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'It Takes Money to Buy Whiskey' : Local Energy Systems and Civic Participation
Unformatted Document Text:  Introduction Associationalism has always been a cherished element in American political culture. As idealized by Almond and Verba, for instance, “the citizen, unlike the subject, is an active participant in the political input process—the process by which political decisions are made” (1963, 161). Lukensmeyer and Brigham (2002) likewise argue that a “healthy democracy depends on the ability of citizens to affect the public policies that deeply influence their lives.” On the other hand, despite the underlying cultural ethic that understands participation to be a necessary feature of a viable liberal democracy, the ‘average citizen’ has never been a reliable nor generally active participant in civic affairs (Hibbing and Theiss-Morse 2002). However one evaluates American political culture, two critical issues present themselves in any consideration of the associational habit. The first is the question of recruitment, that is how are people brought into an environment that demands they give up increasingly sparse “free time.” The second issue is the problem of incentives or those things that may or may not be offered to individuals so as to insure their continued participation. This paper addresses both of these questions through a detailed analysis of a voluntary, community-based program called the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs). The project is a collaborative involving the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships program, Rural Minnesota Energy Task Force, the Metro County Energy Task Force, and the Minnesota Project, a nongovernmental organization that works on agricultural issues. CERTs teams have been created for six regions in the state, with each team bringing 3

Authors: High-Pippert, Angela. and Hoffman, Steven.
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Introduction
Associationalism has always been a cherished element in American political
culture. As idealized by Almond and Verba, for instance, “the citizen, unlike the subject,
is an active participant in the political input process—the process by which political
decisions are made” (1963, 161). Lukensmeyer and Brigham (2002) likewise argue that
a “healthy democracy depends on the ability of citizens to affect the public policies that
deeply influence their lives.” On the other hand, despite the underlying cultural ethic that
understands participation to be a necessary feature of a viable liberal democracy, the
‘average citizen’ has never been a reliable nor generally active participant in civic affairs
(Hibbing and Theiss-Morse 2002).
However one evaluates American political culture, two critical issues present
themselves in any consideration of the associational habit. The first is the question of
recruitment, that is how are people brought into an environment that demands they give
up increasingly sparse “free time.” The second issue is the problem of incentives or those
things that may or may not be offered to individuals so as to insure their continued
participation.
This paper addresses both of these questions through a detailed analysis of a
voluntary, community-based program called the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).
The project is a collaborative involving the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the
University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships program,
Rural Minnesota Energy Task Force, the Metro County Energy Task Force, and the
Minnesota Project, a nongovernmental organization that works on agricultural issues.
CERTs teams have been created for six regions in the state, with each team bringing
3


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