endorsed by any existing political party or politician that we know of.

reinventing democracy®

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The Civic Foundation
4 South Stanwich Road
Greenwich, CT 6831-3109
Phone: (203) 715-6525