O' Neill researchers awarded funding to continue civic engagements study
Indiana University researchers Brad Fulton and Matthew Baggetta are working to better understand the dynamics of civil society organizations – ranging from neighborhood associations to business councils to community organizing groups – and their impacts on society. Their research examines how being involved with such organizations can positively or negatively affect both individuals and society as a whole.
Fulton and Baggetta's project, Observing Civic Engagement, focuses on the roles of civil society organizations in shaping the civic infrastructure of communities, as well as the organizations' ability to promote civic engagement among members.
"Through this project, I have discovered that many of the organizational outcomes I analyze -- leadership development, volunteering, charitable giving and advocacy -- are influenced by the organization’s internal dynamics," Fulton said.
The researchers recently received two research grants to support their work to, first, develop a new way to collect data on civil society organizations and then to put those new tools to work in a study of organizations in Bloomington, Indiana.
The project initially began in early 2020, when the researchers were awarded a Social Sciences Research Funding Program grant through the IU Office of the Vice President for Research, which allowed them to plan a smaller version of the Bloomington study. However, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed their efforts to observe in-person civic events and activities.
Instead, Fulton and Baggetta adapted their project to focus on analyzing data from their previous pilot studies and other sources not requiring in-person observation, allowing them to continue to their work.
In 2022, AmeriCorps, a U.S. federal government agency that engages Americans in service programs, awarded Fulton and Baggetta additional funding to bring a larger version of the Bloomington project to life.
"The work we did during the COVID years allowed us to publish more of the pilot work, providing a very solid foundation for applying for a larger, external grant from AmeriCorps as the world opened up in earnest this year," said Baggetta, an associate professor in IU's Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. "SSRFP’s support was crucial in getting us through the final stages of development of the new data collection tools."
The researchers are grateful for the early support they received from IU, which has played a crucial role in the expansion of their project this year.
Fulton and Baggetta said this will be the first large-scale trial of their new approach. To accomplish this, they have recruited PhD, masters, and undergraduate students from various departments at IU to be involved with the project. As a team, they plan to study 60 civil society organizations over the next three years, observing how the things that happen at their meetings, events, and activities shape the civic infrastructure of the Bloomington community and the civic engagement of their members.