Civic Learning: Leading Organizations

In addition to AAC&U and the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Action Network, a number of organizations strive to advance more comprehensive and inclusive civic learning and democratic engagement both in higher education and in campus/community partnerships, whether local or global ones. The following list is not all-inclusive, but showcases the diversity of organizations in the field and the abundance of resources they offer. To suggest an organization be added to this page, contact

American Democracy Project
The American Democracy Project is a multi-campus initiative that seeks to create an intellectual and experiential understanding of civic engagement for undergraduates enrolled at institutions that are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The goal of the project is to produce graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in a democracy. Focused on undergraduates at public colleges and universities, the American Democracy Project has created a collaborative network of 250 public colleges and universities, representing more than 1.5 million students. The three-year project, sponsored by AASCU in collaboration with The New York Times, will provide opportunities for participating campuses to engage in activities and projects designed to increase the number of undergraduate students committed to meaningful civic actions.

American Political Science Association's Civic Education Network
A project of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Civic Education Network provides materials for Civic Education teachers at all levels, and includes such resources as major reports on civic society and university centers working on civic education. Resources are divided into three areas: Scholarly Essays; Civic Education Organizations; and Teaching and Research Resources. Teaching Civic Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen, a 2013 publication, demonstrates how to bring civic questions and pedagogies to the heart of the disciplines.

Amizade Volunteer and Service-Learning Programs
Amizade is a non-profit organization that encourages intercultural exploration and understanding through community-driven volunteer programs and service-learning programs. Its service learning programs offer undergraduate and graduate credit to students interested in challenging academic and service experiences with communities around the world. Along with hosting a global consortium on service-learning, Amizade launches partnerships with different universities in the US and across the globe to promote innovative service-learning programs for educational credit.

Anchor Institutions Task Force
The Anchor Institutions Task Force has been convened as an organization to develop and disseminate knowledge to help create and advance democratic, mutually beneficial anchor institution-community partnerships. The Task Force functions as an ongoing think tank, developing long-term strategies, and making the case for the crucial role of anchor institutions in economic and community development. Communities cannot be revitalized and redeveloped without greater alignment across policy, institutions, civil society organizations (such as community based nonprofit organizations), and private resources (such as philanthropy). The Task Force develops and implements new strategies emphasizing partnerships that cross traditional boundaries in promoting community health and vitality.

Bonner Foundation
The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation supports anti-proverty programs in the area of hunger and education. The Bonner Scholar and Bonner Leader Programs have expanded to more than 75 colleges and universities across the country, providing "access to education, and an opportunity to serve" to more than 3,200 students annually. Since its founding in 1989, the Bonner Foundation has awarded more than $86 million in annual grants and another $85 million in Bonner Program Endowment awards to 20 participating colleges and universities. The Foundation has lead a number of Federally-funded higher education consortium grants, including: four Learn & Serve America grants, three FIPSE grants, and more than ten years of national and State AmeriCorps grants (that support more than 1,000 members annually).

Bringing Theory to Practice
The Bringing Theory to Practice Project (BTtoP) encourages colleges and universities to reassert their core purposes as educational institutions, not only to advance learning and discovery, but to advance the potential and well-being of each individual student, and to advance education as a public good that sustains a civic society. To develop a greater understanding of the nature of the "civic" in a changing and diverse democratic society and its relation to the civic mission of higher education, BTtoP developed the Civic Seminar Initiative. As part of this initiative, BTtoP convened multiple Civic Planning Group meetings, sponsored 19 “distributed” seminars, and held a National Civic Seminar. Resulting from the National Civic Seminar were a set of policy recommendations, curricular and programmatic models, resources, and best practices.

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools
The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools was created to expand and improve civic learning in K-12 and in Higher Education. The Campaign works with its 60+ coalition partners, the Campaign's Steering Committee, to bring about changes in state, local, and national policy that promote civic learning and implement the recommendations in “Guardian of Democracy: the Civic Mission of Schools,” a report published by the Campaign in 2011. This report reflects a broad consensus among scholars and practitioners on the major challenges confronting civic learning, research based practices that are proven to effectively provide civic learning and recommendations for policymakers, educators and all Americans.

Campus Compact
Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents committed to the civic purposes of higher education. To support this civic mission, Campus Compact promotes community service that develops students' citizenship skills and values, encourages partnerships between campuses and communities, and assists faculty who seek to integrate public and community engagement into their teaching and research. Its "Civic Engagement and Higher Education" program focuses on defining and mapping civic engagement, program models, and assessment models and its "Service-Learning and Faculty Development" program focuses on integrating service with academic study.

