Can you teach “civic engagement” — and how?

April 9, 2021

Spoiler Alert: The answer to this question is a resounding “yes, and we’re doing it every day.”

Academically, civic engagement is defined as “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.” (Excerpted from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000, Preface, page vi.).

For our team at Leaders of Color, this definition of civic engagement is expanded to specifically include the work of Black and Latino community members to achieve racial, educational, and economic equity through intentional community organizing and civic action. To achieve this, we built our curriculum to help our fellows understand what it means to be civic leaders and offer them the knowledge, network, and skills needed to build their leadership skills and the future they want to see in their communities.

Leveraging evidence-based research from academia, Leaders of Color measures fellows and builds curriculum across all six dimensions of civic engagement as defined by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U):

  • Diversity of Communities and Cultures
  • Analysis of Knowledge
  • Civic Identity and Commitment
  • Civic Communication
  • Civic Action and Reflection
  • Civic Contexts/Structures

Here are some examples of how our curriculum helps build strong leaders of color who are committed to advancing equity and building power in their communities:

The Leaders of Color program interviews current fellows and alumni annually to measure civic engagement activities and actions. We also do this to make sure that our program resonates and is relevant to our fellows and alumni. Together, we are building the future we want to see.

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