civically engaged research in political science #APSA2019

(Washington, DC) Rogers Smith concluded his presidential address at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting with a call for more engaged scholarship, which I would define as co-producing knowledge with people who belong to the communities being studied. Smith said that if political scientists had conducted more civically engaged research with such communities as African Americans after the Civil Rights era, gay Americans after Stonewall, industrial workers after deindustrialization, or rural whites since 2000, the discipline would have been better prepared to understand important political developments that have ensued–and those constituencies would trust political science more.*

Strengthening engaged scholarship in political science is a personal commitment of mine. Thanks to Smith’s leadership, colleagues and I offer the APSA Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) through Tufts’ Tisch College. The first ICER was held last June, and the next one will be in 2020.

I believe that there are few fully documented, peer-reviewed examples of civically engaged projects in political science–especially compared to the large body of such studies in fields like public health. Many political scientists actually conduct civically engaged research, and they do it well. But peer-reviewed publications generally report only the findings of such studies, with hypotheses, data, and conclusions. It’s very rare to document the partnership that produced the research. The best examples that I have found are not peer-reviewed but are put online by institutes committed to the process of partnerships, such as MIT’s GovLab, or by the nonprofit organizations that collaborate with political scientists. There is also some important writing about collaboration, but without much detail about specific projects.

The shortage of fully-documented, peer-reviewed examples means that civically engaged research is not sufficiently valued in the discipline. The work involved in building and maintaining relationships only pays off to the extent that it results in generalizable findings that can be presented as if they came without a partnership.

Another result is that it’s hard to teach engaged scholarship. Appropriate reading assignments are scarce. Many of our readings for ICER did not come from political science. Relatedly, it is hard to discuss some of the serious issues that arise for engaged research in political science, because there is a scarcity of texts that explicitly address such issues.

A third consequence is that the partners who influence political science go unrepresented. One of my great heroes is Elinor Ostrom, whose work richly deserved the Nobel Prize that she won. She was an exemplary partner of many grassroots groups, from Indianapolis to Nepal, and learned a great deal from them. But they are not visible in her published work.

I suspect that one cause is the relatively strong grip of a certain form of positivism in political science, compared to fields like public health, education, and anthropology. The peer-review process focuses on findings and evidence, not process.

Another reason is that civically engaged research in political science presents special challenges. The discipline is not defined by a single methodological toolkit. Political scientists use methods that overlap with those employed in other fields, from the interpretation of classical texts to ethnography to econometrics. What defines the discipline is an explicit focus on power, authority, and governance.

When nonprofit organizations or social movements and networks focus explicitly on power, authority, and governance, we think of them as “political” entities. We readily assign partisan and ideological labels to them. For an academic, it can be tricky to work with groups that are political, let alone partisan. One solution is to downplay the partnership and simply report the findings. (Get-out-the-vote works, for example.)

The problem in a field like public health is that issues of power tend to be overlooked or concealed. But the problem for political science is that those issues are front-and-center.

Engaged research requires such values as loyalty, reciprocity, and trust. A scholar who forms a partnership with a non-academic group must commit (to some extent) to the needs and agendas of that group. If its agenda is political, such a commitment poses at least a potential challenge to the academic’s need to be nonpartisan, intellectually honest, and independent. We witnessed this tension during ICER when an excellent local elected official visited and basically told the political scientists that unless their work advances her agenda, it is part of the problem.

My conclusion is that Smith’s call for more engaged research in political science is an ambitious one. We do have the asset of plenty of political scientists who are quietly involved in exemplary partnerships. We do not–yet–have a sufficient body of explicit examples that help to build knowledge of how to do partnerships well.

*This is my paraphrase based on memory; some of the details may be wrong. See also: The American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) at Tisch College this summer; engaged political science; scholarship on engaged scholarship; Participatory Action Research as Civic Studies; and conservative engaged scholarship

Sign up by Sept. 20th to Join “The Lovable City” Effort

From our friends at Civic Dinners have initiated a new city-centered conversation movement called, The Lovable City, starting October! Learn more in the blurb below and make sure you sign your city up by Saturday, September 20th to participate.

“This October we are thrilled to be launching The Lovable City conversation in 100 cities across the United States. The Lovable City will support conversations between residents, local government and civic leaders as people gather around the dinner table to co-create a better future for their city.”

