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FDLTCC talk to focus on the why and how of community involvement

Alex Maki

Growing up in Cloquet, Alex Maki volunteered in many ways: as a Big Brother in high school, then on a trip to Honduras. It was just part of what he did.

Now, his biography describes the 2003 Cloquet High School grad as a "scientist and educator," whose work has investigated why people protect the natural environment, why people get involved in their communities, and why people live healthy lives.

Next week, Maki — now a postdoctoral research fellow at Vanderbilt University in Nashville — will combine those two parts of his life when he returns to Cloquet to talk about why people do things like volunteer or help their neighbors, and how to motivate people to engage in these kinds of social behaviors.

All are welcome to this free, fairly informal presentation, but especially those who want to know how to get people more engaged.

"My No. 1 goal is to give people tools they can use to help increase community involvement," said Maki, admitting that volunteerism and citizen engagement has declined over the past several decades. "If you're concerned at all about community issues or social issues and getting people more involved in the community, this is your opportunity to come and be part of the conversation. I'm hoping to learn too."

Maki's free presentation "Understanding and Motivating Community Involvement" will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 27, in the commons area at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. Although Maki is currently working with the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment and the Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network, he said the talk will be general, and he won't focus on recruiting volunteers for any particular issue.

Among discussion points will be how to get people to be more empathetic, common motivations for volunteering, how to design advertising to meet those motivations and even some social science basics.

"By appreciating why people volunteer, we can understand both how to increase community involvement and make it more likely people will stay involved in their communities over time," Maki wrote, adding that he will also provide useful tips and strategies for how to help people become more engaged in their communities.

Maki is the son of Roger and Peggy Maki of Cloquet. He earned his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2015.