Bridging the Civics Gap: Making the Business Case for Civic Engagement
September 7, 2022 | Webinar
A well-functioning, predictable, and stable government has been a hallmark of the United States for generations, fostering entrepreneurship and allowing businesses to operate efficiently and effectively. But with shifting societal trends in recent years, civic education and engagement has been on the decline. iCivics Executive Director Louise Dubé and Travelers Group General Counsel and Head of Civic Engagement Janice Brunner discussed the powerful positive impact that civic education and engagement can make in our society, and how businesses – both large and small – can empower employees and their families with the tools they need to get civically engaged in their communities. We shared lessons learned from Travelers’ own Citizen Travelers program and explored the approach iCivics takes to civic education in the information age.
What did we learn? Here are the top takeaways from Bridging the Civics Gap: Making the Business Case for Civic Engagement.
Civic engagement helps create a shared, common experience. Civic education is seen as the best antidote for mitigating growing societal divisions, as well as the best solution for creating a shared, common experience, according to iCivics Executive Director Louise Dubé. “We’re growing further and further apart from each other. Fortunately, there is a solution,” said Dubé. “When Americans were asked how to bring the country together around a shared or common experience, the majority of both Republicans and Democrats cite civic education in K through 12th grade as the leading solution that does provide some level of hope,” she added.
What civic education means. Civic education is one way to help rebuild a shared democratic foundation and experience. “What I know to be true is that we all want our children to have the skills to work in a diverse society; for example, independent thinking skills, the ability to debate and the ability to solve problems with people they disagree with. That is what is fundamental in our democracy, and that is what we need to provide through civic education,” Dubé said.
More civic education benefits businesses. Simply put, civic engagement is good for business. “A stable democracy with predictable and fair outcomes drives confidence in the market, lays the foundation for companies to grow and allows people from all walks of life to invest with confidence in their own lives and livelihoods,” Travelers Group General Counsel and Head of Civic Engagement Janice Brunner explained. Businesses of all sizes can make a positive difference in their communities by supporting civic engagement. Brunner suggests leveraging available educational resources from organizations like iCivics to encourage lifelong civics learning and highlighting employees who are already civically involved to inspire other employees to become civically involved in their local communities.
Travelers created Citizen Travelers. “Civic engagement is a Travelers value,” said Brunner. Through Citizen Travelers, employees have access to nonpartisan civics educational materials and programming as well as a network of civically engaged employees. Citizen Travelers also includes a robust get-out-the-vote campaign. “We view Citizen Travelers as an investment in our employees and communities,” said Brunner. “We want to provide employees the nonpartisan tools and resources they need to get involved civically in their communities as they see fit.”
Learn more about iCivics. Founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization, is one of the largest education and civic education providers in the nation, providing and developing free educational materials to 145,000 educators every year, and reaching 9 million K-12 students.
And really a big thanks to our webinar partners, the MetroHartford Alliance and iCivics. So today we're going to talk about the importance of civic education and engagement.
For generations, a well-functioning, predictable and stable government has been the hallmark of the United States, fostering entrepreneurialship and allowing businesses to operate efficiently and effectively. However, with the advent of the internet, social media and, more recently, remote learning, we've seen a significant change in the way people are learning about their government institutions and engaging with them, and even voting. So how do we ensure that civic education and engagement will remain strong in light of these changing dynamics?
Slide, Speakers. Pictures of three women, Joan Woodward, Executive Vice President, Public Policy; President, Travelers Institute, Travelers. Louise Dubé, Executive Director, iCivics. Janice Brunner, Group General Counsel and Head of Civic Engagement, Travelers.
So here today to explore the answers to that question are two experts, the executive director of iCivics, Louise Dubé, and Travelers group general counsel and head of our civic engagement program, Janice Brunner. They'll also be providing us with practical examples and ways that businesses, both large and small, such as yours, can provide employees and their families with the tools they need to get civically engaged in their communities. So that's the objective for today, everyone, how to help you and your businesses and your employees become more engaged.
So, Louise Dubé serves as the Executive Director of iCivics. As one of the largest providers in the nation, iCivics champions and reimagines civic education. iCivics has won many awards, including the Fast Company's Top 10 Most Innovative Education Companies and the John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation's Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Previously, Louise served as managing director of digital learning at WGBH, where she helped to launch PBS' Learning Media, a platform reaching over 1 and 1/2 million educators.
Then Janice Brunner, my colleague and friend, is Group General Counsel and Head of Civic Engagement here at Travelers. Janice leads the team responsible for the development and launch of Citizen Travelers, a new and strictly-- this is really important-- a strictly nonpartisan initiative to empower Travelers employees to get more involved in the civic life in their communities, as well as advising on securities, corporate governance and other legal matters. So, this topic of civic engagement is of particular importance to me and to Travelers.
As many of you may know, I spent 12 years working on Capitol Hill, before heading to the private sector. In 2008, our CEO, Alan Schnitzer, hired me to launch the Travelers Institute as a means of participating in the public policy dialogue on matters of interest to the property and casualty insurance sector, as well as the financial securities industry more broadly. So, we've been at this working hard for 14 years and doing just that.
And now more recently, with Citizen Travelers, Alan decided to make civic engagement a focus across the company. Because, in addition to being a good corporate citizen, we seek to be a corporation of good citizens. It's important, exciting work, and we're thrilled to be joining it. So thank you for joining us today.
Janice and Louise, we really appreciate your sharing your expertise with us. And so to begin our conversation, I'm going to ask each of our speakers to provide just a brief overview of what they do and their perspective of the importance of this topic in a company. So then we'll bring everyone together for Q&A. So drop your Q&A’s in-- I guess your questions-- in the Q&A. So, Louise, thanks for joining us. Why don't you go ahead and kick us off.
