The movement for a stronger civic culture.
We aim to overcome political polarization and rebuild American civic culture through everyday opportunities to learn and engage. Through programs designed to meet you wherever you are in your civic engagement, then build on the common ground that already exists across personal backgrounds and political affiliations, Civic Genius is working to get our democratic experiment back on track.
Founded in 2017, Civic Genius (previously known as Common Ground Solutions), has always been dedicated to highlighting where Americans agree on the issues and connecting people with policymakers to make the case that we can move forward together. In 2021, we expanded our mission to include an educational dimension that emphasizes civic confidence and citizen empowerment.
Does it seem like the system is built for insiders? We know the feeling. That’s why we created Genius Guides, our built-for-anyone roadmaps to understanding our government and what citizens can do to make a difference. They are designed to put anyone on a path to active citizenship, from town council to Congress.
Civics for Everyone
Through live events and video, we provide opportunities to engage easily from anywhere. During any given week, you can tune in for advocacy workshops, issue explainers, expert interviews, and discussions with real people who have made a difference. Our tools, education, and advice are for everyone: Instacart drivers, teachers, white collar professional working from home, overnight security guards, parents who have a few minutes to spare while the baby naps – you get the idea.
Citizen Panel Initiative
A partnership with the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation and Voice of the People, this initiative convenes members of Congress and their constituents to identify and discuss areas of common ground. Each Citizen Panel events begins with a policymaking simulation in which constituents learn the basics of an issue, weigh the pros and cons of various policy proposals, then register their views through an online survey. Next, they have the option to attend a face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) conversation with their member of Congress, where they can share comments, ask questions, and hear firsthand how the legislative process plays out in Washington.
Our new national event series leverages in-depth issue research from a diverse world of programmatic partners. Lightbulb events present a 360-degree view of a variety of pressing issues and feature accessible subject matter experts to walk through policy approaches. These conversations plug directly into resources that equip citizens to take informed action.
It’s May 31, 1897. The United States is only a few decades past a civil war that nearly tore it apart. People have gathered at Boston Music Hall to dedicate a monument to Robert Gould Shaw, the Civil War colonel who led the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the second Black regiment to fight in the Civil War. Despite having little experience and even less respect from their fellow troops, the 54th brought their A game. In a true show of heroism, they lost half their troops and two-thirds of their officers in battle, including Shaw.Now, the American philosopher William James steps up before the crowd to speak in honor of Colonel Shaw and his soldiers. We spend a lot of time glorifying courage in battle, says James, but far less time honoring civic courage, the kind that Shaw displayed when he stood by the 54th. Shaw wasn’t some kind of “exceptional genius” achieving some singular feat. He was simply a committed citizen acting faithfully toward the American promise that we can build our own republic “if left free to try.”
But when the fabric of that republic begins to tear, how do we save it? James continues: “The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. Such nations have no need of wars to save them.”
These are the words that inspire us to action. It’s not the occasional extraordinary genius who will make our nation great; it’s the civic genius that materializes when Americans work together, across differences, for a strong future. That work is never done. There are always new challenges and perspectives that complicate our path, but we wrestle with them thoughtfully and passionately because our freedom requires it. Once again, William James said it best: “Democracy is still upon its trial. The civic genius of the people is its only bulwark.”