Category Archives: Publications of Interest

You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen by Eric Liu

Eric Liu, founder of Citizen’s University, has published a new book: You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen (Public Affairs).  This book offers a timely perspective on bottom-up citizen power and elaborates on Liu’s recent article in the Atlantic:  “How Donald Trump Is Reviving American Democracy.”  An interview with Liu on the WNYC Leonard Lopate show highlighted the important role of local citizen dialogue at spaces like libraries.  Here’s a recording of the interview:

–Nancy Kranich



CIRCLE — All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement An Open Online Seminar

All Together Now:  Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement

An Open Online Seminar

From CIRCLE, (click on to learn more, including about tools, and who’s participating)

Excited by improving and creating new learning opportunities that will increase youth engagement?  Want to share your passion with a diverse group of learners?

Join CIRCLE for a FREE 5-week open, online seminar that will extend research and recommendations from the recent report All Together Now:  Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement.  Bring your ideas and vision to the table and create plans for your own community.

Starts week of January 13th

More information is below OR you can contact us at OR

Since the release of the report All Together Now:  Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement, CIRCLE has been in conversation with a wide range of stakeholders  interested in and committed to improving the civic and political engagement opportunities and outcomes for ALL youth in the United States.   This FREE and open online seminar is an effort to reach out and engage individuals and groups interested in extending the conversation about that state of youth engagement and future strategies to improve it.   The seminar welcomes young people, parents, educators, policymakers, youth advocates, researchers and others to join this five-week learning community.  The seminar is also designed to allow for multiple levels of participant and will have synchronous and asynchronous elements to accommodate those who need flexibility.


  • Introduce participants to the key findings and recommendations of the report as a means to ground our conversations in the research and provide an opportunity for participants to exchange additional information about what they have seen on the ground.
  • Engage a diverse set of participants in thinking and dialogue around the report that would not be possible in more geographically- or strategy-bound environments
  • Provide a platform for advocates, those working in the fields of civic learning and engagement, researchers, commissioners and CIRCLE staff to write, reflect and share their thinking and response to the report
  • Create an environment and structure that would prompt participants to adjust, design or propose strategies, actions, programming or activities that could extend the report into real world environments.


  • A better and deeper understanding of the research behind the report
  • How the research and recommendations of the report can be applied to participants’ practice
  • New ideas for actions and activities to support the recommendations in the report
  • Extended thinking about challenges, opportunities and recommendations in the report as well as provide additional information and ideas to supplement it
  • Information and experience exchange between groups committed to improved civic learning and engagement of youth
  • Researchers connect to work in the field and practitioners think about elements that they could use to evaluate the work
  • Creation of materials (in any format) that can be shared online (digital artifacts) for the benefit of a broader audience


  • Getting Prepared: Register, read the report, introduce yourself (via Facebook Group) and engage with our warm up activities
  • Session 1:   Orientation to the Seminar / Introduction to the Report (week of January 13th)
  • Session 2:  What is the state of youth civic learning and engagement?  (week of January 20th)
  • Session 3:  What works and how would you apply these to your practice? (week of January 27th)
  • Session 4:  How does this all work together?  (week of February 3rd)
  • Session 5:   What have we learned together? (week of February 10th)

Harvard’s Berkman Center Issues New Report on “Why We Engage: How Theories of Human Behavior Contribute to Our Understanding of Civic Engagement in a Digital Era”

Why We Engage: How Theories of Human Behavior Contribute to Our Understanding of Civic Engagement in a Digital Era

Eric Gordon

Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Emerson College
Jessica Baldwin-Philippi 
Emerson College
Martina Balestra 
Cornell University
October 22, 2013

Berkman Center Research Publication No. 21 


As digital communication technologies have evolved over the past few decades, the convergence of network structure and accessibility with hardware and software advances has allowed individuals to interact in various, even contradictory, ways. They can explore, hide, reach out, evaluate, connect, negotiate, exchange, and coordinate to a greater degree than ever before. Furthermore, this has translated to an ever-increasing number of users interacting with information in unprecedented ways and, due to device portability, in totally new physical locations. Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare update each other simultaneously across application platforms with near-real time photos and impressions of places; mobile exercise applications allow users to track their own movements as well as view where others in their geographic vicinity went running; Yelp users can read selective reviews from social network friends and strangers in their community on a specific restaurant; and Facebook friends can see what their peers bought, listened to, and read – from anywhere they are able to access the Internet. Most of these apps update across platforms enabling both maximum reach across a user’s social group as well as a highly selective direction of information to a subset of their social network.

Just as the rapidly evolving landscape of connectivity and communications technology is transforming the individual’s experience of the social sphere, what it means to participate in civic life is also changing, both in how people do it and how it is measured. Civic engagement includes all the ways in which individuals attend to the concerns of public life, how one learns about and participates in all of the issues and contexts beyond one’s immediate private or intimate sphere. New technologies and corresponding social practices, from social media to mobile reporting, are providing different ways to record, share, and amplify that attentiveness. Media objects or tools that impact civic life can be understood within two broad types: those designed specifically with the purpose of community engagement in mind (for instance, a digital game for local planning or an app to give feedback to city council) or generic tools that are subsequently appropriated for engaging a community (such as Twitter or Facebook’s role in the Arab Spring or London riots). Moreover, these tools can mediate any number of relationships between or among citizens, local organizations, or government institutions. Digitally mediated civic engagement runs the gamut of phenomena from organizing physical protests using social media (e.g., Occupy), to using digital tools to hack institutions (e.g., Anonymous), to using city-produced mobile applications to access and coproduce government services, to using digital platforms for deliberating. Rather than try to identify what civic media tools look like in the midst of such an array of possibilities (by focusing on in depth examples or case studies), going forward we will instead focus on how digital tools expand the context of civic life and motivations for engagement, and what participating in civic life looks like in a digital era.

We present this literature review as a means of exploring the intersection of theories of human behavior with the motivations for and benefits of engaging in civic life. We bring together literature from behavioral economics, sociology, psychology and communication studies to reveal how civic actors, institutions, and decision-making processes have been traditionally understood, and how emerging media tools and practices are forcing their reconsideration.


Download a copy of the full report at:


Join the National Conversation About Mental Health

The American Library Association Center for Civic Life is a partner in this effort announced by the White House to launch a national conversation titled: Creating Community Solutions.  We urge libraries across the country to participate.  Some are already on board.

The Creating Community Solutions site includes a map where you can locate local initiatives.  You can also find people who can lead the discussion in your community.  A dialogue guide will be available soon.  Be sure to sign up as a participant if you plan to host a conversation locally or participate in an online dialogue.  For more information, see the Creating Community Solutions web site at:  Attached is an FAQ about the initiative.

FAQs on Creating Community Solutions – final

Librarian Working with the Harwood Institute Helps Newtown Residents Determine the Future for the Sandy Hook School

Richard Harwood of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation recently worked with the people of Newtown, CT, to determine the future for their Sandy Hook Elementary School–click here for more information.  Joining him was librarian, Carlton Sears, who posted about his lessons from the experience on his blog.  Below is the first paragraph of that posting by Carlton Sears.  Click on the headline to see the full text.  

Moving forward in Newtown – a lesson for us all by Carlton Sears

When I learned I would be working with Rich Harwood in Newtown, I was stunned, humbled and concerned.  Would I have the thoughtfulness, sensitivity and insight for whatever was in store?   The task was daunting, the responsibility heavy:  to help a traumatized community move forward on the future of the Sandy Hook School….more


Posted by Nancy Kranich