Duke University Civic Action Plan

In March 2016, Campus Compact challenged its member institutions to renew the promise of the public purposes of higher education by creating a Civic Action Plan.  Along with the leaders of more than 400 higher education institutions, President Brodhead committed Duke to this worthy endeavor. To formulate the Civic Action Plan, the Duke Office of Civic Engagement (DOCE) convened more than 130 faculty, staff, students and community members to discuss how to strengthen civic engagement at Duke. This process was anchored by the Civic Action Plan Statements (page 14) offered by Campus Compact prompting participants in the process to uncover the strengths, weaknesses and possibilities in Duke’s partnerships with local, national and international communities. The process has benefited from concurrent initiatives at Duke to formulate a new academic strategic plan and undergraduate curriculum, a parallel that aligns this work with broader institutional planning efforts.

The Civic Action Plan uses the commonly accepted definition of civic engagement from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (Ehrlich, 2000):

“Civic engagement is working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes. In addition, civic engagement encompasses actions wherein individuals participate in activities of personal and public concern that are both individually life enriching and socially beneficial to the community.”

The priorities for the Duke Civic Action Plan coalesced around five clear themes (detailed on pages 7-10 of this report):

  • community partnerships
  • coordination
  • ethics in civic engagement
  • faculty and staff support
  • equity and justice issues

The vision for this plan is captured in the university’s academic strategic plan, Together Duke: Advancing Excellence Through Community, to be “a recognized leader in civic engagement, Duke aims to become a model for integrity, consistency and reciprocity of partnerships.” To accomplish this, the Civic Action Plan identifies a variety of strategies to facilitate Duke’s engagement in sustainable and equitable partnerships, including increased coordination, communication, and knowledge of practices and partnerships across the institution and within the community.

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