Louise appears on the video call. Slide, iCivics - Who We Are. Real-World Impact. Pictures of groups of people sitting at tables in classrooms, and two statistics.
LOUISE DUBÉ: Well, first of all, thank you so much, Joan. And thank you to Travelers for the opportunity to be with you, such an important subject right now in the country. I thought I'd begin by telling you a little bit about iCivics and who we are. We are one of the largest education-- civic education-- providers in the nation. We provide and develop educational materials to 145,000 educators every year. That translates to about nine million young people in the K through 12.
A map of the United States appears on the slide. Text, Spanning Across Diverse Political Views. All 50 states + DC.
We teach in all 50 states. We are strictly nonpartisan across a variety of diverse political points of view.
Slide, Who We Are - Our Founder. A picture of a smiling woman, and a quote. Text, The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned by each new generation. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Now, all of our materials are free. And we are known for our games.
In our games, you can be the president of the United States or you can be a county manager. And people come to you and ask you to resolve their civic issues. Where do I get a driver's license, for example?
If you don't supply the answers that the residents need, you lose the game. We also advocate for better and more civic education in our schools because we were founded by Sandra Day O'Connor. And Sandra Day O'Connor, when she stepped down from the court in 2006, was prescient in knowing that we needed to invest in civic education to preserve our system of self-government.
Slide, Our Republic is at Risk. A graph titled Trust in Democracy is Eroding, with the x-axis labeled Age Group, the left side of the y-axis showing percentages from 5% to 25%, and the right side of the y-axis showing Europe and the United States. Dots on the graph represent the different age groups' trust in democracy.
Moving on, right now, our republic is at risk. Let me stop here a little bit on this graph because I think it's so important for people to understand. There was a study done by Foa and Mounk that was published in 2016. In it, it documents a deterioration in the belief of the system of democracy.
The older generations, those you see on the left-hand side or on one side of the graph, 65 and plus, the Greatest Generation, they really believe that democracy is fundamental to living in a good society. Unfortunately for us, young people, 16 to 24, almost 25% of them believe that the democratic political system is either bad or very bad, and it's getting worse. That should really frighten us all.
I don't mean to blame young people in any way. Young people may not have seen the system work for them. And that is what our job is, is to make democracy work for all of us.
A new graph appears on the slide, titled Polarization is Increasing, Distribution of Democrats and Republicans on a 10-item scale of political values. The graph displays three distributions, labeled 1994, 2004 and 2014, with the gap between Democrat and Republican much farther apart in 2014 than in the first two distributions.
Now, I won't belabor the point. Our country is getting more polarized by the minute. This is a graph that documents the change over time from over these 20 years. And the situation is, of course, worse today than it was in 2014. We're getting further and further apart from each other.
Slide, There is a Solution. Civic Education is the ONLY Policy a Majority of Americans Agree Upon. A bullet point list, and a table listing percentages of Democrats and Republicans that agree with the following statements: Civic education for students in K through 12, A year of national service (peace corps, teaching, serving communities in need, military service, etc.), Less money in politics, Easier access to voting, Stricter regulation of social media, More participation in religious activities, and Ranked-choice voting.
Fortunately for us, there is a solution. When Americans are asked how we would bring together the country around a shared or common experience, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats cite civic education in K-12 as the leading solution. That does provide me some level of hope.
Slide, Civic Education is not Prioritized. Text, Our constitutional democracy requires informed civic participants, but we are not aligning our resources to that goal.
Now, having said that, I'm not overly optimistic or anything. I'm just saying they may not agree. They may not agree on what that means, civic education. But what I know to be true is that parents, teachers, all of us, want our children to have the skills to work in a diverse society.
They want our independent-thinking skills. They want the ability to debate. They want the ability to solve problems with people they disagree with. That is what is fundamental in our democracy. And that is what we need to provide through civic education.
Unfortunately, right now, civic education is not prioritized.
A graphic of a $50 bill, a nickel, two statistics and two statements appear on the slide. Text, Only 9 states mandate a full year of civic education.
At the federal level, we spend $50 per student per year on STEM education. At the same time, per student per year, we only spend five cents on civic education. So there's a real gap here in the level of investment.
STEM is fantastic. The STEM investment has worked for our country. When Sputnik happened, we decided as a country to invest in STEM. That is how we became an international leader in STEM. And we continue to be that today.
We need the same level of investment in civic education to maintain, as Joan said, a stable, civil society in which problems can be resolved and businesses can operate. And that's what we're talking about. That's what's at stake today.
Slide, Our Goal: Make Civics A Priority. Text, Our democracy is challenged.
Moving on, I've talked a lot about young people. I've talked about students. I've talked about K-12. But this situation, it's gone on for quite some time, decades in the making. So, at this point, we're talking about lots of adults for whom democracy doesn't make sense.
Text appears. Self-government means ALL Americans are prepared and engaged. WE are the solution.
And our charge is to make democracy make sense for everyone, because that's what self-government requires, all of us.
A poster appears, showing a man (Uncle Sam) in a top hat pointing at the viewer. Text, We Want You to Make Democracy Work!
Now, where are adults? Well, they're actually working, right? They're working in businesses like you are, like all the employees at Travelers and other businesses. And that is why we believe it is so important for businesses to invest in civic engagement in all the different ways that Travelers has done it. So, thank you for this opportunity. Really glad to address all of your questions. And with that, I'll turn it over to Janice. Thank you so much.
Janice appears on the video call. Slide, Citizen Travelers.
