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Community energy initiatives offer a potentially important means for reshaping the electrical system in a manner compatible with emissions reduction goals. Many such initiatives, however, focus upon top-down, institutionally structured approaches that understand community residents as atomistic, economically motivated, and minimally engaged. This paper examines a number of case studies that are based upon a bottom-up approach rooted in a civic culture that seeks to maximize the capacities of an active and engaged citizenry. The paper focuses upon two mutually dependent issues: first, recruiting community members, and second, sustaining their participation.