Center for Civic Education
The Center for Civic Education is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to fostering the development of informed, responsible participation in civic life. The Center administers curricular, teacher-training, and community-based programs. The Center specializes in civic/citizenship education, law-related education, and international educational exchange programs for developing democracies. Programs focus on the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; American political traditions and institutions at the federal, state, and local levels; constitutionalism; civic participation; and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)
CIRCLE (the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans. CIRCLE's research on non-college-bound young adults includes an evaluation of the leadership opportunities provided by YouthBuild USA, an evaluation of a community-based organization called United Teen Equality Center in Lowell, MA, and focus groups of young adults in Little Rock, Richmond, Baltimore, and Lowell. In its efforts to improve k-12 civic education, CIRCLE is participating in the drafting of the Common Core state standards for the social studies and the design of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Civics.

Close Up Foundation
The Close Up Foundation is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan citizenship education organization. Founded in 1970, Close Up connects individuals of all ages to their communities and institutions through a variety of educational programs and products. By building partnerships with the education community, the private and philanthropic sectors, and all branches and levels of government, Close Up promotes civic participation in meaningful and dynamic ways. Close Up works with teachers and students on service learning initiatives, providing training workshops, program development seminars, curriculum-writing institutes, "training of trainers" sessions and materials, youth service summits, student guide books, and teacher manuals to help integrate service learning into the curriculum.

Civic Practices Network (CPN)
Civic Practices Network (CPN) is a collaborative and nonpartisan project dedicated to bringing practical tools for public problem solving into community and institutional settings across America. Growing out of the movement for a "new citizenship" and "civic revitalization," and supported by the Surdna Foundation, CPN brings schooling for active citizenship into the information age. CPN is a pluralist and nonpartisan network of civic educators and practitioners who provide case studies, training manuals, "best practice" guides, and evaluative tools; map innovative projects around the country; and help connect people to other civic assets and partners. The Network's web site provides online, multimedia capacities to exchange a broad range of practical tools and diverse experiences, and to fashion these for use in many different settings: schools and professional training programs, community centers and public libraries, government agencies and private businesses, homes and churches.

CIVNET: An International Resource for Civic Education and Civil Society
Published by CIVITAS International, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting civic education and civil society. CIVNET is a web site for civic education practitioners (teachers, teacher trainers, curriculum designers), scholars, policy makers, civic-minded journalists, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) promoting civil society all over the world. CIVNET includes such resources as textbooks, lesson plans, original journal articles and book reviews, historical documents and speeches, civic news headlines, events listings, and organizational contacts, and more.

Community College National Center for Community Engagement (CCNCCE)
The Community College National Center for Community Engagement (CCNCCE) is a national leader in advancing programs and innovations that stimulate active participation of institutions of education in service learning and community engagement for the attainment of a vital citizenry. For 21 years, the CCNCCE has successfully developed and managed innovative partnerships and disseminated lessons learned throughout the higher education community. An outcome of the mission of the CCNCCE is to support and promote the pedagogy of service-learning, a teaching method which combines academic instruction with community service as it focuses on increasing college access and completion, academic achievement and engagement, critical and reflective thinking and civic responsibility. In addition to an annual conference in May of each year, CCNCCE also offers abstracts, articles and publications, funding opportunities, manuals and workbooks, presentations, and syllabi.

Community Outreach Partnership Centers (COPC) Program
The Community Outreach Partnership Centers (COPC) Program, an initiative ofThe Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s Office of University Partnerships, provides 3-year grants for colleges and universities to join in partnerships with their communities in order to respond to the problems of greatest concern to the community. Community Outreach Partnership Centers play an active and visible role in community revitalization by applying research to real urban problems, coordinating outreach efforts with neighborhood groups and residents, acting as a local information exchange, galvanizing support for neighborhood revitalization, developing public service projects and instructional programs, and collaborating with other Centers.

The Democracy Commitment
The Democracy Commitment (TDC) is a national initiative providing a platform for the development and expansion of community college programs, projects and curricula aiming at engaging students in civic learning and democratic practice across the country. The goal of TDC is that every graduate of an American community college shall have had an education in democracy. This includes all community college students, whether they aim to transfer to university, achieve an associate degree or obtain a certificate. The first signature initiative of The Democracy Commitment was Engage the Election: 2012. This initiative was a push for TDC member institutions to participate in political forums and town halls, voter registration drives, and voter education forums.

Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy is organized to advance deliberative democracy and to improve the quality of public life in the U.S. Funded by the Topsfield Foundation, Everyday Democracy helps organize community-wide dialogues around issues of public importance, creates and distributes discussion materials, and provides technical assistance and discussion resources related to race relations, education, and other issues. Everyday Democracy is a nonprofit organization established in 1990 to promote the use of community dialogue in critical social and political issues.

Imagining America
Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA) is a consortium of 90 colleges, universities, and cultural institutions that supports the civic work of university artists, humanists, and designers. Imagining America emphasizes the possibilities of humanities, arts, and design in knowledge-generating initiatives. Such activity can span disciplines through collaborations with public health, environmental issues, community education, neighborhood development, and others. IA values the knowledge and creativity-generating components of partnerships among people whose everyday lives produce different kinds of expertise. So the scholar in the library, the teacher in the classroom, the organizer in the community – each provides different expertise that together is greater than the sum of its parts. A Journal of Imaging America, Public is a peer-reviewed, multimedia e-journal focused on humanities, arts, and design in public life. It aspires to connect what we can imagine with what we can do. We are interested in projects, pedagogies, resources, and ideas that reflect rich engagements among diverse participants, organizations, disciplines, and sectors.

Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)
The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is an independent, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to access and success in postsecondary education around the world. Based in Washington, D.C., IHEP uses unique research and innovative programs to inform key decision makers who shape public policy and support economic and social development. IHEP offers a nonpartisan perspective through a staff that includes some of the most respected professionals in the fields of public policy and research. It is committed to equality of opportunity for all and helps low-income, minority, and other historically underrepresented populations gain access and achieve success in higher education.

Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)
The Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) aims to change the public discourse about religion from one of inevitable conflict to one of cooperation; nurture and network a critical mass of interfaith leaders on American college campuses; and partner with college campuses to build successful models of interfaith cooperation.
The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge is a partnership between the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Department of Education, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Interfaith Youth Core to advance interfaith cooperation in the sector of higher education. Interfaith Youth Core’s Better Together campaign is an interfaith action campaign designed to equip students, faculty, and staff to advance interfaith cooperation in higher education. IFYC offers Interfaith Leadership Institutes, designed to equip campus stakeholders to engage and advance interfaith cooperation on campus.

International Partnership for Service-Learning and Leadership
The International Partnership for Service-Learning, founded in 1982, is a non-profit organization serving colleges, universities, service agencies and related organizations around the world by fostering programs that link community service and academic study. IPS-L initiates, designs, and administers off-campus programs in the Czech Republic, Ecuador, England, France, India, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, the Philippines, Scotland, and South Dakota (with Native Americans). In cooperation with affiliated universities in Britain, Mexico and Jamaica, IPS-L also administers a one-year British Master's Degree Program in International Service. Undergraduate programs are open to qualified high school graduates, college students and graduates, and in-service professionals. IPS-L also organizes conferences and publishes materials related to service-learning.

Kettering Foundation
The Charles F. Kettering Foundation is a non-profit research foundation dedicated to researching the relationships between democracy and the public. The Foundation administers programs in six areas: Citizens and Public Choice; Community Politics and Community Leadership; The Public and Public Schools; Institutions, Professionals, and the Public; The Public-Government Relationship; and The International and the Civil Order. The web site provides online purchasing of books, reports, journals, and videotapes that report on its research findings about strengthening democracy and public deliberation, in addition to a database of abstracts of articles, books and reports written over the past fifteen years by Kettering research staff.

Learn and Serve and the National Service Resource Center
The federal government's Corporation for National and Community Service has established Learn and Serve to support service-learning projects in schools. The web site includes information about service learning, resources for programs, and research materials for both K-12 and higher education institutions. Learn and Serve provides grants to individual institutions and statewide consortia and sponsors a leading database on service learning, theNational Service Learning Clearinghouse.

NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Founded in 1919, NASPA comprises more than 13,000 members in all 50 states, 29 countries, and 8 U.S. Territories. NASPA’s Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (Lead Initiative) recognizes a network of 50 postsecondary institutions for their commitment to civic learning and democratic engagement.  Selected institutions, representing public and private four-year and two-year colleges and universities, have committed to building clear and tangible civic learning and democratic engagement activities into student affairs division strategic goals and learning outcomes; collecting and reporting data on the efficacy of campus efforts using tools that measure gains in civic learning and democratic engagement; and creating strategies in collaboration with students that increase civic learning and help solve community problems through collective action. Published in partnership between AAC&U and NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, this Fall 2013 issue of Diversity & Democracy features best practices for working across organizational divides to make civic learning an institutional priority.

National Society for Experiential Education
For more than two decades, the NSEE has been active in promoting service learning and other types of experiential education at the K-12 and college levels. It provides consulting for faculty and administrators, runs conferences and workshops on service learning and civic participation, publishes resource packets and other materials, and runs special interest groups on various topics.

Pew Partnership for Civic Change
The Pew Partnership for Civic Engagement is a civic research organization whose mission is to document and disseminate cutting-edge community solutions. Pew collaborates with local and national partners to empower diverse leadership for action, catalyze broad-based community partnerships to solve problems, and research successful community solutions and civic practices. The Pew Partnership tests strategies to address the toughest issues facing the nation—from affordable housing to at-risk youth to economic development—through three initiatives: LeadershipPlenty; Solutions for America; and Civic Engagement.

Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America
The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America is an initiative launched by Professor Robert D. Putnam at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This multi-year dialogue focused on how to increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities. The web site includes descriptions of the eight meetings and resource lists linked from each meeting page with more information on Civic Engagement and Youth, Government, Politics, Faith-Based Efforts, Work, and the Arts. "Bettertogether," the final report of the Saguaro Seminar, is available at