The Assembly Civic Engagement Survey

The Center for Active Design (CfAD) is pleased to announce the release of original research findings from the Assembly Civic Engagement Survey (ACES), the first study to examine specific community design features that influence civic life, using large-sample survey methods and visual experiments.

ACES captured data from over 5,000 respondents across the U.S., representing a diverse cross-section of economic conditions, demographics, and population densities. The survey inquired about respondents’ civic perceptions and behaviors, as well as design elements and maintenance conditions within their communities—generating a trove of data to measure and analyze relationships between characteristics of place and civic life. The study also incorporated an innovative photo experiment technique to explore the causal impacts of design elements on civic perceptions.

ACES findings are organized across three main topics: park design and maintenance; neighborhood order and disorder; and welcoming civic spaces and buildings. The publication uses infographics, photos, and illustrations to translate findings from sophisticated econometric models into an accessible, easy-to-use resource for local implementers and decision-makers. Highlights include:

  • People living near popular parks report greater community connection and greater satisfaction with local government. They are 14% more likely to report satisfaction with police and 13% more likely to report satisfaction with the mayor.
  • Litter is associated with depleted civic trust. People who report litter to be “very common” in their neighborhood exhibit reduced civic trust across a number of measures, including 10% lower community pride and 10% lower likelihood of believing that community members care about one another.
  • Vacant lots present a challenge, and an opportunity. A photo experiment indicates that even moderate clean-up of a vacant lot can significantly enhance measures of civic trust—including a 13% increase in the belief that people care about their community.
  • ACES demonstrates that relatively modest design improvements can make a difference in civic perceptions. Photo experiments found that incorporating seating, greenery, lighting, and positive messaging can make civic spaces feel more welcoming and inclusive.

ACES findings will serve as a cornerstone in shaping the overarching Assembly initiative—inspiring research questions for future experiments, and informing the development of the forthcoming Assembly design guidelines, scheduled for publication in 2018.

Download The Assembly Civic Engagement Survey

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    The Porch, Philadelphia, PA. Courtesy of The Porch at 30th/ArtPlace America
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    Urban Grow Project Mural Project. Photo Courtesy of Capital Roots.