JANICE BRUNNER: Good afternoon, everyone. It's a pleasure to be with you today. And as you've heard, I'm Janice Brunner, Group General Counsel and Head of Civic Engagement at Travelers. I want to thank Joan Woodward and the Travelers Institute for leading today's important conversation.
I'm so grateful to be speaking to you alongside Louise Dubé of iCivics. iCivics has been a valuable partner to Travelers on civic engagement. In fact, just this past summer, we collaborated with iCivics to send the children of Travelers employees on a civics summer adventure by equipping them with iCivics materials to learn more about their communities and local government. The feedback has been terrific.
Slide, Citizen Travelers Civic Summer Adventure, a screenshot of the iCivics website, titled Civic Summer Adventure, and a screenshot of a list of quotes, titled Testimonials.
And many participants were grateful that the program started conversations within their families about what it means to be an engaged citizen. We look forward to continuing to work with iCivics to advance their important mission. And we are so grateful for their willingness to provide their wonderful tools and resources to our employees and families.
Louise made a compelling case for why civics education is so important for students and young people. And iCivics is doing really vital work on that front. But at Travelers, we're thinking about the generations, as Louise alluded to, who grew up before iCivics and organizations like it existed, who maybe didn't get the kind of primer when they were younger or whose understanding engagement with respect to these fundamental aspects of our lives has diminished over time.
At Travelers, as Louise suggested, we envision civic engagement as a lifelong endeavor for all ages. And that's why our CEO, Alan Schnitzer, has led the way in building Citizen Travelers to promote civic engagement across the entire company and beyond.
Slide, Citizen Travelers 2022 Mission, a quote.
As Alan likes to say, Travelers has long been a good corporate citizen. But with Citizen Travelers, we are finding new ways to be a corporation of good citizens.
First and foremost, we view Citizen Travelers as an investment in our employees and our communities. And simply put, civic engagement is good for business. Informed, trusting and active citizens make for strong communities, a strong economy, a strong workforce and a strong country. And a stable democracy with predictable and fair outcomes drives confidence in the market, lays the foundation for companies to grow, and it enables people from all walks of life to invest with confidence in their own lives and livelihoods.
For Travelers to succeed over the long term, it is essential that our democracy and rule of law remains strong. So, the cornerstone of Citizen Travelers is also that it's aggressively nonpartisan. We recognize that employees and customers are spread throughout the country and have diverse perspectives.
At Travelers, we meet daily with people of differing identities, experiences and perspectives, and find ways to connect and work together as a team to succeed as a business. We discuss varying approaches to problem-solving and work toward a common goal. And even when we disagree, we find ways to succeed together.
So, a goal of Citizen Travelers is for our 30,000 employees to bring the same type of neighborly collaboration to dialogue and discussions within our communities writ large. With Citizen Travelers, we're not here to tell our employees how or what to think or how to vote, but rather to provide nonpartisan tools, resources and opportunities that assist them in staying informed and getting involved in civic matters in their own way.
Slide, Citizen Travelers inside, a screenshot of a webpage, with a Latest News section, links to Civics 1 O 1 and Voting Information, and a menu with a list of links.
Our goal is to empower each of our 30,000 employees to become civically involved in their communities as they see fit.
So, what does that look like? For starters, we rolled out an interactive Citizen Travelers portal on our internal network to give our employees access to nonpartisan educational resources, voter information guides and more. Everyone can go online and can look up, based on their home address, when their next election is, who's on the ballot, where their polling place is located and what the deadline is to update their voter registration if necessary.
They can dive deeper into issues through nonpartisan, plain-English resources that explain everything from local ballot initiatives to what the heck the filibuster actually does. And through our collaboration with partner organizations such as the Gilder Lehrman Institute and iCivics, they can gather greater historical context on important issues, involve the whole family in civic learning and identify ways to pitch in civically. To turn information into action, we rolled out a robust get-out-the-vote program, which includes hosting voter registration booths at our offices and at events like the Travelers Championship.
This has given us the opportunity to connect with so many across our community, from helping Travelers summer students register as first-time voters, to being able to thank our many veteran employees for their service and sacrifice protecting our right to participate in free and fair elections. I want to emphasize, though, that Citizen Travelers goes beyond supporting our employees and getting to the ballot box. The decisions that affect our daily lives happen at all levels of government on every day of the year, not just election day.
Our message to employees is that they can and should be part of the solutions they are eager to see. Whether that's advocating for better local transit and a letter to the editor of their hometown paper, getting involved with public affairs group in their town, or even running for office themselves, we are incredibly proud of the many Travelers employees who are actively involved in civic life, serving on local planning commissions, economic development councils and more. I'd like to introduce you to one of them now.
A video plays. Text, Travelers. Citizen Travelers.
Stairs and hallways of a school. A sign reads, Beman Middle School. Unlocking the Potential in ALL Students. A woman standing on a grass field waves. Text, Middletown, Connecticut. Tables in a cafeteria. The woman sits with another woman on a set of bleachers. They hold pieces of paper and talk. The woman sits in front of the stairs. Text, Deborah, Product Manager, Claim Auto Product Development, Travelers.
DEBORAH: My name is Deborah. And I'm currently serving as the chair of the Middletown Board of Education. I had two people contact me and said, there's going to be some seats open for the board of ed. And I said, I'm not a politician. So I don't think that would be the right thing for me to do.
Deborah walks next to the field, watching a football game. She walks through the cafeteria, waving at students sitting at the tables.
So, one of the callers actually called my mentor. She called me and said, Deb, I think this is a great opportunity for you to expand your horizons. I decided this is really something that I should do. I really commend Travelers Insurance Company because I work with great people who have been understanding of my position on the board.
