Since 2012 The New Civics Early Career Scholars Program has trained doctoral students for research in civic engagement and civic education. Generously funded by the Spencer Foundation, it equips researchers to contribute to developing ‘New Civics’, a broader, more realistic view of civic engagement. What motivates and empowers such action – and also what inhibits it? Where does it fit in young people’s lives, and into social and political capital? We need this work to create effective civic education programs, to harness young people’s civic energies, and to address alienation and disempowerment. We need a definition of ‘civic participation’ that encompasses what young people actually do in the public domain.
Despite worldwide laments that young people are not voting and are not interested in politics, many are actively involved in single issues, especially around the environment or ethical targets, and many are involved in community work. Young people rapidly become highly involved in social movements when they feel morally engaged by the issues and empowered to influence change. Since 2012, the political, civic and social environment in many countries has increased our awareness of the need to understand and foster effective and responsible youth participation.
We have recruited 30 Early Career Scholars since 2012. By the end of 2017, eleven will have graduated. In addition to enrolling in special courses, they participate in two internships where they work with appropriate research and practice teams, in Harvard, the local region and elsewhere, including internationally. Many have international experience with peace education, refugee children, child soldiers, or minority groups. In regular Workshops the community shares experience, ideas and skills to which experts from Harvard and elsewhere also contribute; this is a rich environment for developing this innovative field.
The Early Career Scholars Program is run by Helen Haste, Robert Selman, Meira Levinson and Howard Gardner.
What we hope to achieve:
A cohort of researchers who are well trained for developing research, policy and practice in New Civics.
A community of scholars who together will move forward, elaborate and disseminate a definition of New Civics that informs public and policy, as well as scholarly thinking about civic engagement.
A framework for developing effective civic education, nationally and internationally, within and outside school, that promotes empowered young citizens.
A body of research from students, faculty and practitioners that significantly progresses civic-related theory, methodology and application across disciplines.