The Global Hunt for Civic Intelligence

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

systems theory (variety of disciplines)
  • UG

This program focuses on the social phenomenon that we call "civic intelligence." 
It may seem elusive, yet civic intelligence is all around us — if we know what to look for. It can be seen locally — in a community garden project, for example — and it can be seen globally as well — addressing climate change, for example — and anywhere in between on issues such as education, social equity, or environmental restoration. 
Civic intelligence is the ability of groups of diverse sizes and composition to address shared significant issues effectively and equitably. This can take the shape of new approaches to social service, such as Robert Eggers' DC Kitchen. It can take the form of new initiatives such as the Sustainable Prisons Project that Evergreen helped launch or supporting economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to define and struggle for their own health objectives. Or "democracy vouchers" that were recently adopted in Seattle via the initiative process. These exciting examples just begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be civically intelligent.
While the term civic intelligence is not in common usage, the idea is not new. John Dewey, the American psychologist, philosopher, educator, social critic and political activist (whose insights helped inspire Evergreen's educational philosophy), was a proponent of the concept, although he didn't put a precise name on it. Nevertheless, the necessity—and the difficulties—of thinking and acting together are universal and require us to consider a wide variety of perspectives, including social movements, education, government and democracy, community studies, organizational studies, systems theory, and design. Because civic intelligence requires action, the program also requires active engagement. 
We are using the metaphor of the hunt to focus on finding phenomena that's often hidden. We will also use the metaphor of an expedition as a broader, more holistic and organized approach to orienting our research and action. 
In Fall quarter, we posed questions and used our social imagination to envision how our hunt might unfold. We identified, discussed, and analyzed potential projects and organizations that seemed to demonstrate civic intelligence, including efforts in our region. 
In Winter and Spring quarters, we will continue the expedition through research and interaction and begin to evaluate, sum up, and think about ways that the work could continue to expand and evolve. How is the best way to record our findings? Or publicize them? How  should we communicate with other researchers and practitioners? In Spring we are tentatively planning to convene a public event in relation to our work. 
Students who elect to take the 12 credit option will participate in the Civic Intelligence Research and Action Laboratory or CIRAL. The lab is designed to allow students of diverse interests and skills to work in issue-oriented "clusters" with students, faculty, and others inside and beyond Evergreen who are engaged in real-world projects that integrate research and action. These opportunities will also include developing the capacities of the CIRAL lab itself, including engaging in research, media work, or tech development. 
Integrating theory and practice, we will learn civic intelligence by doing it. We will consciously leverage Evergreen's underlying philosophy as a nontraditional, experimental school to explore how students can take a more active role in their education and in their interactions in the world. Students in this program will take an active role in how the program is conducted.

Research Opportunities

There will be a complementary undergraduate research opportunity in civic intelligence.

Program Details

Fields of Study

community studies education government political science sociology sustainability studies

Preparatory For

social services, policy, activism, community development, education


Fall Open Winter Open Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered

Evening and Weekend

Advertised Schedule

Wednesdays, 6:15 -10 pm; five Saturdays per quarter (Fall: Oct 1, 15, 29, Nov 12, Dec 3; Winter: January 14, 28; Feb 11, 25; March 11; Spring: April 8, 22; May 6, 20; June 3) 9 am- 5 pm. Students in the 12 credit option meet from 4:30 - 6:00 every Wednesday in addition.  First winter meeting is Wednesday January 11, 4:30p (12 credits) or 6:15p (8 credits), Seminar 2 B1107.

Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online