Active citizenship can be seen as an articulation of the debate over rights versus responsibilities. If a body gives rights to the people under its remit, then those same people might have certain responsibilities to uphold. This would be most obvious at a country or nation-state level, but could also be of wider scope, such as the Internet (Netizen) or Earth (global citizenship). The implication is that an active citizen is one who fulfills both their rights and responsibilities in a balanced way.
A problem with this concept is that although rights are often written down as part of law, responsibilities are not as well defined, and there may be disagreements amongst the citizens as to what the responsibilities are. For example, in the United Kingdom, citizens have the right to free health care, but voting in elections is not compulsory, even though many people would define this as a responsibility.
Writing a clear definition of responsibilities for an active citizen is much more problematic than writing a list of rights. For example, although voting might be considered a basic responsibility by many people, there are some who through disability or other issues are not able to participate fully in the voting process.
An active citizen is someone who takes a role in the community; the term has been identified with volunteering by writers such as Jonathan Tisch, who wrote in the Huffington Post in 2010 advocating that busy Americans should try to help others, particularly by offering high-level professional expertise in such areas as banking, education, engineering, and technology to help the less fortunate.
Active citizenship is considered a buzzword by some due to its vague definition. Examples include volunteering, donating, and recycling.