CPS Students Learn More About Policy and Social Movements at Civic Engagement Days
Posted by Paolo Cisneros on March 05, 2015 at 11:51 AM CST
As part of IPCE's commitment to strengthen the civic engagement capacity and leadership skills of high school youth, the instute offered a workshop this fall for Chicago Public School (CPS) students whose schools are participating in the Global Citizenship Initiative. Designed to align with their Fall semester civics class, the workshop "Understanding Policy and Social Movements" provided students with an opportunity to learn how they could make a difference through policy change and social movements.
This year, we invited several representatives from the UIC Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change as well as Pariticpatory Budgeting Project Chicago to participate in Civic Engagement Days to enhance participants' learning experiences. The African-American Cultural Center hosted a breakout session centered on their "community curated" exhibit,
Urbs in Horto (City in a Garden), students, along with their chaperons, participated by looking at links between cultural diversity and environmental sustainability. The Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural Center hosted a session utilizing the El Despertar de las Americas (The Awakening of the Americas) mural for discussion that included topics and concerns about identity, stereotypes, immigration, gender roles, human rights, poverty, and education. Pariticpatory Budgeting Chicago (PB) hosted an overview of how PB works and a mock simulation with students. PB is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Students were asked to share ideas and vote for how they would spend one million dollars to improve schools in Chicago.
Over 200 people representing Alcott College Prep, Washington, Richards, Chicago Virtual, Infinity, Bogan, Fenger, and Kelvyn Park high schools participated in our workshop. As a result, students were empowered to learn how to participate effectively in a democracy, how policymaking and social movements happen and the impact they have on shaping the future of their communities.
Students from Infinity, Bogan, Fenger, and Kelvyn Park voted to:
-Improve all schools, walls, floors, water, and working lights.
-Remodel an old or abandoned school building and turn it into a recreation center to keep youth safe.
-Improve all roads and streetlights in their neighborhoods.
Students from Alcott, Washington, Richards and Chicago Virtual voted to:
-Refurbish an old CPS building for a new school.
-Create a super lounge.
-Construct a driving range.
Other great ideas included enhancing or building sports fields, gyms, additional bathrooms, library, technology labs, community murals, and purchasing desks that fit student needs and sizes.
"We the people of the United States" are Celebrating Constitution Day
Posted by Katie James on September 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM CDT
We are all familiar with the first line of the Preamble to the United States’ Constitution: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” And stop. Here our memory fails us, because civics class in elementary school happened just too long ago, and the Constitution isn’t short and rhythmic like the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star Spangled Banner to make for easy memorization. Of course we are all aware of the relevance and constant referencing in public life to the Constitution and its Amendments. We see it when people practice their right to free speech in protests and when people gather in their houses of worship to practice their religion without persecution. We see it in the structure of the United States government, in the power invested in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and in the checks and balances that occur in all three branches. And we see it, perhaps most significantly, when ALL citizens—no matter race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political preference—gather on Election Day in November to exercise their civic duty and cast their vote in local, state, and national elections. We don’t need to have the Constitution memorized to know that its impact on our daily lives is substantial and influential.
However, I do think it’s worth noting that it’s not insignificant that Americans are able to recite the first line of the Constitution, particularly the first three words. “We the people.” We, signifying the all-inclusive. We the people, signifying a commonality—a nationality—that connects our personhoods to one another and to a larger good. “We the people of the United States,” from past, present, and future, understand and accept the organization of government laid out for us by our founding fathers and commit to participating in our right to civic life to the fullest degree. We see ourselves in terms of communities, as citizens of a nation, and in order to make our communities and our nation function as we see best, we—the all-inclusive we—need to take part in the simplest and yet most instrumental aspect of civic life: voting. The United States is not an “I” country; the head of state does not hold all the power. We as voters hold the power and the choices that keep our country working and moving forward.
Today, September 17, 2012, is Constitution Day. On this day we as a nation celebrate the creation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by the 39 delegates and commemorate all those who have become citizens (whether by birth in the United States or by naturalization).
Today the University of Illinois at Chicago is leading Constitution Day events, much like communities throughout the country, and I encourage you to participate. Throughout the morning the campus community will have the opportunity to register to vote as well as sign up for internships and volunteer work. At noon, the public is invited to attend a guest lecture on “The First Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court” by Professor George Anastaplo from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Whether you choose to participate in Constitution Day events or not, I urge you to consider your role within that “we” come November when it’s time to cast our ballots and elect the president of the United States. Our government provides us the opportunity to vote for our elected officials, and that’s not something to be ignored or taken for granted.
IPCE Staff Member
Let the need drive the technology in civic engagement
Posted by Norma Ramos on September 09, 2011 at 11:26 AM CDT
I recently attended a conference for civic engagement academics and practitioners who discussed the role of technology in engaging citizens in democratic activities. While there was a real sense of excitement about the potential that the Internet, mobile devices, and interactive applications hold for creating better informed and engaged citizens, that excitement was balanced by several concerns about the limitations or even negative consequences of a rush to adopt new technologies in our field. One nearly universal concern among participants was that high-tech engagement tools, particularly those that are Internet-based, could replicate existing digital or non-digital divides in society usually associated with cost of access, differences in educational attainment, income, and other factors.
