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As a continuation of its work to develop and increase more opportunities to learning about civic and community life, the WW Foundation has partnered with the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) on a timely initiative to support youth leadership in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CIRCLE, which is based at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, is a preeminent non-partisan research institution focused on civic education and youth civic engagement. Through this partnership, WW and CIRCLE hope to learn more about the ways in which young people create and improve on civic work and civic learning in their communities—particularly when they are valued as experts based on their lived experiences and their deep understanding of the places in which they live. The lessons gleaned from this partnership will have significant implications for the civic learning and civic education communities, as well as others working to support youth learning and strengthening communities.

“We’re excited to partner with the WW Foundation on Civic Spring, and to have the opportunity to learn from and tap into the expertise of the young leaders and participants in each grantee project,” said Dr. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of CIRCLE. “We know this work will contribute to our mission of understanding how youth leadership, and youth working in partnership with diverse adult stakeholders, can cultivate meaningful civic pathways for young people across diverse contexts and backgrounds, and contribute to the development of inclusive communities where all young people can find their voices and drive the future of their communities.”

The Civic Spring Project was developed with the collective goal of creating a program that will catalyze summer civic learning experiences, especially in light of COVID-19. Because schools and localities—the systems typically leading civic learning programs—continue to experience stress and fatigue from combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation and its partners want to tap into a group eager to help communities make productive change: youth.

After a national selection process, the WW Foundation awarded grants to six youth-led initiatives across the country working creatively over the summer to engage young people building their own civic capacities while strengthening their community. Each project is facilitating hands-on learning opportunities to build the civic knowledge, dispositions, and skills young people need to flourish as effective and committed community members.

The Civic Spring Project is especially timely now, when millions of young people’s lives have been upended by COVID-19. CIRCLE research has shown that youth—especially youth of color—are in many ways bearing the economic brunt of the pandemic, but that they’re also actively engaged in supporting their communities.

“CIRCLE is the leader in understanding what young people need to meaningfully participate in civic life,” said WW Foundation President Rajiv Vinnakota. “WW had to choose from several

rigorous proposals by strongly qualified applicants. We look forward to working together to learn from the projects, understand better how youth build their civic capacities, and share the findings with those working in the larger civic learning field.”

The CIRCLE/WW research partnership aims to understand better the civic skills and capacities needed for people to be active and empowered civic actors across diverse communities and backgrounds. CIRCLE’s work on the Civic Spring Project, an important step in continuing to strengthen the civic learning field, will connect this initiative’s research and lessons to work happening across the country. CIRCLE will produce and publish a report on Civic Spring, share findings with stakeholders in the civic learning and engagement fields, and incorporate lessons learned into its own work to promote healthier and more equitable youth development.

The WW Foundation launched the Civic Spring Project in May and announced the six grant winners in early July, based on a competitive pool of 145 applications and more than 1,100 eligibility inquiries.