You can learn more in the post below and find the original on The Lovable City site here.

The Lovable City – Powered by Civic Dinners

So far, 36 cities have signed onboard to co-create a better future together around the dinner table! Shoutout to Decatur, GA and Clarkston, GA for being the first two cities to join! Want to make sure your city in in? Sign-up your city before September 20, 2019!

Why Lovable?

We believe people should love the city they’re in. A city should inspire a sense of inclusion, identity, and pride. Residents should feel engaged and optimistic about the future of their community and their place in it.

In today’s highly mobile society, it’s much easier for people to choose where they live, and people are choosier than ever. Most people may come to a city for school, for work, or for love, but they stay because of how a city makes them feel. How do we convince people to put down roots, to settle, grow, and invest in their communities? Modern cities are being challenged to provide a more lovable environment for their residents to not merely survive, but to thrive, or people will be tempted to go elsewhere.

Our award-winning platform, Civic Dinners, has helped cities create stronger social infrastructure and build greater trust between residents and civic leaders.

Love your city?

Here’s how you can bring The Lovable City to your city:

Become a City Sponsor – Do you consider yourself a civic leader, elected official or business leader invested in the future of your city? Sponsoring The Lovable City can help you create a brave space for residents to hear from one another, share what they love most about your city and what they’d love to love, and discover key insights that can be used to support future strategic planning, city branding or civic engagement. Learn more here!

Become a City Delegate – Do you love your city, despite its challenges, and L-O-V-E organizing and leading change in your community About 1% of a city’s population are “co-creators”, the ones who push a city forward, make it more lovable, more attractive, and more prosperous. If you are a co-creator, we invite you to become a City Delegate and launch the Lovable City in restaurants, homes, and offices in your city, this October! Learn more here!

Sign-up to Stay Informed – Love your city? Love food? Love bringing people together? Then you’ll love participating in The Lovable City! If your city joins the conversation, we’d love for you to host a Civic Dinner on The Lovable City to help bring people together to talk about what they love about their city, what they’d love to love, and how they’d like to be more engaged. Help voices who aren’t usually heard find a seat at the table. Learn more here!

You can learn more on Civic Dinner’s The Lovable City site at

courses that count for the Civic Studies major at Tufts, fall 2019

Required Introductory Course:

CVS 0020/PHIL 0020/PS 0020: Introduction to Civic Studies (Brian Schaffer, Peter Levine) (The syllabus from last semester is here, but it will change somewhat.)

Thinking about Justice:

ENG 176/CVS 0110/PJS 176/ENV 176: Earth Matters (Elizabeth Ammons)
CVS 0014/PHIL 24: Introduction to Ethics (Monica Link)
CVS 0018/PS 0041/PHIL 0041: Western Political Thought (Vickie Sullivan)
CVS 0015/REL 0001: Introduction to Religion (Owen Cornwall)
CVS 0210/UEP 0286: Environmental Ethics (Sheldon Krimsky)
PHIL 0092-03/Env 0095-01 Climate Change Ethics (George Smith)
PHIL 0191:03 Seminar: Race and Black Progress (Lionel McPherson)
SOC 188 Seminar: Du Bois’s Sociological Dream (Freeden Oeur)

Social Conflict, Inequality, and Violence:

CVS 0027/SOC 0011: Sociology of Race & Ethnicity (Staff) PS 121: Seminar: Political Culture in Comparative Perspective (Conuelo Cruz)
CVS 0121/SOC 113: Urban Sociology: Global Perspectives on Space, Inequality and Resistance (Anjuli Fahlberg)
CVS 0129/ECON 144: Income Inequality, Poverty, and Economic Justice (Elizabeth Setren)
HIST 109: Decolonization: Race, Empire, Archive (Kris Manjapra)
SOC 112: Criminology (Daanika Gordon)

Civic Action and Social Movements:

ANTH 144: Media of the Middle East (Amahl Bishara)
CVS 0033/REL 0042/HIST 125/AMER 15: Religion and Politics in American History (Heather Curtis)
CVS 0035/PSY 13: Social Psychology (Keith Maddox)
CVS 0131/SOC 106: Political Sociology (Anjuli Fahlberg)
CVS 0132/CSHD 165: Families, Schools, and Child Development (Christine McWayne)
CVS 0133/PS 0118-02: Organizing for Social Change (Daniel LeBlanc & Kenneth Gladston)
ENG 23/CVS 0031: Dissent & Democracy: American Literature to 1900 (Elizabeth Ammons or Nathan Wolff)

Civic Skills:

AMER 0145: Mass Incarceration and the Literature of Confinement (Hilary Binda)
CVS 0049/PHIL 92-02: Philosophy for Children (Susan Russinoff)
CVS 0145/ENV 120: Introduction to Environmental Fieldwork (Staff)
CVS 0147/CSHD 167: Children and Mass Media (Julie Dobrow)
CVS 150-04: Dialogue, Identity, and Civic Action (Jonathan Garlick)
CVS 0170/CSHD 143-02: Developing Leaders Who Make a Difference: Leadership in Civic Context (Diane Ryan)
CVS 0183/UEP 0130/PJS 0131: Negotiation, Mediation, and Conflict Resolution (Robert Burdick)
ED 164: Education for Peace and Justice (Deborah Donahue-Keegan)
ENV 170/CVS 0149: Environmental Data Analysis and Visualization (Kyle Monahan)
EXP 0079: EPIIC: Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship
PJS 50: Science and Civic Action (Jonathan Garlick)

Internship Seminar:

CVS 099: A required internship. This includes a weekly 2.5 hour class with graded assignments and a final project.

Fall 2019 IAP2 Trainings with The Participation Company

If you are looking to step up your public participation skill-building game this fall, then we encourage folks to check out the newly released training schedule from NCDD member org The Participation Company. TCP offers certification in the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)‘s model, and dues-paying NCDD members get a discount on registration! You can read more about the trainings in the TCP announcement below and learn more here.

The Participation Company’s 2019 Training Events

If you work in communications, public relations, public affairs, planning, public outreach and understanding, community development, advocacy, or lobbying, this training will help you to increase your skills and to be of even greater value to your employer.

This is your chance to join the many thousands of practitioners worldwide who have completed the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) certificate training.

The Participation Company (TPC) offers discounted rates to members of AICP, ICMA, IAP2, and NCDD. 

AICP members can earn Certification Maintenance (CM) credits for these courses.

IAP2’s Foundations in Public Participation (5-Day) Certificate Program:

  • Planning for Effective Public Participation (3-Days)
  • Techniques for Effective Public Participation (2-Days)*

2019 Events

  • Sept 11-13 Denver, CO  (3-Day Planning)
  • Sept 24-26 Orange County, CA  (3-Day Planning)
  • Oct 7-11 Kansas City, MO (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Oct 14-18 Pittsburgh, PA  (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Oct 21-25 Phoenix, AZ (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Oct 21-22 Denver, CO (2-Day Techniques)
  • Oct 23-25 Colorado Springs, CO  (3-Day Planning)
  • Nov 21-22 Orange County, CA (2-Day Techniques)
  • Nov 4-5 Colorado Springs, CO (2-Day Techniques)
  • Dec 2-6 Salt Lake City, UT (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Dec 9-13 West Palm Beach, FL (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)

2020 Events

  • Jan 13-17 Charlotte, NC (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Feb 24-28 Phoenix, AZ (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)
  • Apr 20-24 Plano, TX (5-Days, Both Planning & Techniques)

*The 3-Day Planning training is a prerequisite to Techniques training

IAP2’s Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in Public Participation (2-Days)
formally Emotion, Outrage – newly revised and renamed

2019 Events

  • Oct 7-8 Saint Paul, MN
  • Nov 18-19 Phoenix, AZ
  • Nov 21-22 Chicago, IL

Register online

The Participation Company can also assist you and your organization in other endeavors! Our team of highly experienced professionals help government and business clients manage public issues to accomplish client’s objectives. We can plan and manage your participation project from start to finish. We can provide strategic advice and direction. We can coach and mentor your staff and managers. We help you build agreements and craft durable and defensible decisions.