I carry on that same leadership skill that I have received from my managers. They work to build me up. That's what I receive from Travelers, great management sowing the seed of success into their workers. And then I, myself, take that and apply it to the Board of Education.
She talks with two women in the school.
The process of building Beman Middle School was quite, I would say, challenging.
A picture of a large space under construction.
The school was starting to be built when the pandemic happened. So not only are you worried about the safety of the workers and making sure no one contracted COVID, but you also, there was like a halt on steel at one time.
So, people are starting to see different things shift in Middletown. If someone at Travelers was seeking to run for office, I would say go for it. At Travelers, they're reaching out. They're helping schools in the community. They're always adamant about giving back to the community. And it really means a lot to me as a person that also likes to give and serve the community.
Deborah walks past a line of yellow buses toward the front doors of the school. Text, Citizen Travelers. Travelers. Travelers dot com slash about-Travelers. (Copyright) 2022, The Travelers Indemnity Company. All rights reserved. Travelers and the Travelers Umbrella logo are registered trademarks of The Travelers Indemnity Company in the U.S. and other countries.
The previous slide appears, showing the Citizen Travelers webpage.
JANICE BRUNNER: We're so grateful for the important work that Deborah and many of her colleagues are doing in their communities around the country. And through Citizen Travelers, we've been able to shine a spotlight on these actively engaged employees to showcase the many ways to contribute and encourage others to get involved as well. In addition, through Citizen Travelers, we're amplifying uplifting the work of our public servants by providing a networking space.
Through our Citizen Travelers portal, we fostered an online community for our civically engaged employees, allowing a sitting council member in Kansas to compare notes with a colleague who is a town selectman in New Mexico. They're trading best practices in local government and benefiting from each other's expertise, all in a nonpartisan way. These connections have been incredibly rewarding. And they really underscore the importance of a business on a national scale, like Travelers, investing in civic life.
While Citizen Travelers is still a relatively new program, we've already received a terrific response from across the company. Employees are signing up to be poll workers on election day, attending lectures on the Constitution, and talking to their kids about the responsibilities of citizenship. To be honest, it's a win-win for us.
Slide, Citizen Travelers.
We're doing our part to strengthen the social fabric and offering our support to our employees' engagement with the causes that are important to them. Our commitment to civic engagement is an important Travelers value. And it's an extension of our commitment to employees and their families, as well as our communities.
In the coming months, our goal is to explore how we can expand on and provide the resources that we have created for Citizen Travelers to our agent and broker partners, as well as others in the Travelers family, such as our retirees. Beyond that, our great hope is that our model will be as helpful to other companies to follow suit and to take up the cause of civic engagement in a way that is thoughtful, constructive and built for the long term. That's how we do everything at Travelers, and I'm incredibly proud to be part of our work on civic engagement. Thank you.
The slideshow disappears. The three women appear together on the video call.
JOAN WOODWARD: Thank you both so very much, Louise and Janice. I really look forward to digging deeper into some of these areas. And we have a lot of questions coming in from the audience, so our audience is very engaged.
Before we get into our moderated discussion, I'm going to turn the tables on the audience and ask them a few polling questions. And we like to do this just to get a sense of what the audience is thinking about these topics on our webinars. So, if you would, everyone in the audience out there, our first question-- we have two of them.
So, the first one is, how civically engaged are you in your community? So just choose one here. We gave you three options. And we'll take a look at-- I assume because you're on this webinar, you're most likely going to be engaged, which is a great thing. And if you're not currently engaged in your community, we hope that this sparks something in you to become more engaged.
So, thank you for answering our first question here. And we really appreciate it. We love data. By the way, it's all anonymous. All of our polling's anonymous. So let's see our results here.
So, it looks like about 53% of us say that they're somewhat engaged. And 37% say little or to no engagement. And then we have 10% significantly engaged. So, these are really great numbers, that at least half the audience is somewhat engaged in civic mindedness.
And we have some work to do. 37% say they're not engaged right now. But you clearly are interested because you're on our webinar today. So, again, this is a first step possibly for some of you. And we're just so glad to be a part of it and spark your interest. And I think as we get into the discussion, you'll find it's very rewarding to be civically engaged.
- Let's go to our next question out there. And you can choose as many as you want here. How do you, how do you get civically engaged in your community? So, do you volunteer at a polling place? Maybe you're on the PTO, Parent Teacher Organization, at school. Do you actually hold elected office in some way? Do you volunteer on political campaigns?
So let us know what you're doing out there, very interesting to see some of these results coming in. It is time-consuming, no doubt. As you heard, I worked 12 years in government. And the most rewarding time for me working on Capitol Hill, you really felt like you were a part of something bigger. So it's very rewarding.
- Let's see. Participate in community organization seems to be our top pick here. We have 12% or so saying they're volunteering at polling places. About 40% of us sit on a school board of some sort or PTO board. A few of us, 3%, looks like about 10 people or so, actually hold elected office on our webinar today. So very interesting results. Louise, what do you make of these results? Especially kind of the first question, having 37% of us not yet engaged, how do you view that?
LOUISE DUBÉ: Well, I actually think you're doing better than the average. So very important to reflect the fact that the Travelers community and this community is involved. I saw the question in the chat. We define civic engagement as the answer to the question, what should we do?
So, the importance and the emphasis is on the "we" part. So how do we solve our problems? I do think that voting is an incredibly important part of that. But a lot of what the folks are saying on the poll, which is to get involved in faith-based organization or community organization or in any form, is what matters. The fact that you care and that you think these things matter, that's what really is important.
And then it will translate to your kids. So, when you have children, they see that, right? They don't pay much attention to what you say. But they actually pay a lot of attention to what you do. So that is why it matters for you to take your student to vote or to a community organization or so on. So, I'm actually quite impressed, Joan, so.
