The Uncaucus: Grassroots effort for Providence, R.I., mayor

PBN: So what exactly is the Uncaucus?

JOHNSON: The Uncaucus is an ongoing dialogue about the qualities that we, as citizens and residents, want our leadership and our government to have. The Uncaucus is striving to build consensus around these qualities through open and positive discussion involving as many individuals as possible. The idea is to inspire the next generation of civic engagement in Providence and to direct that engagement in a way that will guide current and future leaders.

PBN: Do you see this as a way of taking on other political actors, or more as an additional voice in the process? 
WITHERS: Traditional representational democracy – where we essentially elect someone to office and then step back from government altogether – creates a cycle of passive disengagement that is hard to break. The idea that voting is the pinnacle of civic engagement is really shortsighted: as citizens we can do so much more if we are willing to roll up our sleeves and put some skin in the game. Look at the community organizers who make great things happen in Providence. Whether it’s those who are helping kids or those who get the geeks jazzed about building businesses here, it’s the same story: no one elected them and they don’t wait for government to give them permission to do good, high-value things.

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