America has always been a bold experiment in self-governance.
In this era of polarization, division and historic challenges to democracy, our country urgently needs citizens who are better informed and committed to our democratic institutions and shared civic values. Our citizens need to be equipped with the skills to engage constructively in civic life. Institutions of higher education, particularly land-grant universities with public engagement and service at the core of their mission, have a special role in restoring our civic health. They possess the ability to instill knowledge, values and skills for civic engagement that last a lifetime. As one of these institutions, we are uniquely able to push the notion of civic engagement beyond current ways of thinking and doing, with potential impact well beyond campus boundaries. Given today’s challenges, we need the innovation of new generation of engaged citizens.
Building on Maryland’s status as a leading land-grant university with proximity and connection to Washington, DC and Annapolis, its success as the nation’s first Do Good campus, and its standing as a Top 10 innovation university, the University of Maryland School of Public Policy is launching Civic Maryland - a campus-wide and state-wide initiative comprised of:
- An Education Agenda: Strengthen Civic Competence — Civic Maryland will support and elevate the work of local school districts, universities, community groups and leading education nonprofit organizations in the development of evidence-based curricula, educational resources, and civic learning initiatives to provide UMD and K-12 students across the State of Maryland with the foundational knowledge, values, and skills that they need to actively engage in civic life.
- A Research Agenda: Measure and Improve Civic Health — Civic Maryland will develop Civic Health Indices for the State of Maryland and the University of Maryland. These will help to inform Civic Maryland’s efforts to improve civic health at all levels throughout the State, and to measure progress over time. Civic Maryland will also resource a cutting-edge research agenda on the critical issues and drivers of civic health relevant to citizens, policy-makers, and educators.
- A Practice and Innovation Agenda: Unleash Civic Innovators — Civic Maryland will harness the entrepreneurial spirit of students, spurred by competition and mentored by experts, to innovate in the civic sphere. Building on the model of the Do Good Challenge and Accelerator, Civic Maryland will run student competitions and support successful initiatives to scale innovation at all levels. Through our significant extension network in every county of the State, we will use the University of Maryland’s extensive capacities for community engagement to build civic infrastructure and promote health civic practices statewide.
The Civic Innovation Center is dedicated to tackling our democracy’s big challenges as part of this initative.