(This article is based on a report from the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.)


Wisconsin joins 30 other U.S. states in measuring civic health and building the program to make improvements. Civic health refers to the interactions of people with neighbors, friends and relatives. It also refers to the interactions of people with their government and other community organizations.


Many people have withdrawn from community life, even before the pandemic. During this crisis, social connections are needed more than ever. States are creating programs to measure and to improve community connections.


Visit NCoC’s website (} for information on how states have used their Civic Health Index data to create change.


Social connectedness is measured by the following:

  • Frequently talk with or spend time with neighbors
  • Frequently discuss political societal or local issues with neighbors
  • Frequently do favors for neighbors
  • Work with neighbors to do something positive for the neighborhood
  • Spend time with people of different racial, ethnic or cultural backgrounds
  • Participate in at least one group.


Wisconsinites show strong support and connection with family and friends. They frequently hear from or spend time with family and friends. They discuss political issues with family and friends. They frequently provide food, housing, money or help for friends or extended family.


The community connections and connections to family friends compose “social capital.” That gives us something to draw on in the time of crisis, such as the current pandemic.


Wisconsinites are strong in their giving of time, talent and treasures for organizations at home as well as around the world. Wisconsinites are great volunteers for many causes.


Wisconsin stands out as a leader in national voter registration and voting. However, there is concern over the rise of uncontested village board or city council seats. Strong civic health needs competitive elections.


What is already being done for civic health?

  • Faith-based, issue-based, and identity-based organizations to promote civic engagement
  • Civic classes required for graduation from high school
  • Efforts for get-out-the-vote and voting rights and census participation
  • Medial literacy education
  • Public protests, boycotts, grassroots lobbying efforts, community organizing.


Future activities to improve civic health:

  • More civic classes in high schools?
  • Teach people how to discern news and not rely on only one source
  • Do frequent assessments of civic health
  • Collaborate with a broad range of organizations and change agents working on Wisconsin’s civic health
  • Encourage individual communities to understand their local civic health condition
  • Share best practices for promoting better civic health
  • Build upon and grow Wisconsin’s strong tradition of political activity and volunteerism
  • Acknowledge and remove barriers to civic participation, especially for groups facing the greatest challenges in rural areas and in minority groups of people.