Innovations in Civic Practice, Theory and Education

July 18-20, 2013, Medford, MA

Download agenda in PDF format.

Thursday, July 18

51 Winthrop Street

5:00 Registration and Reception

6:00 Dinner

7:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • About the Civic Studies Institute
  • Conference goals and agenda review
  • Conference framing

7:30 Short Takes Session I

  1. Debbie Walsh, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University
  2. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Tufts University

9:00 Adjourn

Friday, July 19

Note: all meals will be at 51 Winthrop; all learning exchanges will be at Hillel

T-1 – Civic Practice Track
T-2 – Civic Theory Track

Participants are welcome to change tracks throughout the day

8:00 Welcome and Breakfast

8:45 Session I

Created Equal: Women in Public Life (T-1)

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique.  In this learning exchange, we’ll take stock of women in public life, starting with women in U.S. politics – women hold 20 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and 77, or 18%, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Of the 320 available state executive offices across the country, women hold 23% — and civic life – young women are more civically engaged than young men across a range of activities, according to a CIRCLE working paper, yet 2012 nonprofit compensation report shows that male nonprofit CEOs out-earn female counterparts by an average of 10 to 25 percent a year – and higher education – although women earn the majority of postsecondary degrees, they occupy just 26 percent of all college presidencies.  Are women more civically engaged than men, and if so, why? What are the implications a stalled gender revolution for public policy and for civic renewal? Gender equality is a human rights issue that affects everyone. What do we, as advocates for equitable public participation, need to know and do about it?


Taking the Pulse: Civic Studies as an Evolving Field (T-2)

This session explores the state of civic studies as a field. Four years after the inaugural Summer Institute of Civic Studies, where is the field today and where is it going? What can civic studies become and what research questions are pressing? What do we need to know and how do we find out?


  • Tim Shaffer – Director, Center for Leadership and Engagement, Wagner College
  • Peter Levine – Director, CIRCLE, Tufts University
  • Ian Ward – Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Maryland
  • Moderated by Elizabeth Gish – Assistant Professor, Western Kentucky University

10:15 Break

10:30 Session II

The Spectrum of Participation (T-1)

Facilitator: Larry Schooler, President, IAP2 USA

Two canonical charts have played an influential role in the development of public participation: first Arnstein’s ladder and more recently the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation. How has our work changed since the Spectrum was first introduced? How should we graphically illustrate the goals and boundaries of our work? IAP2 leaders and participation scholars will lead this discussion about how our field is evolving and how we want to describe it.


Innovations in Curricula and Pedagogy (T-1)

Last year, we focused on “pedagogies of the street – in the classroom,” the tried and true approaches to public engagement (deliberative forums, public conversations, study circles) already being used in communities that have relevance to what and how we teach in college. In this learning exchange, we’ll revisit and update our repository from last year and continue to collect examples of interdisciplinary course modules, sample syllabi, assignments, case studies, and experiences that faculty can adapt and use. And we’ll brainstorm what a publication or on-line resource for educators might look like and how we can move ahead on its creation.


Prisons and crime as venues of civic work and topics for civic research/social scientific phronesis (T-2)

Crime and its aftermath exists at the uneasy boundary between egalitarian civic engagement and expert-led public work. Crime calls for a coordinated civic response, yet routinely criminal justice is institutionalized and bureaucratized, placing it out of the realm of amateur citizen action. How can citizens bend the course of the system that costs hundreds of billions of dollars annually and involves difficult legal, economic, and psychological issues?  In this panel, we will explore the efforts of scholars in the burgeoning field of civic studies to detail the history and promise of antiviolence campaigns, citizen-led police oversight, prison education, and the participatory politics of the jury.


  • Andrew Nurkin – Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps, Princeton
  • Peter Pihos – doctoral candidate, University of Pennsylvania
  • Albert Dzur (Bowling Green State Univeristy) and John Gastil (Penn State), via remote presentation
  • Moderated by Joshua Miller

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Session III

Civic Measurement: Can We Meet in the Middle? (T-1)

Facilitators: Abby Kiesa, CIRCLE, and Madeleine Taylor, Network Impact

Everyone is talking about measurement these days. Measurement helps us to understand the status of engagement, what is actually happening with our programs and how to adjust our work. This learning exchange will provide a space for practitioners to take a step back and think about what is most significant to measure about your work, learn from their peers’ work in this area, and think about how their work fits into a larger chain of work to promote civic engagement. What kinds of indicators might help us understand whether and how our work affects the overall civic engagement of a community?


