Research tells us that emotions are contagious. When we feel good, we extend those good feelings to the next person we encounter. When we communicate in a more respectful and effective way, our brain chemistry signals us to feel better about the world around us. And when we feel better about the world around us, we pass it along. We pay it forward. Our quality of life is improved.
Because It Matters is a regional initiative on Florida’s Gulf Coast to promote civility in our schools, workplaces, and broader community life. It is a campaign to engage citizens in communicating more respectfully and effectively, thereby improving public discourse. The result is a strengthening of our social fabric, making our region an even better place to live.
Because It Matters originates from a civility initiative of the same name that Gulf Coast launched 10 years ago. From 2007 to 2010, this award-winning campaign encouraged civic participation and civil discourse by promoting 10 Keys to Civility—a list of civil behaviors chosen by community members to improve our ability to communicate with one another and create a better community in the process. The legacy of our original civility initiative can be seen in programs that continue today in many schools, workplaces, and civic spaces.
However, as our region evolves and grows, the need to amplify the message of civility and adapt it for our current culture became clear to the Gulf Coast Board of Directors. Political rhetoric has become increasingly polarizing and hostile. Social media has transformed the ways we interact with one another. And data from our Gulf Coast Community Indicators website shows that our region will become increasingly diverse in the years ahead.
That’s why Gulf Coast reintroduced a reimagined Because It Matters in 2017. Our initiative is rooted in the same research and objectives that informed and guided our first civility initiative. But the tools and tactics have evolved for today’s community members and communication vehicles.
At our March 2017 Better Together luncheon featuring historian David McCullough, Gulf Coast unveiled the Civility Squad, a team of animated characters who promote the 10 Keys to Civility. We encourage schools and workplaces to launch their own civility projects and invite them to apply for Civility Squad Grants to help them do so.
Together we can encourage the next generation of elected leaders and private citizens, raise the level and tenor of public dialogue, celebrate our increasing diversity, and provide more opportunities for more people to become engaged and to volunteer in our region.
The Civility Squad—and every community member who chooses to join it—serves as the ambassadors and champions of civility on the Gulf Coast, saving our community one good deed at a time.
Gulf Coast Community Foundation is an affiliate of the Civility Experts Inc.