Project Citizen Showcase 2014

About Project Citizen

Project Citizen is a curricular program for middle, secondary, and post-secondary students, youth organizations, and adult groups that promotes competent and responsible participation in local and state government. The program helps participants learn how to monitor and influence public policy. In the process, they develop support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy.

Entire classes of students or members of youth or adult organizations work cooperatively to identify a public policy problem in their community. They then research the problem, evaluate alternative solutions, develop their own solution in the form of a public policy, and create a political action plan to enlist local or state authorities to adopt their proposed policy. Participants develop a portfolio of their work and present their project in a public hearing showcase before a panel of civic-minded community members.

The Project Citizen program is administered with the assistance of a national network of state and congressional district coordinators in every state and is conducted with the assistance of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Additional funding at the state level is also provided by an increasing number of state legislatures.

What Is Public Policy?

To understand the goal of Project Citizen we must first understand public policy. Generally, public policy is what government officials, be that the school officials, city council, county, state or federal officials, does or does not do in response to a problem they are presented with for possible action. Specifically, public policy:

  • is made in response to some sort of issue or problem that requires attention. Policy is what the govenrment chooses to do or not do about that issue.
  • may come in the form of a law or set of laws or a regulation of set of regulations that govern the issue they have been presented with.
  • is made on behalf of the "public".
  • is oriented toward a goal, such as a solution to the problem.
  • is ultimately made by governments, even if the ideas come from outside the government or from interaction with the public.
Policy making is an ongoing process that does not always have a clear beginning or end. There are many issues in our communities that need to be solved. Some actions may be readily taken care of in the private sector (individuals and families) or by our civil society (social, economic, political associations or organizations). Public Policy problems are those that must be addressed by laws or regulations adopted by the government. Your first task will be to establish the problem you want to work on and that it is a problem that requires government involvement to reach a solution.

Note: This material is adapted from An Introduction to the Policy Process, by Thomas A. Birkland (2011, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY)


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