Civic agency involves the capacities of citizens to work collaboratively across differences like partisan ideology, faith traditions, income, geography and ethnicity to address common challenges, solve problems and create common ground. Civic agency
requires a set of individual skills, knowledge and predispositions. Civic agency also involves questions of institutional design, particularly how to constitute groups and institutions for sustainable collective action. Civic agency can be seen from a cultural vantage as
the practices, habits, norms, symbols and ways of life that enhance or diminish capacities for collective action. This emerging body of knowledge and set of collective practices provide models for a major higher education initiative that will transform previous sources of
civic decline into wellsprings of civic renewal and regeneration.
The Civic Agency Initiative is a partnership with the
Center for Democracy and Citizenship (CDC). The project seeks to further develop and operationalize the concept of civic agency. The goal of this initiative is to produce a series of national models for developing civic agency among undergraduates and to disseminate those models
broadly throughout American higher education. The project combines the strategic and leadership position of AASCU schools in civic engagement – with more than 50% of the nation’s public four year college students, a strong record of educating local and regional leaders, and a
flourishing network of schools in the American Democracy Project – with the pioneering theoretical and practical work of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.
In November 2008, the first Civic Agency Institute was held to launch the Civic Agency initiative. Since then, the first 16 colleges and universities involved in the initiative have undertaken community organizing, one-to-one informational interview and curricular
programming to explore the concept of civic agency. In November 2009, the Civic Agency Institute invited a new cadre of AASCU campuses to join the work of the Civic Agency initiative.
Center for Democracy and Citizenship
Image Credit: University of Maryland Baltimore County
Director, The American Democracy Project