You can find the original version of this announcement on the TPC site at

Upcoming Webinars Related to Dialogue & Deliberation

Here are the upcoming D&D online events happening over the next few weeks, including NCDD sponsor org The Courageous Leadership Project, NCDD member org Living Room Conversations, as well as, from the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

NCDD’s online D&D event roundup is a weekly compilation of the upcoming events happening in the digital world related to dialogue, deliberation, civic tech, engagement work, and more! Do you have a webinar or other digital event coming up that you’d like to share with the NCDD network? Please let us know in the comments section below or by emailing me at keiva[at]ncdd[dot]org, because we’d love to add it to the list!

Upcoming Online D&D Events: Living Room Conversations, IAF, The Courageous Leadership Project, ICMA

Online Living Room Conversation: Social Equity – 90-Minute Online Conversation

Thursday, September 5th
8:30 am Pacific, 11:30 am Eastern

Social equity can be defined as a commitment to promote fair, just, and equitable recognition of basic needs of all residents and the total community, and a commitment to diligently advocate for the provision of those needs to all residents and the total community. This conversation focuses on our own personal and community experiences with the idea of social equity and our beliefs that there is a common good in the recognition and acceptance of this idea. HERE is the conversation guide.


Living Room Conversations Training (free): The Nuts & Bolts of Living Room Conversations

Thursday, September 5th
2 pm Pacific, 5 pm Eastern

Join us for 90 minutes online to learn about Living Room Conversations. We’ll cover what a Living Room Conversation is, why we have them, and everything you need to know to get started hosting and/or participating in Living Room Conversations. This training is not required for participating in our conversations – we simply offer it for people who want to learn more about the Living Room Conversations practice.

Space is limited so that we can offer a more interactive experience. Please only RSVP if you are 100% certain that you can attend. This training will take place using Zoom videoconferencing. A link to join the conversation will be sent to participants the day before the training.


Online Living Room Conversation: Abortion – 90-Minute Conversation w/ Optional 30-Minute Q & A with Hosts

Thursday, September 5th
4 pm Pacific, 7 pm Eastern

Abortion is seldom a topic that we speak about in casual conversation. More often we hear abortion talked about by news media, politicians or, more rarely, depicted in books, television shows or movies. In pretty much any situation, abortion elicits an intense emotional response. In the U.S. the conversation on abortion generally centers on whether you are “for” or “against” it and very rarely explores personal narratives, what we believe about abortion as a decision, what the procedure entails, or how abortion affects an individual’s reproductive and mental health. Engaging in an honest and vulnerable conversation on abortion provides an opportunity to explore the depths of our beliefs about sex, life, death, agency and parenting. It gets at the very root of what we care deeply for in life and opens the door to finding potential common ground. Here is the conversation guide.


International Association of Facilitators webinar – Use of Language to Create Inclusiveness in Groups

Monday, September 9th
3 pm Pacific, 6 pm Eastern

This session will explore the power of language and how it has the ability to create an inclusive environment, or unconsciously exclude people from hearing what you have to say. Expand your facilitation skills through building self-awareness of the things you communicate to others and how you can begin to rephrase your thoughts and words. Annette Denny from The University of Waterloo in Canada will lead the session.


The Courageous Leadership Project webinar – Brave, Honest Conversations™

Wednesday, September 11th
9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern

Some conversations are hard to have. Fear and discomfort build in your body and you avoid and procrastinate or pretend everything is fine. Sometimes you rush in with urgency, wanting to smooth things over, fix them, and make them better. Sometimes you go to battle stations, positioning the conversation so you have a higher chance of being on the “winning” side. NONE OF THIS WORKS. Instead, it usually makes a hard conversation harder; more divided, polarized, and disconnected from others. The more people involved, the harder the conversation can be. I believe that brave, honest conversations are how we solve the problems we face in our world – together.

In this webinar, we will cover: What is a Brave, Honest Conversation™? Why have one? What can change because of a brave, honest conversation? How do you have one? What do you need to think about and do? How do you prepare yourself for a brave, honest conversation?


International City/County Management Association (ICMA) webinar – Grappling with Gnarly Issues-How Local Government Can Help

Wednesday, September 11th
10 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern

Communities want their local governments to take action on tough issues, sometimes even when a local government may not be the primary entity responsible. Learn about successful efforts by local governments to tackle gnarly issues like environmental challenges, opioids, and homelessness. Gain insights and approaches you can use to address the tough issues your agency faces.