JOAN WOODWARD: OK, good. Janice, what did you think of our results here of our audience?
JANICE BRUNNER: I think they're great. I totally agree with Louise. I think, I mean, there's always room for improvement. But I think what I've been so impressed by with respect to our Citizen Travelers initiative is how engaged people at Travelers actually are.
So, it's just kind of amazing to me and inspiring how many people serve on their town zoning board, how many people are involved in the school board, how many people are involved in their economic development commissions. And I think part of the message of Citizen Travelers is you got to start somewhere. So, seeing your fellow colleagues that are doing this work is a real inspiration to get involved yourself, so.
JOAN WOODWARD: Yeah. No, I think that's right. And what I love about this webinar-- we're going to get into it in just a minute-- is the business owners on this call today. We're going to have some tips and tricks and some ideas for you to really implement in your own businesses. Because just launching the Citizen Travelers program, like we did last year, has really engaged our employee base more so. They're already engaged, highly engaged.
But it's a wonderful feeling around the place when you walk around and you see people talking about Citizens Travelers. So, we're going to give you some ideas to implement in your business today and key takeaways for whether you're the boss or you're the employee or you're a new employee to your organization. These ideas can really take hold and be beneficial to the actual business itself. We're going to talk about that in a minute.
But first, I want to kind of go back a little bit to Louise. When we talked about civic engagement, where do things stand? Are we better off now than we were 20 or 30 years ago? What are some strategies that we can employ for our business owners and our employees? So, kind of where do things stand writ large?
LOUISE DUBÉ: Well, it kind of depends what we're talking about here. If we look at the voting numbers, in some cases, voting is driven by candidates. And therefore, there are significant increases in voting rates in some places. So that's a positive.
But when you're talking about membership in community organizations or faith-based organizations, you're seeing a decline. And when you look overall at local elections, which really matter-- I think politics and civic engagement has translated to some people as a national sport. And I can talk a little bit more about that later. But what we really look at is that the decisions that matter, they're controlled at the local level.
And very few people vote in local elections. Many candidates are elected without an opposing candidate. And it's just-- that's not the system that we built. So that I would say it just depends where you look.
JOAN WOODWARD: OK. I want to shift a little bit because next week our webinar is all about Gen Z, that cohort of young people entering our workplaces now. And what are some of the differences and how you educate that generation versus the way that previous generations may have learned about civics, Louise? What are you seeing for Gen Z and our young people?
LOUISE DUBÉ: Yeah, so many of us who are not Gen Zers remember “Schoolhouse Rock!” and "I'm Just a Bill" and so much fun and such great little videos. But that's not what people care about today. Most people today, obviously, are looking at the political environment as a sport. So, you've got your team and the other guy's team.
And there is a quality about that that's entertainment. And the issue with that is that there's a distance from you with the entertainment, right? It doesn't involve you. It's just a show you're watching at the national level.
Obviously, most young people, over 42%-- but I'm sure it's much higher than that-- get their news on social media or online. That means an echo chamber. We all know this. It means that you only get one side.
Moreover, you only get the sliver of it, right? What's interesting about this is that you're actually-- our issues are more complex. They require more nuance, more thought and discussion. And we're getting less.
So, there's two things. You've got to both address the why does this matter to me? You've got to convince young people and engage them in the issue, right? The question as to whether you have a light in your corner on your street is a civic issue. It involves navigating a set of institutions in your town that you could make an impact on. In fact, it's probably pretty easy.
And then again, you need to give them the skills. So those are the two things, what kind of skills, or actually it's more depth, more knowledge or connected knowledge, right? It's not only about knowing a bunch of facts. I've seen that a little bit in the chat and the questions.
Civic knowledge matters. But that kind of knowledge that matters is that puts it in context. What's happened before? Where are we now? And how could it be different later? That is absolutely important to them.
There's independent-thinking skills. How do you find evidence? How do you decipher whether information is valid or not? And then after that, how do you turn that into practice?
What would you actually do to solve this problem with people you disagree with? That requires a different self-containment or being able to talk to somebody you really, really disagree with. That is what our system asks of you. And all of those things are skills that can be built.
They can be built from the ground up within schools, but it also is in the family. So those things when-- or they're with friends. When my girlfriend wants to hit the outrage button on a social media post, maybe we can have a little conversation about whether we understand that whole context for a particular issue or something like that.
So, I think Gen Z's different. I think they obviously are very different. But the first step is to convince them that this is important.
JANICE BRUNNER: Joan, I'd like to just I can just weigh in too, in that I think that's exactly part of why we are so excited about Citizen Travelers because we think our employees-- and I kind of alluded this in my prepared remarks. Our employees are really good at working together and thinking critically and solving problems as a team. And so, what we want to do is basically we're saying to our employees, the things that you do so well at Travelers and working among diverse perspectives and collaborating, take that out into your communities and model that behavior for others.
And so, I think-- and also, let's showcase and spotlight people who are doing that in their communities so that we can inspire others to do the same as well. So it's almost like accentuate the positive, which is really what's behind Citizen Travelers and why we're so excited about it.
JOAN WOODWARD: That's great. And Louise, I want to pick up on something you said, which is 20, 30 years ago, we got our news at 6:30 or 7:00, the national news with Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather. And we believed them. We sat there on the couch, and we listened. Or over dinner, you listened to Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Sam Donaldson. You choose the anchor.
But we believed whatever they told us was the truth and they were the facts. And so today, with all of the social media and other cable news, it really is difficult, I think, for our young people to consume facts and news versus opinion. And separating those two is very, very important. And I think parents play a very large role in making sure children understand that there is news and facts, and then there's opinion, because it has become so blended in today's society.
