National Civic League: 2021 in Review

2021 was the year that we all began the slow, often stilted, recovery from the pandemic. There was no victory over the pandemic day where crowds celebrated in the streets, but individuals and communities began the difficult task of finding their new normal, discarding some pandemic-related modifications, but retaining those that worked. Through it all, we saw the importance of civic engagement and good governance with a renewed realization that community collaboration makes for more equitable and thriving communities. As we reflect back on this year of recovery, the National Civic League celebrates our achievements and looks forward to the challenges and opportunities that await us in 2022.

Model City Charter

After a yearlong review and revision process, involving multiple stakeholders, the 9th edition of the Model City Charter is now available. The revised charter continues the League’s tradition of recommending the council-manager form of government and includes a new emphasis on civic engagement and equity.

Key Changes to the Model City Charter 

  • Equity: The Model will incorporate the need for social equity throughout the document, providing a guide for cities to use in their own revisions. There will also be a companion document on equity that will include provisions outside city charters, like equity audits and equity officers, along with suggestions for ways in which cities might adopt executive orders or ordinances to improve equity.
  • Public Engagement: The new edition will stress the importance of community engagement in local affairs. The article would lay out principles for meaningful participation/engagement emphasizing the agency of community members in local governance and how these principles can be reflected both in a city’s charter and in other operational structures.
  • Mayors: The document will emphasize the important facilitative roles of the mayor in helping the city council and manager to work together to set goals and work toward implementation and in communicating with the public and other stakeholders.
  • City Councils: The importance of the City Council’s relationship to the city manager is emphasized, to include hiring and regular evaluation.
  • Elections: The new edition encourages the direct election of mayors and discusses options for council elections for cities of different sizes and demographics. The Model also recommends local elections be in November of odd years, with discussion to allow for alternatives.

All-America City Awards

In June, the 2021 AAC awards event was held virtually and recognized 10 communities that have worked to improve equity and resilience. Finalists brought their applications to life with inspiring virtual presentations that reached over 30,000 online viewers!

The event also included a virtual exhibit hall, pre-recorded cultural entertainment showcases, motivational keynote speeches and informative workshops. Additionally, for the first time League staff and representatives visited some of the winning communities and got to see first hand what makes them All-America Cities.

Want to be part of next year’s event recognizing towns, cities and counties for building equitable and resilient communities? Download the 2021 All-America City application.

Looking Ahead

The 2022 All-America City Awards are being co-convened with our partners at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and will culminate in a virtual event from July 18-22, 2022.  The year’s theme is “Housing as a Platform for Early School Success and Equitable Learning Recovery.” Learn more and apply.

National Civic Review

For 109 years the National Civic Review’s cases studies, reports, interviews, and essays have helped communities learn about the latest developments in collaborative problems-solving, civic engagement, local government innovation and democratic governance.

In 2021, the Review was made available to over 125,000 readers thanks to 17 distributing partners consisting of national associations, nonprofits, and state leagues.

In 2021 the National Civic Review featured articles on topics such as equitable recovery, overcoming polarization, enhancing resiliency, democracy reform, racial justice and so much more. Use access code NCL21 to read articles from this year.

Looking Ahead

Tentative topic areas of focus for 2022 include: equity, public participation, youth engagement and more. Contact for information on how to submit an article proposal.

Interested in partnering with the League to send future editions of the Review to your association or state league members? Contact for information about becoming a distributing partner.

Community Assistance

In 2021 the League has been working with four focus communities in Colorado to help them expand participation and engage underrepresented populations of older adults. The League’s program “Enhancing the Equity and Inclusiveness of Age-friendly Initiatives” received funding from NextFifty Initiative. Support from the Colorado-based foundation helped communities in Colorado add a racial equity dimension to their work on behalf of older adults.

In 2022, the League hopes to expand the work to other states.

The League also conducted a community assistance project in Cincinnati, Ohio. Under a grant from the Murray and Agnes Seasongood Foundation, the League developed recommendations for improving the ethics and effectiveness of the city’s government. Working in collaboration with Kimberly Nelson, PhD, from the University of North Carolina School of Government, the League interviewed key stakeholders in Cincinnati and compared the city’s governance structure to similar cities around the country, issuing a report with recommendations for changes to the city’s charter, governance structure and practices.

Additional Programs

The League also published monthly newsletters and hosted topical webinars on police reform, virtual civic engagement, and more.

Does your community have a success story about collaborative problems-solving, civic engagement, or local government innovation? Email for article or webinar consideration.

These are just a few of the ways the League inspires, supports and celebrates civic engagement, and we couldn’t do it without our members and supporters. We invite you to support the important work of the National Civic League by donating, becoming a member (if you’re not already), and considering a gift through our new planned giving page.

Some Related Posts

View All

Thank You to Our Key Partners