The University of Southern California


About the University of Southern California Civic Engagement Initiative

The Civic Engagement Initiative provides an institutional umbrella for interdisciplinary research projects and programmatic activities related to civic engagement. The Initiative grows out of seven years of action research on neighborhood democracy and governance reform. Through its organizational resources, the Initiative assists faculty and students in securing research funding; provides opportunities for intellectual exchange among scholars, students, practitioners, and community members; and disseminates the results of research via our website, through publications, and through technical assistance projects.

The CEI contextualizes its activities within the broad changes that are affecting all aspects of society at the beginning of the 21st century. We identify the major trends of this era as:

  • globalization and immigration;
  • decentralization of governance; and
  • technological innovation

Through an action-oriented research approach, we seek to test existing theories of political and civic participation within this changing environment and, where needed, refine or develop new theories and practices of engagement to better reflect and respond to societal transformations. Los Angeles is our home base and primary laboratory, but our interests, our networks, and the applications for our work, are both local and global.

In particular, the CEI encourages projects that involve both graduate and undergraduate students in research. We bring the classroom to the field in order to nurture a new generation of scholars and practitioners of civic engagement. We are especially intentional about involving in our work students from diverse cultural backgrounds and language groups. The CEI’s student researchers enrich our activities with their unique knowledge of differing cultures and communities, and reflect the diversity of Los Angeles and other global cities.

Definition of Civic Engagement

The Civic Engagement Initiative examines the interaction between individual attitudes and behaviors, institutions, and networks of relationships in shaping civic identity and individuals’ connection to governance. We understand civic engagement to mean people participating together for deliberation and collective action within an array of interests, institutions and networks, developing civic identity, and involving people in governance processes.

The Civic Engagement Initiative
School of Policy, Planning, and Development
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626

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