Citizen-Centered Civic Participation

The Case Foundation is engaging in an interesting experiment. They want you to help them decide where to give their money. (hat tip to Beth Kanter):

Dear Friends:

The Case Foundation is looking for external reviewers to assist with the first phase of a pilot grantmaking program that encourages citizen-centered civic participation. Given your experience and relationships, we thought you might want to apply; encourage your friends, colleagues or constituents to apply; or forward the announcement to others who might be interested.

First, a bit of background. Through this new grant program, the Foundation seeks to identify, support, and lift up some of the most exciting citizen-centered efforts that are bubbling up across the country. But, what also makes this program interesting is that the Foundation will not only be supporting citizen-centered efforts, but will be attempting to walk the talk of citizen-centered practice itself by involving the public in virtually every aspect of the process from creating guidelines to vetting proposals to making grant decisions.

The individuals the Foundation is now recruiting (and will commission) to serve as external reviewers will be participating in the first part of this process: Reviewing and assessing the initial "letters of interest" from hundreds of organizations and individuals across the country. More details about the position are attached.

This will not only be a fun and interesting opportunity, but it will give participants the chance to participate in one of the first efforts by a national foundation to "do philanthropy" in a way that is, hopefully, more transparent, interactive, and responsive.

Interested applicants should first read the attached job description and are strongly encouraged to review the Foundation’s paper, Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement. An executive summary of the paper is also included in the job description (Word document).

The deadline for applications is Wednesday, May 23rd.

Interested individuals should send their resume or curriculum vitae and a brief statement (50-75 words or less, please) on why you want to be involved in this review process by Wednesday, May 23 to:

The Case Foundation
Attention: Kristen Cambell

Behind all of this is a paper written by Cynthia Gibson and commissioned by The Case Foundation:

Getting citizens more involved in the civic life and health of their communities must begin with citizens themselves, according to Citizens at the Center: A New Approach to Civic Engagement, written by Dr. Cynthia Gibson and commissioned by the Case Foundation. Based on interviews with researchers and experts in service/civic engagement, politics, and marketing, the paper offers specific recommendations for giving citizens the tools they need to identify problems and develop solutions — and warns against top-down solutions that require people to "plug into" existing programs or campaigns.

To receive a printed copy, sign up here.

Is the paper worth a read? Note a couple of the people who submitted comments to The Case Foundation post about the paper:

  • Jayne Cravens, Coyote Communications
  • Ami Dar,
  • Leslie Lenkowsky, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
  • Judy Woodruff, "NewsHour"
  • Daniel Ben-Horin, CompuMentor

You can read the full description and all the comments here.


  1. M says:

    Sean, great topic and an interesting paper. Plus seeing that Les Lenkowsky had commented forced me to go read it, and now I must think of a thoughtful response to one of the questions he raised – his 5th question. It will be good fodder for my next blog post.

    “5. Since some research has already indicated that the Internet may increase social isolation, are the new digital technologies really an ally of civic engagement? Or will they be a hindrance? Are Wikipedia (and blogs) likely to enhance civic knowledge? Or are they likely to contribute further to the ignorance of or confusion about American history and government that’s already widespread among the public? Should more effort be placed on civic knowledge-building efforts, rather than fostering new types of civic participation?”

  2. My 2 cents worth on M’s comment: we’ve been hearing of these fears of social isolation (or at least I have) for more than 15 years, and yet, somehow, or at least to me, I see more conversation and more engagement on topics of civic concern, especially involving more diverse voices, than I knew of 15 years ago. Back then it was the “informed” and “elite.” Now everyone who has a voice has access to a platform.