Civic pulse report - RSA

The Civic Pulse: Measuring Active Citizenship In A Cold Climate


  • Community and place-based action

The changing role of both citizen and state requires us to reassess how we understand and gauge community participation. Our report explains why tracking active citizenship is important, and sets out a preliminary method for measuring the key social assets driving engagement - from having access to social networks to holding the key skills and knowledge necessary to engage with others.

Our austere fiscal climate will require a transformation in the role that citizens play in shaping public services and the places in which they live. We will need to become what the 2020 Public Services Hub at the RSA has termed a ‘socially productive’ society, with more people coming together to identify, understand and solve public problems using all appropriate means.

With this in mind, forward-thinking local authorities are beginning to ask themselves whether their residents have the capacity to meet the challenges they face, and how they can cultivate it where it is absent. However, many local policy-makers lack the research tools that would enable them to answer these questions. 

As part of our Citizen Power project, we explored what a future measurement tool could look like, including the type of behaviours and attitudes it would track, and how a survey would be delivered in practice. Our research led us to constructing a measurement framework built around a number of drivers impacting on active citizenship. This includes know-how, attitudes, relations and institutions, alongside socio-economic factors such as income, education and wealth. Our report also unpacks the stages involved in implementing such a measurement tool, including the development of a 'score card' to identify areas and demographic groups where the drivers of active citizenship are particularly absent.

The findings of our research have since been used to inform the measurement efforts of several local authorities, and were important in the development of our new ChangeMakers tool.


Picture of Sam McLean
Sam McLean
Director of Public Participation and Head of Citizen Power

Picture of Benedict Dellot
Benedict Dellot
Former Head of the RSA Future Work Centre and Associate Director

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