“Commitment” is initially understood to be the obligation that is assumed or contracted with other people or institutions. By means of a gesture, a word, a document, we link our person to the performing or fulfilment of something agreed with other people.
Arising from this original meaning, we also use “commitment” to refer to our specific attitude, dedications and behaviours, precisely as the consequence of the act of committing, in order to fulfil it in an appropriate and satisfactory way. Thus, the acquired commitment generates a committed behaviour and this, in turn, internally configures who does it, making it a “committed” person or entity.
When the implementation framework is the citizenry, social reality, we speak about “civic commitment”, taken to be the set of responsibilities held, individually and collectively, by the people making up a social organisation in order to put their capabilities and possibilities to the common good and the shared collective goals.
We can say, analytically, that the commitment basically come from two such human behaviours as promising and solidarity. On the one hand, as people are fickle and because we cannot fully predict the consequences of our acts, we try to offset those deficiencies by making promises, which generate commitment. On the other hand, we feel jointly involved and responsible with other human beings, with whom we identify, we engage with them by assuming commitments. Finally, commitment is the way people generate trust in our social interactions.
The implications on the behaviours of the three stakeholders (individuals, civil society organisations and public institutions) promoting the “commitment” value are of different nature and extent.
Commitment, from the personal point of view, can only occur when we overcome individualism and indifference towards others and the collective. Furthermore, it requires responsibility and coherence in order to be fulfilled. And perseverance and strength to overcome the difficulties that appear on the path to perform what is proposed.
Following a neat formula, it can be said that commitment requires “take charge of” (awareness) of the reality, “charge” (assume costs) and “be in charge of” (manage in an ordered way) it.
Social organisations are an appropriate way to channel and enable citizen commitment and achieve a qualitative jump in the aggregation and coordination of individual wills and efforts.
On the other hand, social organisations only appropriately embrace commitment if they assume the perspective of the common good, based on prioritising the most socially disadvantaged people. If that is not the case, they are merely self-help groups for their members, without commitment outside.
Furthermore, social entities have to assume their irreplaceable role of citizen commitment schools, educators and forgers of committed people.
The commitment of the municipal institutional framework requires the latter to overcome the partisan logic that often grips public institutions in order for the commitment to be adequately performed. The City Council has to fulfil its commitments to the citizens regardless of the political affiliation of the beneficiaries, the ensuing cost in terms of electoral support and always considering the horizon of the long-term positive consequences of its fulfilment.
Furthermore, the institution of municipal government needs a total transparency policy regarding the commitments acquired, their monitoring of the execution and fulfilment, allowing the citizens to control it, as, ultimately, the commitment is to and with them.