Some FCSS Conference Highlights!


A reminder, dear friends and colleagues, that the Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference is fast approaching (and you can register here!). So let’s take a look at some of the sessions on the docket for the conference! We’ll be doing this over the next few weeks, highlighting 3 to 5 interesting sessions that are likely to draw your interest.

Saturday, October 19th

Using Place as a Primary Source


By using location/historical site websites as well as photographs taken by teachers at historic locations, we can use the geography and the structures of a given place to add to student understanding of why these locations (and the events pertaining to them) are significant. We can also use the images/films of the locations to analyze why the site might have been important, what the sites can tell us and how they add to the context of their historical events and eras.

What an interesting approach to thinking about primary sources and exposing our kids to new lenses of disciplinary literacy!

Differentiated Instruction in Social Studies


This workshop will help K-12 instructors plan specific differentiated topics in Social Studies instruction to meet the diverse needs of students in the classroom i.e. students with disabilities, ELL students, and many more.

This is always a useful sort of session, isn’t it? We can always use more support for the work that we do within the diverse classrooms we work with today!

Captain America: More than a Shield!


Captain America is an iconic figure in both comic books and movies. This session will address whether Captain America is simply a tool of wartime propaganda or if he has a greater purpose.

I mean really. It’s CAPTAIN AMERICA! This session aligns well with both state benchmarks and with the Heroes and Villains theme of this year’s conference!

Table Top Escapes: Reinforcing Concepts for Review Through Problem Solving


Create your own table top escape room for reinforcement and review. Strategies can be applied to any discipline, grade level and using everyday materials. Digital escapes are also discussed and outlined. This is a hands-on sesssion! Participants will leave with strategies, tips and examples. 

Is there anything hotter with than escape rooms these days? This sounds like a potentially useful and fascinating strategy for a wide variety of social studies content!

We’ll talk about some additional sessions soon! Go ahead and register here! 

Localism as a Fulcrum for Global Change

The Great Transition Initiative recently hosted one of the most thoughtful, robust exchange of ideas about “localism” that I’ve seen in a long time. It was kicked off by an essay by environmental activist and author Brian Tokar called “Think Globally, Act Locally?” which explored “the promise and pitfalls of localism, theories of ‘glocalism’ and scaling sideways and up.” 

What followed were some probing responses by fourteen notable activists and academics who have thought long and hard about this topic – folks like Richard Heinberg, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Meg Holden, Frank Fischer, Arturo Escobar, and me, among others. Tokar gives a final round of responses to all of these commenters.

Tokar’s opening essay calls attention to the resurgence of progressive action at the local level and asks:  “What are the prospects for such locally centered political engagement in a time of rising political polarization and conflict? How can local action help advance personal liberation and social justice? More broadly, how can it further our goals for global transformation?”

His review of the current state of localism is masterfully succinct yet broad-ranging. He rightly cites the great influence of Murray Bookchin and social ecology on the thinking of local activism from Kurdish militants in Syria and Turkey to North Americans and Europeans. Today there is a growing mosaic of local initiatives that is starting to take note of each other's efforts. There is community-based resistance to fracking in dozens of places, rural French workers revolting against regressive tax policies, climate action in hundreds of cities, a “municipalist” movement that is flourishing in cities like Barcelona and Jackson, Mississippi, and the expansion of the Symbiosis research network that is focused on localism.

A common denominator of many of these local activities, says Tokar, is a growing frustration with national politics and international institutions, and with the stranglehold of corporate influence at these levels on everything from climate policy and financial sector reform to trade and fair elections.

One recurring question is how local efforts can have a more significant impact beyond themselves, especially at national or international levels. Can local action “tackle the fundamental question of where and with whom political power resides?” asks Tokar. “We need to strengthen forms of coordination that emerge from the municipal context to support a growing network for change in synchrony with a global resurgence of solidarity, democracy, and justice.”

Much of the response by commenters focused on this very question – how can various local efforts coordinate with each other and develop a larger vision and network for change?

