Civic renewal—meaning efforts to increase the prevalence, equity, quality, and impact of civic engagement–has long been central to the mission of Tisch College and its predecessor organizations.
Civic renewal may require new policies that encourage engagement, new tools and organizations, social movements, and changes in public opinion and culture.
Civic renewal does not imply that the past was better or that a society should return to older ways in order to improve its civic engagement. All societies at all times need civic renewal; all societies benefit from being renewed through civic work.
Tisch College is involved in documenting specific current threats and weaknesses to American civic engagement while exploring potential solutions. Here are specific research studies and resources most relevant to the broad topic of civic renewal in the United States.
Tisch College has a proud history of working on civic renewal. In 1978, the Lincoln Filene Center, which later became part of Tisch College, organized a National Conference on Citizen Participation that responded to “the renewed importance” of “civic participation to the future of our democratic society.” In 1987, the Lincoln Filene Center and the League of Women Voters jointly sponsored a National Conference on Civic Renewal. In 1998, the National Commission on Civic Renewal—co-chaired by Hon. William Bennett and Senator Sam Nunn and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts—met and released its influential report, A Nation of Spectators. Peter Levine, now Tisch College’s Associate Dean for Research, was deputy director. One of the Commission’s recommendations was the creation of a national center to study youth civic engagement. That organization was launched in 2001 as the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), which joined Tisch College in 2008.
Certain threads run through this history of work. One is a diverse set of partner organizations that are committed to civic practices. Another is the goal of measuring civic engagement. The 1978 conference produced a tool to measure the civic health of communities called the “civic index.” Twenty years later, The National Commission on Civic Renewal organized INCH: the Index of National Civic Health. And since 2006, CIRCLE has worked closely with the National Conference on Citizenship on its Civic Health Index. Tisch College researchers have contributed in other ways to the measurement and assessment of civic engagement in various settings.