Legalizing Democracy (T-1)

The legal and policy framework for public participation in the United States is made up mostly of laws and ordinances that are over thirty years old. This framework does not match the expectations and capacities of 21st Century citizens, it predates widespread use of the Internet, and it does not reflect the lessons learned in the last two decades about how to engage citizens productively in public life. Depending on how these laws are interpreted, some of the most successful current public participation practices may even be considered illegal. This learning exchange will include members of the Working Group on Legal Frameworks for Public Participation; the discussion will feature the model ordinance the group has developed and address ways to help governments bring together the legal and practical aspects of local democracy.


Civic Studies Interactive Capstone: Advancing Civic Theory and Practice (T-2)

In the study of democracy, ethics, and politics, there is often a perceived tension between theory and practice. Or a divide between “academics” and “practitioners.” This conversation explores these distinctions and tensions in the context of civic studies, asking how we can think and write better at these intersections.


  • Karol Soltan – Associate Professor, The Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
  • Jen Sandler – Director, University Alliance for Community Transformation, UMass Amherst
  • Thad Williamson – Associate Professor, University of Richmond
  • Moderated by Tim Shaffer – Director, Center for Leadership and Engagement, Wagner College

2:45 Break

3:00 Session IV

The Future of Participatory Budgeting (T-1)

Facilitators: Thea Crum, Great Cities Institute, and Lacey Tauber, Participatory Budgeting Project

Download the Powerpoint here.

As participatory budgeting (PB) becomes more well-known and widely used, a number of challenges are emerging: local officials using the term to describe processes that don’t live up to PB principles; questions about whether PB can be ‘scaled up’ to higher levels of government; charges that it distracts citizens by only focusing on a small portion of the budget. The recent special issue of the Journal of Public Deliberation describes some of these challenges (as well as the considerable successes) of PB around the world. This learning exchange, which will include leading PB practitioners and researchers, will focus on ways to tackle the top research questions and practitioner challenges related to the growth of PB.


Moving the Needle: Acting and Educating for Equity (T-1)

Inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, disability status, and national origin has no place in a democratic society, yet we still struggle to find effective solutions. Adequately addressing gender inequality requires understanding the intersection of these forces. Inequality can be structural and systemic: career paths, work-family roles, legal systems, policies, or political representation. And it can be subtle and localized: who has the floor or a seat at the table, language, images of power and leadership, work assignments, or stereotyping, all of which impact an individual’s confidence, interests, morale, productivity, and accomplishments from an early age. Promoting greater inclusivity and equality in civic learning and practice can disrupt biased systems and structures by challenging underlying norms and assumptions. In this session, participants will examine not just gender inequality, but gender inequality with a racial and economic overlay. It’s designed for anyone interested in sharing promising approaches and learning new embedded strategies in equitable civic learning and practice. Participants will work in small groups to strategize on what we can do, both in our daily practices and collectively.


Interactive Capstone: Advancing Civic Theory and Practice (T-2)

In this session, we’ll reflect on the work of the day, as well as build networks and concrete plans to tackle the key problems for civic
studies going forward. Moderators will lead participants through individual and paired reflection exercises and will model a “one on one” organizing technique that will help us connect our reflections to our stories, develop our relationships, and gauge what we share in common. We’ll end the session examining what the future of civic studies might hold.

Facilitators – Liza  Pappas, City University of New York and Alison Staudinger, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

4:30 Break

5:00 Reception

6:00 Short Takes II:

  1. Mark Warren, University of Massachusetts Boston
  2. Teresa Younger, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Connecticut General Assembly
  3. Patrizia Nanz, Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, University of Essen, Germany

7:30 Adjourn

Saturday, July 20

51 Winthrop Street (all sessions)
All sessions plenary (no tracks)

8:00 Networking Breakfast

9:00 Short Takes III:

  1. Michael Davis, Brooklyn Park Police Department, Minnesota
  2. Dan Moulthrop, City Club of Cleveland and Civic Commons
  3. Joel Miranda, YouthBuild Cambridge

10:30 Break

10:45 Open Space

12:00 Lunch

12:45 Short Takes III: Speakers

  1. Nigel Jacob, Boston City Hall
  2. Joel Rocamora, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Philippines

2:15 Break

2:30 Learning Exchange (plenary)

Responding to National Crises

Facilitators: Matt Leighninger, DDC and Sandy Hierbacher, NCDD.

From President Obama to the devastated parents of youngsters slain in Newtown, CT in December to the family of Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago, the nation is calling for a national “post-Newtown” dialogue on gun control, school safety, mental health, urban violence, and more. And almost immediately, national organizations including the National School Public Relations Association and the National Issues Forums Institute produced discussion materials and policy choices for discussion and action. In this session, we’ll talk about what happened. How can we in civic renewal work respond in ways that are nimble, effective, and lasting? What’s realistic? And what can we as a group and as individuals do?

3:45 Closing Remarks

4:00 Adjourn