Civility Matters!


Harvard League of Women Voters
Position on Civility

We believe that civil conduct in public affairs promotes participation in democracy. Examples of polite, civil, and respectful behavior towards town officials and volunteer committee members persuades citizens to participate and therefore has a positive impact on the quality of our governance. The League is committed to identifying and supporting publicity, processes, and activities that will highlight and promote civility in Harvard.


Notes from the 11/10/13 Community Forum on Civility

What do We Value?
Small - get to know each other easily • We value open space & conservation land • Individuals can make a difference • High quality of citizenry • Anyone can participate • Support in times of crisis • Sense of Volunteerism • People contribute skills, expertise • Strong education system • Connected to past & good steward of historic resources • We have a Pub! • Welcoming • Nonprofessional government (volunteers)

What Have We Observed?
Egos getting in the way of the common good • We are effective by experiencing aberrant behavior • We look more partisan and fractured than in the past • Less dialog, more bullying • Labeling and assuming others’ positions • Willingness to attack and be nasty • Avoiding some discussions & let a vote decide is not a good decision-making • Questioning design to disparage the debate • People participating feel attacked

What is the Impact?
Criticism of volunteers • Lack of compromise • Absence of meaningful conversation • With large issues we don’t hear from people until it’s time to vote • Things break down in smaller venues (other than Town Meeting) • Not checking each other • Unclear norms • Low TRUST • Delayed responses • When we don’t resolve the current issue it gets harder to solve future issues • Fewer volunteers; few VOICES • Incivility undermines collaboration • Values clashes • Don’t move forward • What’s the effect on kids? • People get left out of the discourse • Preservation is suffering

What would we Like to See?
It is okay to apologize • Guidelines/rules “play a card” when things get heated • FACTS • Begin with the end in mind - goal is also civil behavior • Post civility guidelines • Self-police, don’t make the leader do it • What are the compromises? • Openly discuss values and LISTEN to each other • Process and outcome focus •More reflection! • Majority rules, but respect the minority