In October, we celebrated the winners of the 2018 American Civic Collaboration Awards - or "the Civvys" - in a ceremony at the National Conference on Citizenship in Washington, D.C. While all of our nominees and finalists do inspiring work to better their communities and strengthen the fabric of the nation, this year's winners represent exemplar cases of high-impact, truly collaborative initiatives.
We asked our winners to answer a few questions about the role of civic collaboration in what they do. This week, meet our winner in the National category, iCivics.
Emma Humphries and Amber Coleman-Mortley accept the Civvys award on behalf of iCivics.
iCivics is a leader in the field of civic education, paving the way for students to learn about their nation through innovative curriculum that includes games, digital interactives, surveys and teacher resources. More than 200,000 teachers use iCivics games and resources to educate and engage 5 million K-12 students in all 50 states, and the organization is committed to doubling its reach by the year 2020.
Here's what Louise Dubé, Executive Director of iCivics, had to say about collaboration at work, the field of movers and shakers around them, and hopes for next year:
What are your hopes for the upcoming year?
There is an enormous momentum in civic education these days. We hope to use the energy to propel a movement to prioritize civics in schools – CivXNow!. This will be done through a combination of policy advocacy and by winning hearts and minds on this issue. This kind of change does not happen overnight or over one year, and we are putting in place the necessary infrastructure for change over the long term. We have built a coalition of scaled partners that work together to advocate for more civics. This kind of leveraged network can be very powerful to make change. We are seeing the result from this approach in MA where new legislation will make civics a priority for the state. This took a massive effort from over 20 organizations in the state pushing for this agenda. After more than a year, we are finally seeing results which is very gratifying but only the start of a national campaign.
Why is collaboration important in today's politics and daily life?
We do not work on politics directly so I will address the question from our vantage point.
We believe that problems that are large and important require an ecosystem involving many organizations to address. No one single organization can solve large entrenched problems such as changing the priority of civic education in schools. That is why I believe in long term and lasting collaborations including a range of organizations, even ones that compete for funding on a regular basis. I am a big fan of the First Lego League’s model of "coopertition." If we grow the pie together, we can also compete more successfully and address issues that could seem intractable.
What do you wish people who have lost hope knew?
We are an education organization. We work with K-12 students every day. Kids have hope and we must leverage their enthusiasm for making things work and for change as a model for the rest of us. Watch young people and feel the wonder about the world and you can get a sense of what adults who despair should try to emulate. That is not to say that we get kids to fix everything. More that adults have to decide together to create new rules under which change can thrive, and stop taking the status quo as the only possible way things can be. As Justice O’Connor often told me, “get it done.”
What does winning a Civvys award mean to you?
The Civvys award was very welcome encouragement for our work and our approach. It was heartwarming to get support from community and peers. This work is not easy every day. In an underfunded field, the demands and expectations are many but the funding is thin. It is especially gratifying to find out that someone recognizes the extra effort you put in to get results.
There were so many wonderful candidates for the award, I would have been thrilled if any of the other nominees had won. The civic education and the civic engagement communities represent a great group of collaborative and committed folks. I am deeply grateful for the recognition but mostly for the collegiality and the cooperation among my colleagues in allowing us to do this work together.
Check out the rest of the Civvys winners and finalists at www.civvys.org -- and check back here for more interviews with 2018 winners!