Rather than attempt to summarize the many different perspectives, I recommend a brisk read through the many lively responses. They raise some provocative questions about where the energies for social transformation will come from, how they might self-organize themselves to have real impact, and how they could change the very character of politics as we know it today.

on gaffes as evidence of sincere beliefs

Among the many millions of words that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton uttered over the past decade are these two statements. Obama: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion …” Clinton: “you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” These remarks are widely interpreted as evidence of the politicians’ authentic, private opinions about millions of Americans who are rural, white, lower-income, and tend to vote conservatively.

This method of analysis is practiced across the spectrum. In the midst of a long forum in Iowa, Joe Biden recently said that “poor kids” are “just as talented as white kids,” apparently revealing a hidden worldview in which poor = people of color and success = whiteness.

Michael Kinsley famously defined a “gaffe” as “when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” Kinsley later clarified that the gaffe reveals “the truth about what he or she is really thinking” (not the truth about the world).

If you are trained to think in terms of representative samples, this method seems invalid. Take a large random sample of, say, Barack Obama’s public comments, and you will not find any pejorative comments about rural Americans. The “cling-to-guns” remark is constantly quoted because it is a statistical outlier. As Kinsley asked (criticizing his own concept): “why should something a politician says by accident — and soon wishes he hadn’t, whether true or not — automatically be taken as a better sign of his or her real thinking than something he or she says on purpose?”

In fact, there is a plausible theoretical reason to interpret gaffes as evidence of sincere beliefs. Let us assume that many individuals hold stable private beliefs about important topics, such as white rural voters or children of color. They realize that some of these beliefs are best kept to themselves. What they believe is unpopular and likely to be condemned. So they exercise mental discipline to block themselves from saying what they believe–most of the time. The problem is that we also have a tendency to state what we do believe. That tendency sometimes defeats the individual’s self-censorship, and out pops a gaffe.

You would not expect a sincere but impolitic belief to be common in the speaker’s discourse. It would not appear with statistical frequency, because self-censorship is pretty effective. But an anomaly is revealing. Why did Biden utter his remark about poor kids and white kids unless, in his private thoughts, poor = minority?

I summarize this theory because I think it can be valid in some cases, and I would not rule out the practice of pouncing on gaffes. But it is worth considering some alternative theoretical frameworks:

Perhaps in addition to some stable private beliefs, we also hold many unstable beliefs–ideas that come and go, that we half-believe or only occasionally believe, that we believe even though we also believe their opposite, that we adopted habitually early on but have sincerely rejected since then, or that we believe until we consider their logical implications, at which point we drop them.

Perhaps there are other common speech acts besides stating a sincere belief or not stating that belief. For example: trying out an idea that you’re not sure is true, saying something that you disbelieve by pure accident, saying something purely for its rhetorical affect, or saying something that you half-believe because you’re trying to make some other point that is salient for you at the time.

Perhaps what we believe is rarely stable because we are strongly influenced by the immediate context, by what we happen to notice at the moment from amid the Jamesian “blooming, buzzing confusion” of the world.

Perhaps conversation is highly relational, so that often what we’re doing when we talk is responding to a discussion partner. Responsiveness can turn into hypocrisy when we say one thing to one audience and a different thing to a different audience, just to win their favor. But responsiveness is also a virtue. Particularly if you consider a topic that isn’t politically or ethically loaded, it can be praiseworthy to be able to say different things to different people, just because you care about them.

To the extent that these theories obtain, deriving information from a gaffe is invalid.

See also character understood in network terms; stability of character; responsiveness as a virtue; marginalizing odious views: a strategy.

Submit Application for NCL’s 2020 All-American City Awards

In case you missed it, applications are now being accepted for the 2020 All-American City Awards! Hosted by the National Civic League, an NCDD partner, this year’s award theme is focused on “Enhancing health and well-being through civic engagement”. We encourage you to watch the video from the 2018 awardees with tips on how to apply and how the award has benefited their communities. We also recorded our co-hosted NCDD-NCL Confab call earlier this spring which can provide some great context and background information on the award – watch it here (please note the award theme this year is slightly different, though still in the same vein of health equity in communities). The deadline is Wednesday, February 19, 2020. You can read the announcement below and find the original version on NCL’s site here.