Another concern was that with technology advancing so quickly there could be a drive for seeking a use for a particular application rather than first identifying a need/problem that technology could help solve. I know that sometimes we don’t ‘see’ the need for something to be done better until a technology comes along that demonstrates its potential to us. However, I think the concern here was more rooted in the ‘cool’ factor of a particular technology blinding us to the fact that it may actually be expensive, more time consuming to set up, or introduce new challenges for engaging citizens in a deliberative process.
More research is needed to fully understand the ways that technology is helping/can help people become better engaged. For example, a certain technology may make it easier for a facilitator to engage or communicate with larger numbers of citizens than before. However, is that communication more likely to result in a citizen becoming better informed or participating more fully in our democracy? With the overwhelming speed with which the Internet has become a ubiquitous communication tool, research is only beginning to catch up in this area, and even then good longitudinal research needs enough time to generate useful results. Some of these concerns are addressed in recent research supported by the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
There was general agreement at the conference on the potential for technology to transform how people participate in democracies – in fact that transformation is clearly underway. My impression is that there was consensus that the use of technology is to be welcomed, rather than feared. At the same time, the use of technology should be 1) filling a clearly identified need 2) improving the scale and/or quality of engagement and 3) resulting in more inclusive participation of different segments of our population, or at the very least not creating a more exclusive form of participation.Joseph K. Hoereth, PhDDirector, IPCE
Welcome to CivicSource-A New Tool for Civic Engagement
Posted by Administrator on September 13, 2010 at 11:27 AM CDT
CivicSource is born! This wonderful new web resource created by the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), offers useful information for concerned citizens, community leaders, academics, or students seeking to learn more about civic engagement or connect with civic engagement efforts. I invite you to take CivicSource for spin – browse through all it has to offer.
As the Director of IPCE, I see this moment as a great opportunity to write a few words about our motivation behind creating this resource. CivicSource brings individuals, organizations, and institutions together with information they need to understand, deliberate, and take action on policy issues. We believe a more effective democracy is one in which all citizens are fully informed and engaged in the democratic process and we believe CivicSource can help make that happen.
The term civic engagement is used many different ways, so it is important for us to explain what we mean when we use it on this Web site. Civic engagement includes exercising our rights and responsibilities as citizens, but CivicSource represents a concept of civic engagement that goes well beyond voting and jury duty. Generally we define civic engagement as any action by an individual or group that contributes to a more effective democracy. This may include participating in a town hall forum, or becoming better informed about a particular policy issue. Civic engagement also includes expressing one’s opinion on policy issues, such as writing a letter, posting something online or joining a group of others with similar opinions. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg of our broad definition of civic engagement. For more on our thoughts regarding civic engagement, click here http://www.uic.edu/cuppa/ipce/civicengagement.shtml to read more about our definition and to learn about examples of what we call civic engagement in action.
Why is civic engagement important? There is currently a 'deficit of trust' between citizens and government in the US. Many individuals have lost faith in government and are becoming disengaged from the democratic process or are not engaging in it in the first place. We believe that taking steps to keep citizens informed and create a more responsive government can help to improve trust in our democratic system and re-engage (or newly engage) citizens both as participants in the democratic system as individual agents of change in their communities. Engagement has the potential not only to improve the democratic process, but to also improve lives and communities through either policy change or direct community development efforts. CivicSource offers tools for such engagement, including stories about innovative civic engagement leaders who have done this kind of work and how they used their passion for engagement to bring about real change in their communities.
We spend a lot of time thinking about how technology makes a difference in civic engagement. Technology is completely transforming what is possible in a democracy. In 2011, we need to be thinking about civic engagement as a 'space,' a virtual space where people, government, and institutions come together to share information, learn, plan, or take action to address key issues of the day. When the US was mostly small towns this physical space may have been the 'Town Square', but it was also the church basement or the kitchen table where neighbors chatted on the day's events over a cup of coffee after dinner. To share information or do anything collectively people had to physically be in the same place at the same time.
Today thanks to technology and the Internet, the space for civic engagement is not limited by where you are or when you are trying to engage. People with common interests, people with different interests, government, corporations, and neighborhood organizations can be anywhere and gather to share, learn, and take action at any time through the web. In this new space and in the old, new forms of interaction are possible and old forms are enhanced. The movement toward deliberative democracy, where citizens deliberate policy alternatives themselves and rank their preferred choice and share the results directly with their elected representatives has been enabled partially due to changes in technology.
Government is an important player in this new space, but governments at all levels must also become better consumers and users of technology. This new space for civic engagement allows government to be more responsive and effective. There are more ways for citizens to reach government directly and government can provide some services more efficiently through the Internet. One of the primary goals for CivicSource is to house research and data on how governments are using technology.
We believe CivicSource has the potential to make difference in civic engagement. Though it is important to remember like any other web-based resource, it is just a tool. It is a great tool for learning more about policy issues , an important tool for discovering policy research, a useful tool for engaging like-minded (or even not so like-minded individuals) in dialogue, and ultimately a tool for improving how government works for all citizens. We have also made efforts to integrate this resource with social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, so that you can easily access CivicSource through whatever mechanism you primarily use for connecting and sharing with others. Please make it one of your spaces for engagement. If nothing else we will all feel just a little bit more connected with each other in some meaningful way.
Joseph K. Hoereth, PhD