And I think having a program like this, and certainly your iCivics educational program, it's critically important at a time when there's so much noise out there in the political discussion. So, I'm going to shift a little bit. I want to talk about the business case for small- and medium-sized businesses or large businesses to encourage their employees to get civically engaged.
So, Janice, you touched on it a little bit. But what is the business case for maybe an agent or a broker who is on this call today to really think about launching a program? And it doesn't have to be a lot of work and a lot of cool websites. It could be very simple program. And Travelers, I know, our CEO is committed to helping our agent-broker partners kind of roll out their own version of Citizen Travelers. So, tell us what the business imperative is for a program such as this?
JANICE BRUNNER: Sure. So all the same considerations that apply to Travelers apply to, I think-- as far as the business case for civic engagement-- apply to small- and medium-sized businesses as well. First, I'll just go back to this idea that in order to run a successful business, you need to have predictable and fair outcomes, a stable rule of law. You need to know that when you make a business decision, it's going to be-- the fundamentals of your society are going to be there to back that up.
And I feel like we are all beneficiaries of our democratic tradition. And that is what has made the United States such a great place to do business for so many years. So we all have a responsibility to kind of maintain that consistency and stability. And all of that is true.
I think I saw one statistic, 50% of all U.S. employees work for one of the approximately 32 million small businesses in the country. So that's a huge community of people who are in a position to step up as leaders in their communities as well and make sure that our communities are sound and that we're helping to solve problems and that they're representing the views of businesses as well.
So, I think it goes back to, to be honest, quite simply, just being constructive and neighborly, just being able to take all the teamwork that makes our businesses so successful into the communities and to develop solutions and constructive dialogue. So as far as setting up a program, it doesn't have to be-- it's really start small, right? It doesn't have to be expensive or extensive even.
It's like we really think of it-- you could really start this as kind of a grassroots thing, in the sense of one of the big pieces out of our program is a robust get-out-the-vote effort. And there's a lot of really-- there's a lot of very inexpensive or, quite frankly, free resources online that you can use to tell employees, help them register to vote, help them think about deadlines, help them check their registration. So, it's really harnessing those materials.
And then from an educational perspective, there's also a lot of-- it's just harnessing those resources as well, like iCivics. Our partnership with iCivics this summer was a real win because all of iCivics’ educational materials are free. And so really it was a matter of just rolling them out to our employees and letting them know that they were available, and so that they can use them themselves or with their children. And so just kind of tapping into those kind of resources and letting employees know that they're available and kind of letting it, letting employees know that it's a value and that you are excited about it too, I think goes a long way.
JOAN WOODWARD: So, Janice, you talked about getting out the vote. And obviously it's very important, especially in the local elections, not just the presidential. But can you share some real-life examples of how employees have gotten engaged in their communities besides the getting out the vote?
We saw our wonderful colleague sitting on the Middletown School Board. That was a beautiful, beautiful video. Thank you for sharing that. But give us some other real-life examples that maybe others can use in their own businesses that are listening in today.
JANICE BRUNNER: Sure. So, as I said before, it's been incredibly inspiring to see how involved Travelers employees are in their communities. There's one example that really struck me, that I didn't even know this existed, is one of our employees serves on his town's planning and zoning commission and also serves as his town's tree warden. So, I didn't even know tree warden statutes existed.
But basically, what I've learned through our Citizen Travelers community is that these statutes were created in the early 1900s in New England states to appoint individuals to care and control for all trees on public land. So, between his two positions of being on his town's planning and zoning commission and also being his town's tree warden, he really has gotten to know all his neighbors and his community. And it's really a good way for him to be out there in the community, being positive change. So just learning about that, as well as we have people who are serving on their economic development commissions, their pension boards, their building committees, several people who are volunteer EMTs-- so it's really exciting to see kind of what people can do, in addition to being a Travelers employee and how they can-- it's really a virtuous cycle, right?
Because we like to think that our employees learn skills like teamwork and leadership and compromise and collaboration at Travelers and that they bring that out to their communities. But at the same time, what happens when our employees are acting in these roles, right? They're learning skills in those roles also, like leadership, teamwork, understanding of different people in the communities, different perspectives, getting a different viewpoint, different ways to do things, innovating. And so they’re bringing those skills back to Travelers too. So, it's really a win-win to recognize that these roles are-- people need to do these roles and to recognize their employees who are interested in getting involved.
JOAN WOODWARD: That's really great. I love the tree warden thing. So, if there's individuals on this call today who want to start their own initiative at their own company, but don't have the resources of a large company like Travelers, what advice do you have for them in getting started? Because we are a very large company, over 30,000 employees and great resources here. And it's a nice luxury to be able to do this. But think about it. If you have five to 10 employees or 20 employees, what advice would you have for them, Janice or Louise?
JANICE BRUNNER: Sure. So, I would say first of all, just get started. I think one of the things that we-- don't feel like you have to have this massive program or put a lot of expense into it. One of the things that we've done with our program is kind of taken a test-and-learn approach.
So, we've just basically said, we're going to get going. And let this be a grassroots effort and pull resources as we can and just let's start rolling. But I would also say, so use your employees to get involved. I think one of the things that we've noticed is people are incredibly excited about being involved civically.
And I think this goes to Louisa's point about where people are feeling right now about our country and where things are headed. I think there's an incredible appetite for people to say, hey, maybe I want to get involved. I want to be part of the solution. And so, I would say roll this out through your employees, ask for volunteers to head up different pieces of it.
