Civic Development and Systematic Transformation

Description of Specialization

Public participation promises much. Done well it can help solve conflicts thought to be insoluble, open up new potential for the future, and re-energize communities. Done poorly, its mistakes can carry a heavy cost, reinforcing disengagement and exacerbating conflict. This program distills what is currently known about the best ways to work with people, issues and systems to solve complex problems and minimize risk of breakdown. It provides understanding of which factors in an immediate situation and the larger contexts determine what kinds of processes should be used, when, and with whom, to fulfill purposes most critical in that situation.

Civic development is the study of how and why public life evolves, through its political systems, processes and roles, and the maturation of its publics; and the application of this knowledge to the building of civic capacity and the theory and practice of public engagement and social action.

Systemic transformation is the study of how individuals, groups and systems function, interact, and evolve, and the strategies by which conscious agents improve, sustain and restore functionality.

Focus of Specialization

Strategies to improve, restore, and sustain the integrity of people, organizations and systems
The evolution of public life, the analysis of issues, and the design of processes that build social capacity
Application of this knowledge to the theory and practice of public engagement and social action

Specialization is designed to help:

  • Officials solidify their basis for selecting and creating effective designs for public engagement.
  • Consultants and trainers gain new skills and analyses essential for adaptively serving clients and partnering with publics to work on their current challenges.
  • Citizens increase their capacity for raising awareness, organizing, and partnering to work on public issues, lead action, and build alliances.
  • Educators develop curriculum elements for preparing students for 21st Century citizenship.
  • Software designers find design and case applications for developing “Web 2.0” social software for political and social action.

Specialization Courses

CAE625 Social Design and Systemic Transformation

This course introduces the field of civic engagement. It connects the concentration to the prior learning and anticipated career needs of students and establishes the basis for the theoretical and practical work of the remaining courses. Students learn new applications and skills for critical thinking about social process design and its relationship to systemic transformation. Professionally, it develops student abilities to act as consultant, practitioner, official, informed consumer and/or citizen in the planning of public participation processes, especially in the early stages. Potential benefits, challenges, and risks of public processes are considered together with criteria for tailoring such processes to the demands of particular situations

CAE626 Civic Development and Complexity

This course introduces students to a developmental pattern of increasing complexity evident in four dimensions: (a) civic development, (b) cognitive development, (c) decision making, and (d) how attempts to address complex issues are approached. Drawing from an interdisciplinary literature including complexity science, adult and cognitive development, information processing, and anthropology, students will examine characteristics of this pattern in individual and collective actions and systems, including public issue “talk” and implications for policy development.

CAE627 Designing Planned Processes of Social Intervention

In this final course of the concentration, students propose, justify and evaluate designs for strategic social interventions in a series of increasingly complex cases. To do so, they apply the framework and design tools introduced in the first course and the developmental model and introduction to issue analysis from the second. Building on the ability to specify design requirements developed in those courses, and drawing upon the methodologies and techniques inventoried there, students are now designing and improving designs for processes that could meet those requirements.
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