Engage Norfolk: Your Gateway to Finding Community

by | Mar 20, 2022

It doesn’t take a degree in political science or sociology to know that we are living through some contentious times in politics and government. We often see a narrative playing out in the news programs and the comment sections. It seems like folks are angry, loud, and toxic regarding civic issues. 


Meanwhile, engaging directly with the government can feel cold and clinical. If you show up to a meeting for the first time, the process can be intimidating. The regular actors know their place, and they move quickly. If it’s your first time around, it’s easy to feel like an outsider; unwelcomed in a foreign place. 


Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. The antidote to both, at least on a personal level, is as simple as a friendly face. Someone you know from down the street. Maybe their kids go to the same school as yours, perhaps they frequent the same brewery as you, or you’re both passionate about Virginia Tech football. 


That personal connection quickly brings down the tones of conversations; it’s a lot easier to yell at strangers. An unfamiliar process and meeting full of strangers feels less intimidating with a familiar face nearby. When we know our neighbors, community members, and fellow citizens, the world seems like it’s a little less on fire. One small step we can each take is getting to know that one person, showing up to that first meeting. Your opportunity is this weekend. 


This Sunday at Scope Exhibition Hall, Engage Norfolk returns, seeking to bridge that gap. It’s here to introduce you to the wide variety of civically inclined groups, organizations, and clubs so that you can find your friendly faces. Engage Norfolk features a civic fair, civic workshops, and elected official meet and greets, all focused on helping you take that first (or next) step into the world of civic engagement. 


The CivicFAIR is the big headliner with over 100 organizations of various creeds and colors registered to the table in the exhibition hall. Attendees will get the chance to mingle, meet, and explore groups that range from actual City of Norfolk departments and elected officials to social sports leagues and church groups. The list is a veritable who’s who of real community in Norfolk. Whether you’re a young professional, a parent, a senior, or an eager youth, you will find a place to plugin. No matter your passion, identity, or persuasion, there are folks just like you in this city. If you want to find them, this is your chance. 


The civic workshops have been happening in a virtual setting before and after the big event this Sunday. They represent a crash course in understanding citizenship in Norfolk. The first workshop featured an hour plus on how the city collects taxes and where that money goes. Next up, a particular session advocating for change with your local, state, and federal legislators brought lobbying to the people. Still to come in April and May, sessions on jobs and the economy and navigating the City of Norfolk government. If you spent the time to get through each workshop, you’d be further along than most Norfolk citizens. This level of professional guidance through complex systems wouldn’t be out of place for graduate-level lectures at a local college, but you’ve got them all for free. It’s collectively a remarkable assemblage of civic education that could put anyone on a path to civic confidence. 


One of the most significant factors leading to long-term civic engagement is simply having friends along for the ride. The first step to building community, improving your neighborhood, and loving your city is just a new face away. Your opportunity to find that neighbor you never knew, a long-lost political ally or fellow former-indifferent will probably never be easier. Get on down to Scope on Sunday to make new friends who share your political passions!

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