I think our program has three pieces really. It's education, our civics community, which is the sharing of information and supporting those who serve, and then the Get Out the Vote campaign. And so, for education, there's an incredible amount of resources available through iCivics, Gilder Lehrman, National Constitution Center, other resources online that are free and easy to access. It's just kind of basically telling people where they are.
For the civics community, I think if you can find people who are interested and just find a way to gather them, that goes a long way. And then the Get Out the Vote, I think there's also resources for that. So that's a great place. Once you kind of tap into those resources, you find they kind of link to each other from one to another.
So lastly, I would say if you want help, we're here. I think that Travelers, part of what we feel is if we can help other businesses with this kind of movement and help them start up a program, we'd be happy to. So, feel free to reach out to me. I can point you in the right direction. And hopefully this just kind of grows organically.
JOAN WOODWARD: And if anyone wants to do that, you just log on to travelersinstitute.org. And there is a button you click to contact us. And we'll make sure that your question or your comment gets to Janice at the company. And we encourage you to do that, so travelersinstitute.org. And it's Contact Us. And the email comes directly to us, and we'll get that to Janice.
So, Louise, back to you just for a minute, someone asked in the chat, are these resources available for home-schoolers and parents who are home-schooling? And I assume all of your resources are publicly available and free. And did you want to talk about any other resources? Janice had mentioned a few as well.
LOUISE DUBÉ: Yeah. So, you go to icivics.org and you register as an educator. As a home-schooling parent, you're an educator. So just register with us. And then you have access to all of our games and lesson plans.
What I was going to suggest, for example, as Janice said, when you're rolling out a program to your small business, you might want to know what employees are interested in. So if they're interested in co-playing with their children, that's one set of resources. But if they want to find out more information about new aspects of our system of government, for example, ranked-choice voting, that would be one, right?
We have resources for that. So just type ranked-choice voting in the Q bar, the question. And you'll find some resources for you. We have really simple little infographics that you could put up in your small business to show folks how this stuff works, if that applies to your location. So that's just the kind of idea that I have and I just wanted to suggest to everybody.
JOAN WOODWARD: Wonderful. I have one last question. And it's for both of you. And then we're going to get to the audience questions. We have a whole bunch coming in, and really good ones here. So, Janice, first to you, recently, in the last couple of years, companies are really increasingly being called on by employees, by shareholders, you name it, other activists really to weigh in on social and political issues. And how should businesses respond? What role should businesses play in these the public dialogue on some of these controversial issues, in your view?
JANICE BRUNNER: So that's a great question, Joan, and I think one that we think seriously about here at Travelers. I'll start just by repeating my previous statement that Citizen Travelers is aggressively nonpartisan. And I think the reason that we made that a real priority was that there are clearly times when the company gets involved in public policy-making with respect to regulation related to things that directly impact our business, like pricing of our products or tort reform or things of that nature. But when we do that, we do that separately through our government relations arm.
And our point with Citizen Travelers was to keep it separate from that work because it really is our way of giving employees to get involved in broader society issues on their own personally. So, we're a company of 30,000 people that are spread across the whole entire country. And our employees have many diverse perspectives and experiences, right?
So as a corporation, it's very difficult for us to weigh in on social broader societal issues or political issues because there are so many different perspectives that come to bear on those issues. And so what we do as Citizen Travelers is we don't get involved in those issues through Citizen Travelers. But what we do do is we get, we give people the opportunity and the resources to get involved in their own right.
So, we aren't going to tell our employees how to vote. But we are giving them resources so that they can go out and vote as they see fit, right? And we aren't going to-- as far as education, the educational pieces, we are nonpartisan as far as what educational materials we provide so that people have the facts. And this goes to your point earlier about it's difficult sometimes. You turn on the media.
And it's like depending on what viewpoint you have, you're only hearing that viewpoint based on where you turn on or what you see. And so, our idea is not to provide a particular perspective, but rather to provide kind of nonpartisan materials that people can use to make their own decisions and then to go out and engage in the public square on their own. So, I would say Citizen Travelers is not about getting involved in social political issues. It's about giving people the-- empowering people to have the tools to get involved in their own right, in the way they see fit.
JOAN WOODWARD: Wonderful. Thank you, both, for that discussion. We're going to hit you with some audience questions now. First coming in from Jacob Engel: Do you see a correlation between civically engaged employees and employee retention? So maybe you, Louise, I know you work with a lot of different companies across the whole spectrum of industries. And it's hard to measure, right? It's hard to measure this. But tell us about employee retention. Is there a correlation, then?
LOUISE DUBÉ: Well, Janice might be better to answer the employee retention part. But I would say that the key link that Janice made between business employees being a member of the community and in tightening the connection between the employees and the community helps a sense-- and there's clear research about that. It helps a sense of well-being.
It decreases loneliness in the community. It helps a sense of purpose. I would imagine that folks who feel with more purpose and more sense of responsibility to their community would be just more productive overall. But Janice, what about employee retention?
JANICE BRUNNER: Sure. So, there's a great-- there's a study recently out-- I don't know if you could drop it in the chat-- that's online from McKinsey that talks about how employees are really looking more for purpose in their work. And that when they find purpose, they're more productive. They're healthier. They're feeling more engaged.
And so, we really try-- and they're more likely to stay with the company. So, at Travelers, we have a great tenure. Our employees tend to stay with Travelers for a long time. And we're very proud of that. And I think part of that is being tuned in to kind of what employees are interested in and what they want to be involved in. And being involved in their communities is one of those things.
So, we have a very robust community engagement team. And then we have the Citizen Travelers civic engagement function as well. And so, we are-- that's a big part of Citizen Travelers is making sure that our employees are finding purpose at work and that they are finding that we're encouraging them to find purpose outside of work as well.
