The current global economic model threatens basic human needs, social equity, and the life support systems of the planet. Critics of these models often promote sustainability solutions that focus on greening existing economies. These strategies are winning some battles, yet ultimately losing the fight to create economic and social prosperity within planetary boundaries. The challenge for policy makers and citizens, alike, is to rethink our approach to the economy to yield a more enduring prosperity. Rethinking Prosperity is a civic engagement project to identify and communicate economic models that work for more people, within planetary boundaries. We explore new ideas and effective communication strategies through learning communities that bridge the classroom, research, and civic arenas. We track local, national and global conversations about prosperity driven by sustainable and equitable economics. The goal is to enable stakeholders, from citizens to policymakers, to find common ground, develop strategies, and take action on economic ideas for sustainable societies.
CCCE has pioneered integrating the core university missions - research, learning and public service - into learning communities with a focus on how research can be applied to real world problems. These communities bring faculty, students, citizens, and practitioners together to explore the spectrum of issues related to communication, democracy and citizen engagement. Two of the oldest learning communities at CCCE are What's the economy for, anyway? and The CCCE Citizen Roundtable.
The CCCE Citizen Roundtable is a regular series of issue forums featuring University of Washington Faculty and nationally recognized experts addressing contemporary topics from U.S. foreign policy to the role of religion in politics. The Roundtable now has more than 130 community members who participate in these discussions.
What's the economy for, anyway? is one of many learning communities at CCCE that enable undergraduates to join graduate students, faculty, and international experts to build knowledge about important questions. The focus here is on how nations organize their economies to distribute different benefits such as health, education, family support, vacation time and retirement to different groups in society.
Citizenship and Civic Learning
Democracies are experiencing great changes in how people participate, how they gather and use information, and how young people think about politics and citizenship. Since its founding, CCCE has developed a series of projects exploring the changing nature of political participation and citizenship, beginning at our founding in 2001 with Student Voices, a Pew/Annenberg project to bring technologies into classrooms and bring students into their communities to develop projects and public voices. Since then, we have put the spotlight on civic learning in online environments outside of schools. An important funder for these studies was the John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning initiative, which is dedicated to understanding how young people are changing the ways we create, use and share information in online environments.
Civic Media Tools for Youth Voice
Digital media technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to help young citizens learn to engage with public life. Many young citizens are interested in learning how to advocate for their own causes and to develop more effective public voices. At the same time, they often have few experiences developing effective public voice skills. And they often have few guides for taking effective action. Learning how to develop public voices and sustainable action networks can be enhanced through access to digital public networking, content production, distribution technologies and skills training.
With funding from the Microsoft Corporation and the Surdna Foundation, and in partnership with the YMCA and City of Seattle, CCCE has developed programs to help young people participate more effectively in their communities. We have created learning communities around these programs such as the UW student internship program Becoming Citizens. This internship has now graduated more than 100 talented, diverse and dedicated students who learn about changes in democratic citizenship in the classroom and go into schools and community centers to work directly with underserved youth. In recent years, the program has featured video storytelling using a curriculum developed with the Seattle YMCA. This program builds on the work of past generations of Becoming Citizens. The Surdna Foundation Digital Media and Advocacy Initiative has supported our work building peer-to-peer digital media skills sets for young people to use in defining issues and organizing more effective public action.
Civic Media for Democratic Deliberation
Much of our contemporary political discourse is shrill, polarized, and discouraging. CCCE civic technology projects aim to help introduce more reasonable discussion into public life. We are developing civic technologies aimed at producing more cross talk and better resolution of differences. Teams of faculty and students are also studying how people use these platforms and how we can improve upon their design, uses and marketing in the future. Working alongside faculty and graduate students, dozens of undergraduates have gained direct experience in how to design new technologies and evaluate their uses. Our projects involve civic partners such as City Club of Seattle, the Seattle libraries, the Metro YMCA and the Seattle City Department of Information Technology. Through real world deployments we learn how citizens use civic technologies, and how they measure up to the goals of more deliberative, less polarized public interaction. The main funding for these initiatives has come from the National Science Foundation Socio-Computational Systems program, with a three-year grant in collaboration with the UW Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
The Logic of Connective Action
From Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street, the contemporary world has been rocked by large scale networked movements involving millions of people using available technologies such as Twitter and Facebook to coordinate action and get their messages out. We are studying how these networks emerge, what sustains them, what impact they have, and how they develop or fade away. These projects include two newly funded projects on large-scale citizen networks in US and Europe.
Digital media and civil society networks
With funding from the Swedish Research Council, CCCE is part of an international project investigating how different kinds of national and transnational political networks become organized and how they work. This broad study is developing a theoretical frameworks to handle cases as diverse as the Tahrir Square uprisings in Egypt, los indignados in Spain, Occupy in the U.S., and various issue advocacy networks organized by NGOs in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Sweden.
Big Data, Social Technology and Politics
Teams of students and faculty from different UW departments and schools are exploring the origins and workings of emergent political action networks such as the Occupy protests. These projects use a range of methods from ethnographic observation and interviews, to the invention of new ways to analyze big data sets. One set in particular includes more than 100 million tweets from the occupy protests gathered by a team of students and faculty from the UW Information School. A new National Science Foundation grant will enable CCCE and the iSchool to partner in developing innovative ways to explore big data sets involving how citizens use social media.