National Civic League’s 2020 All-America City Awards: Enhancing Health and Well-Being Through Civic Engagement

The National Civic League is now accepting applications for the 2020 All-America City Award, focused on enhancing health and well-being through civic engagement. With the National Civic League’s Co-Title Sponsors, Kaiser Permanente and Well Being Trust, the 2020 Awards reflect the concept that good health for the entire community requires a focus on mental, physical, spiritual, cultural and economic well-being.

We are looking for applicants with community-driven projects that reflect the concept that good health for the entire community requires a focus on mental, physical, spiritual, cultural and economic well-being.

Projects focusing on this theme might include:

  • healthy & safe environments
  • opportunities for lifelong learning
  • meaningful and well-paying jobs
  • affordable and humane housing
  • reliable transportation and accessibility
  • environmental health and safety
  • a sense of belonging and inclusion
  • access to mental health care
  • substance-abuse recovery and prevention
  • healthy eating and exercising
  • affordable, accessible health care

Begin your community’s application today to become a 2020 All-America City!

Important Dates

  • July 2019 – May 2020
    All-America City Promising Practices Webinar Series
  • November 1, 2019
    Submit Letter of Intent to Apply (not required to apply)
  • February 19, 2020
    Applications Due
  • March 2020
    Finalists Announced
  • March-June 2020
    Competition Preparation
  • June 5-7, 2020
    All-America City Awards Competition and Event in Denver, CO

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Civic League’s site at

conservative engaged scholarship

For the sake of argument, let’s define “engaged scholarship” as …

The organized production of knowledge by groups that include some professional academic researchers and some people who are not academics and belong to the communities, populations, or organizations being studied.

I don’t have a representative sample of projects of engaged scholarship, but I would venture these generalizations:

  1. Often the topics are issues that are priorities on the left or center-left, such as health disparities, access to government services, or environmental damage.
  2. Often the communities that participate in the research lean left: low-income urban neighborhoods, migrant farmworkers, etc. (In 2004, I met with Penn State faculty interested in community-based research and observed that most did not work in their surrounding communities–conservative central Pennsylvania–but drove to Philadelphia to do their engaged research.)
  3. Yet some of the underlying values of this approach can be seen as conservative: a preference for the local and the nonprofit/voluntary sector over Big Government, deep appreciation for local traditions, and a tendency to do something directly about problems rather than trying to win elections to change laws. I’ve even argued that the most authentically Burkean conservative field in the US today is the field that connects universities with communities through service, community-based research, and other partnerships.

Especially given the third point, you’d expect to see conservative engaged scholarship. The academic researchers might vote Republican instead of Democratic or Green, they would work in and with communities that preferred Trump over Clinton, and they would study issues like taxes, regulation, zoning, and abortion (as problems).

But I am hard pressed to find any examples. There are cases in which conservative adolescents conduct research on issues of their choice and scholars support them. But in those cases, the scholars’ focus is usually on the kids and their learning, not the issue that the students have chosen to address.

Why the dearth of conservative engaged scholarship? I can imagine five answers:

  1. It’s not missing; I just haven’t found it. Here is one program at Ashland University that might qualify, and maybe there are more.
  2. Conservatives are simply scarce in the social sciences and relevant humanities (especially in fields like public health and education, in which applied work is most common), and this scarcity explains why not many conservatives do engaged scholarship.
  3. Conservatives have found other rich veins to mine: quantitative economic modeling, Austrian School economics (which is not at all quantitative but is favorable to libertarian principles), constitutional law, and some domains of intellectual history. They’re busy there.
  4. Despite not liking government as much as (some) liberals do, conservatives are more aware of its power, including at the local level. Therefore, they are skeptical that working with a local nonprofit on a research study will make nearly as much difference as, say, running for office or advocating ideas that win elections.
  5. Principled conservatives haven’t yet figured out that they should embrace engaged scholarship. They should develop experience and exemplary cases that strengthen conservative voices in engaged scholarship.

I hope that the last point is true, because it would be good for the gatherings and networks of engaged scholars if they included more conservative concerns, populations, and thinkers.

See also: America’s authentic conservative movement; the left has become Burkean; ideology in academia and elsewhere; trying to keep myself honest; scholarship on engaged scholarship; engaged political science; loyalty in intellectual work; the state humanities councils, connecting the public to scholarship;