JOAN WOODWARD: Wonderful. This is a good question coming in. A couple of people have asked this question. Louise, you mentioned ranked-choice voting. It's gaining momentum in certain parts of the country. It's nonpartisan. I believe it's a better voting system to ease polarization in society. So, first of all, what is ranked-choice voting? And are you actively promoting that at iCivics?
LOUISE DUBÉ: Oh, we're not at all promoting it, no. What we believe is that this is a-- it's an intense period of polarization and division. But it's also a time of very generative ideas. Lots is happening to try to increase the representation in our system of government.
We often think that the system has been the way that it is. It's never changed. It doesn't change. That's not true.
Many instances in our history where things have changed, and people are looking at different ideas. Ranked-choice voting is just one way that folks have adopted. And it's being adopted in many different places. We saw the results in Alaska just recently. New York adopted it in many localities and Maine, so on and so forth.
So, it's a system that allows you to rank your preferences between the candidates and so that we don't have somebody elected with 20% of the votes just because there's one cycle of voting, but then allows you to choose the first, a second, third and fourth. There are different formats of that get adopted by different localities or jurisdictions. You should look into it.
As I said, on iCivics, we have further resources. We don't have time to explain all of it. But there's a lot happening in the democracy reinvigoration movement.
We take no positions on any of that. But we do try to teach about it. We do try to explain everything that's happening so that people can understand that our system is a more perfect union. It is not the most perfect union now. It is just trying to make a more perfect union constantly.
JOAN WOODWARD: Great. So, a couple of people have asked this question-- more than a couple of people. I very much would like to get involved. However, with social media, the internet and others, I worry about retribution or people who may not agree with me. I want to get involved, but I'm not sure about putting myself out there. How would you answer that, Louise? That's a real thing, right? Because--
LOUISE DUBÉ: Oh, absolutely, it's a real thing. And I don't think it's-- I think they're pointing to something that's real. And I think that in this social media and information overload, we do not yet have the tools to protect people and to encourage what we need to encourage, which is civic engagement. So, what I would say is first, let's start small.
Engage yourself in your community, and retribution is less likely to occur. And do it in an open way. Try to listen and listen for different perspectives and try to find a way to engage that is not as controversial maybe for you, if you're worried about that. Overall, I would try to support and work towards protections for those who are really courageous and on any side of an issue and engage themselves fully. I think that's a really important for our system to survive.
JANICE BRUNNER: Yeah, and I would say-- I would add to that a lot of what we're getting involved in, like for example at Citizen Travelers, it doesn't have to be the controversial things, right? Like, hopefully being your town's tree warden is not controversial. I mean, I'm sure there's more things that come up in local government than we all would like, right?
But it's almost like you've got to go to the point of someone's got to do it, right? Somebody's got to step up as a leader. And I really liked one thing that Louise said when we were speaking another time. She said, the first thing is to care, right? You've got to care. And if you're caring for your neighbor, then hopefully that's not controversial and that's not something that's going to get you in trouble on social media.
JOAN WOODWARD: Again, another question coming in, and a number of people have asked this one too, where does one go to find opportunities in their town? So, if you want to serve on a board, how do know when those opportunities are coming up? What's the first step to take? Louise, that's probably for you.
LOUISE DUBÉ: Yeah. I would go directly to my town or my city or my county. So obviously we're a very diverse nation, so the power lies in very different places. So there's not one answer to this question.
I would go to my town or my county or my city's website to see the list of positions and the openings and the cycle and get involved. The first thing to do is to go talk to people. I would go talk to the leaders. I would attend town meetings if you live in a jurisdiction where there are town meetings, or look at the issues that are being discussed by the city council or the county government.
All of that is important. Get yourself informed. Find out what's going on, who's doing it. Do you know any of these people? And then look at what the schedule is for the elections for the roles that would be appropriate to you. That's what I would do first.
JOAN WOODWARD: Great. Great. So again, if you want to contact Janice, please just go on our website, travelersinstitute.org. And there's a button that says Contact Us. And we'll make sure to get back to you.
So, listen, we've come to the end of our hour. It went by very fast. It's just a fascinating discussion. And we're so pleased to be able to present it to you. We feel strongly about this at Travelers. As you know, our CEO is deeply committed. And Janice has done a beautiful job rolling it out. Louise, thank you for all you're doing for getting the rest of the country civically engaged. So again, thank you, ladies, very much.
Slide, Wednesdays with Woodward Webinar Series. Upcoming Webinars, a list. Text, Register: travelersinstitute dotorg.
I do want to say just a note about our upcoming programming. On September 14, we'll be learning all about Generation Z, as well as strategies really to help businesses appeal to and recruit that demographic. So join us next week.
And then September 21, we're going to examine mental well-being in the workplace and mental health and how to help your employees build those resilient skills to manage through challenging times. And then on September 28, I’ll be sharing my annual economic public policy and political outlook. We're going to talk about one of the most pressing issues facing Congress and the Biden administration, as well as I'm going to talk about what we think might happen in the midterm elections this year and how businesses can really get ahead of what might happen and the outcome that could help or hurt your business. We're going to talk about all those issues.
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I also invite you to please connect with me directly on LinkedIn. So that's in the chat right now. And also, if you haven't already, take a minute to fill out our short survey. We're very interested in hearing what you thought of our webinar, what you want to see next on a webinar. We take and read every one of your comments seriously. So please fill out our survey. And again, thank you to our speakers and all of you for joining us. Have a terrific afternoon.
JANICE BRUNNER: Thank you, Joan.
Text, Travelers Institute. Travelers. Travelersinstitute dot org.
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