In a thriving democracy, people experience themselves as empowered co-creators of their communities and nation, and embrace each other as fully human and morally equal regardless of race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, and other aspects of identity.
The Center for Democracy and Civic Life helps individuals and groups develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to contribute to a thriving democracy. As described in the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Theory of Change, these essential civic capacities include:
- Civic Literacy and Discernment – individual and collective knowledge of democracy’s principles, contested features, history, and expressions in the U.S. and around the world; knowledge of the philosophical and practical dimensions of public policy issues, and understanding of different perspectives on those issues; and the capacity to distinguish factual claims made credibly and in good faith from error and propaganda.
- Civic Agency – individuals’ self-conception as active agents shaping their world, as well as their capacities to recognize cultural practices, navigate complex institutions and undemocratic environments, imagine alternative arrangements and futures, and develop strategies for effective individual and collective action; and the collective capacities to develop a vision for our common life, recognize and respond to problems, make decisions generally accepted as legitimate, and foster the ongoing development of all of these capacities.
- Real Communication – individual and collective capacities to engage in civil, unscripted, honest communication grounded in our common humanity, including about issues in connection with which individuals disagree based on their different stakes, life experiences, values, and aspirations; and the sensitivity and situational awareness to listen well and communicate authentically and effectively with different audiences.
- Critical Solidarity – individual and collective recognition of the intrinsic worth and equality of all human beings, capacity to envision and identify with each other’s journeys and struggles, and disposition to work for the full participation (Strum, Eatman, Saltmarsh & Bush, 2011) of all Americans in our democratic life and against violations of people’s agency and equality
- Civic Courage – individuals’ willingness to risk position, reputation, and the comforts of stability in order to pursue justice and remove barriers to full participation in democratic life, openness to learning from others, including people with less formal training, positional power, and social status, and resilience in the face of adversity; and the collective capacity to embrace changes in cultural practices and institutional arrangements when such changes promote the general welfare and full participation in democratic life
- Integrity and Congruence – individual and collective capacities and commitments to enact democratic values in our everyday interactions, professional roles, cultural practices, institutional arrangements, public decisions, policies, and laws.