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Funding opportunity: National grant initiative for civic learning projects

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Funding opportunity: National grant initiative for civic learning projects

By Frances Hannan, Program Officer for the WW Higher Education Media Fellowship and the Director of Multimedia Projects at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars.

The Civic Spring Fellowship has open applications for two innovative grant initiatives that will support young people looking to drive meaningful change in their communities through projects this summer. Civic Spring National supports youth-driven organizations pursuing a summer project with grants up to $25,000. Civic Spring Arizona supports individual young people with stipends of $1,800 to pursue projects in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Funded projects must address a local need related to one or more of following priority focus areas:

  • Environmental justice
  • Community health and wellness (mental health)
  • The 2022 elections
  • The impact of COVID

Fellows will work with a powerful network of peers, partners, experts, and corporate and government leaders to help maximize the impact of their projects. Applications close April 29. Fellows and Fellow organizations will be notified in late May; the program will run June 6 – August 19.

The 2022 Civic Spring Fellowship is presented in partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. (National Program) and PayPal Arizona (AZ Program). Employees from both companies will serve as partners for the selected Fellows as part of the larger Civic Spring National Network.

Background

The 2022 Civic Spring Fellowship, run by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (C&S), builds upon the 2020 Civic Spring Project, which underscored what out-of-school time (OST) practitioners know well: significant civic learning takes place in after-school programs, on the sports field, at summer camp, in community service groups, and at home.

Based on these findings, C&S has expanded the 2022 Civic Spring Fellowship to make it more equitable and impactful by: 

  • Providing the opportunity for young people to apply directly for funding, allowing C&S to support more youth directly and provide greater diversity of ideas 
  • Developing an arc of learning that sets up youth and adult partners to co-learn and co-create  
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the Civic Spring Fellowship by measuring the growth of all participants in developing civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions

Intergenerational Co-Design

A key takeaway from the 2020 Civic Spring pilot was the importance of intergenerational co-design and co-leadership. The inclusion of youth voice – who are often most impacted and yet rarely included in decision- and policy-making –  in community based projects translates into a greater sense of knowledge, purpose, and an investment in our democracy. Following the 2020 Civic Spring, C&S partnered with one of the grantee organizations, the Kentucky Student Voice Team (KSVT), to create report and toolkit titled, The Co-Creation Generation: The Story of the Kentucky Student Voice Team & Guide to Intergenerational Impact. This report is a foundational resource for the 2022 Civic Spring Fellowship and serves as a guide to other organizations looking to improve their intergenerational success.

The report was presented by the KSVT students at a webinar hosted by the Afterschool Alliance. Watch the video.

Lasting Value of Civic Learning

The 2020 Civic Spring Projects was evaluated by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), part of Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. As the evaluation partner, the CIRCLE team assessed the overall reach, depth, sustainability, and impacts of the Civic Spring pilot. Some of the highlights from the findings include:

  • Meaningful civic learning takes place outside of the formal school setting.
    • 96% said they were learning what would typically be part of a Civics class.
  • Program participants gained diverse types of civic skills. They reported the Civic Spring Project strengthened their social-emotional learning capacities, their abilities to navigate both civic institutions and their mental health, and their strategies for working with stakeholders across lines of difference.
    • More than 90% agreed or strongly agreed that the Civic Spring Project helped them find or strengthen their own voice.
  • Youth-centered civic initiatives have broad and deep community impact, including advocating for policy change to city leaders, securing seats for youth on local government committees, holding voter registration events, and engaging local news media.
    • 61% said they often or very often helped make their city or town a better place.

“We must think beyond the high school civics class and consider all the places and ways young people build their civic capacities,” says C&S President Rajiv Vinnakota. “Young people are eager to engage civically in their communities. The Civic Spring Fellowship provides young people the support they need to create real-time change in their own backyard while also preparing them to be lifelong civic leaders.”

Again, applications for both the National and Arizona Programs are open until April 29. More information about the Civic Spring Fellowship and the application process can be found online at citizensandscholars.org/civic-spring. If you have any questions about the Civic Spring Fellowship or the resources mentioned here, please email the C&S Civic Learning Team at civiceducation@citizensandscholars.org.

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