Money for research on civic learning and civic action

This looks like a ridiculously awesome initiative.

The Spencer Foundation announces a grants program to support research about how and why individuals and groups become committed to civic action. We call this program of work the Initiative on Civic Learning and Civic Action to highlight our keen interest in learning and action and in the relationships between them. We begin with the assumption that civic action matters for citizenship and for strong institutions and nations. It yields benefits for individuals and groups, who by their actions have their interests and those of their communities represented. But it also yields benefits for society, which stands to gain from the voices, commitments, insights, and participation of diverse communities of individuals.

Although the potential is great, there is very little information about how to foster civic behavior. We know much more about how to teach civic knowledge and skills than we do about the connections between actions and learning. Teaching civic knowledge and skills may well be crucial for developing good civic actors, but learning about them is not the central concern of this program. In this initiative we focus on action, and on what compels people to act.

Through the Initiative on Civic Learning and Civic Action we also signal our concern about troubling patterns of civic involvement. Although there are reports that certain forms of youth civic action are on the upswing, there also is evidence of a growing civic divide. Youth who lack opportunities and advantages in ways relevant to other educational outcomes also are vulnerable here. Marginalized youth who do not participate may not have their interests fully served by civic organizations and communities. Societies lose, too, when voices across communities are unrepresented in dialogue and debate. At the same time, we recognize that current definitions of civic action may not capture all forms of involvement or the efforts of those outside mainstream institutions. The initiative will take a comprehensive view of the forms of civic action and of communities of actors. Thus, although our interest in civic action is not limited to non-college-bound youth or to youth who are marginalized in various ways, we do make special note of our interest in these populations.

The Foundation is prepared to invest in research and other activities in this initiative for a significant period of time, if interim assessments of progress are promising. We anticipate typical research grants will range from less than $40,000 to $500,000, extending over periods of one to four years or more. We know that the challenges to moving forward in this area will require the commitment of researchers from many disciplines, and will involve a range of methods and techniques. Thus, we expect to build a portfolio of studies that includes researchers from multiple disciplines, sometimes working together, and methods that range from historical and case studies, to quasi-experimental designs, experiments, secondary analyses of existing datasets, and the like. We also see this as a fertile arena for comparative and international work. Complementary activities, including conferences, grantee meetings, working groups, and other methods to learn from one another and to push the agenda forward also are encouraged.

I kind of want in on this. However, I am not, by any means, an empiricist… but if anyone has a project that could use the participation of a political theorist/slash/lawyer/slash/byronic fox, do e-mail me.


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