From the Director’s Desk- March, 2018

March 12, 2018

From the Director’s Desk- March 2018

It’s Civic Engagement Institute time! I hope to see many of you on March 8 – 9 at UW-Whitewater at this year’s annual gathering of civic-minded faculty and staff from across Wisconsin.  If you come to our awards dinner, you will get a chance to learn about notable partnerships, outstanding faculty and staff, and inspiring students—all in the name of making universities and colleges more synergistic with communities.  There’s still time to sign up! Do so HERE.  You can also see our diverse program HERE.  Don’t forget to give a special invitation to students who can take advantage of our student track this year.

Just this past weekend, I got the pleasure of presenting at St. Norbert College’s conference, “Invigorating Democracy and Public Work.”  They keynote speaker was civic scholar Harry Boyte from the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College.  Several things caught my attention and are worth reflecting on.  First, how will students learn civic skills and dispositions if we do not introduce them to authentic democratic work during schooling? That’s what led Harry Boyte to found Public Achievement.  This model teaches students about understanding the fundamentals of how power shapes political decisions and how to build their efficacy in the process.  In developing their public voice, they choose an issue of concern to the community, do one-on-one meetings with people affected by it, power-map to understand who has power to change it, and learn how to build coalitions to support changing this issue.  Any kind of model like this that actually engages youth (either K-12 or post-secondary) in public problem-solving.

Second, I was reminded of the concept of the civic professional, people who see their civic identity as something more than something that emerges on weekends and week nights.  They consider how their professions have public dimensions and how to help realize those dimensions in everyday life.  For example, Bill Doherty is a psychologist, but he kept asking himself, “How can psychology be relevant to public issues?” Among other things, he has developed a training called “Better Angels” meant to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats through a deliberative dialogue approach.  His training in psychology gave him the tools he needed to help people bridge differences, and he put this into practice through a training he does with conservative-leaning and liberal-leaning people.  This training has helped thousands to open up and begin to trust people from the other side of the political spectrum.  He took his gifts and talents, while putting them to work in a public setting.  This concept is helpful in also linking career development and community engagement.  TEASER: WiCC HAS A TRAINING PLANNED WITH BILL ON FRIDAY, MAY 4.  Stay tuned.  E-mail gavin {at} compact(.)org for more info.

Keep doing the great work of community engagement.  Our stories are multifaceted and complex.  Let’s continue to tell it in very public ways! See you on March 8-9 in Whitewater.