Community activism, in some form or another, is a big part of the lives of our informants. But they don’t always realize it. We surveyed our informants to ask how engaged they felt they were in their community, rating themselves as “very engaged,” “somewhat engaged,” or “not at all engaged.” One of our informants describes himself as “not at all engaged,” but he creates a community for himself by coaching wrestling at a Muncie school. Many who describe themselves as “very engaged” have jobs that require them to be involved in the community or are part of an institution. Institutional communities of our informants who consider themselves “very engaged” include Shriners, Masons, Car Club, Rotary, Muncie Clean & Beautiful, Urban Forestry Committee, Buley Center, in addition to paid employment at local community organizations and organizations they created themselves. But many of our informants who describe themselves as somewhat engaged are just as active in the community in their daily lives in a less recognizable form. Two of our informants belong to their local neighborhood associations, and others have created small communities like local beer tasting groups. Informant 6 lives in an apartment building without a structured organization and considers herself somewhat engaged, but she is just as active in this “neighborhood” community as our neighborhood association members. She makes a point to walk around the building and greet her neighbors every day, inviting them to her apartment to socialize and putting on dinners for her building once a month. While it’s true that the informants who describe themselves as “somewhat engaged” have less involvement in the Muncie community than those who describe themselves as “very engaged,” it is important not to discount involvements in informal communities, such as the one Informant 6 has constructed and integrates deeply into her everyday.
Of the collaborators who responded to our question about community engagement, 6 responded “very engaged,” 6 responded “somewhat engaged,” and 2 responded “not at all engaged.” It seems odd to have such a high proportion of “very engaged” people, but most of our informants were gathered via recommendations of other people and reflect our desire for a demographically accurate representation of the Muncie community. This meant we were more likely to reach out to people who were already connected in Muncie — especially in institutional ways — and our data reflects that. Those informants which we cold-called — who had few connections to other Muncie community members and organizations — were much more likely to drop out of the project altogether.
For a list of local Muncie community organizations supported by the EDLM team and our informants, click here.