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Identifying Your Civic Passion

Submitted by Jessica Friedrichs & Shannon Wheatley Hartman

This activity provides an opportunity for participants to reflect on which civic issues are most important to them individually and how they might negotiate or advocate for these issues within a larger group. It uses a playful, competitive model to get groups thinking together.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Sidewalk with text passion led us here and two pairs of shoes showing

Learning Goal

  • Participants will identify civic issues, reflect on their own priorities, and articulate their top civic passions.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Optional: Prior to your group gathering, share a common document with participants and invite them to add at least 3-5 civic issues that matter most to them. It is best not to give any examples or prompts. Aim to collect more than 16 topics. Try to consolidate or combine topics where appropriate.

Share printed copies of this blank Sweet Sixteen Civic Bracket with participants as handouts.If doing this online, invite one participant in each group to be a notetaker prior to the session and ask them to print out a copy to fill in the brackets for their group during the activity.

Organize participants into small groups (3-4 ppl).

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Generate List of Civic Issues (5 min)

If a list of topics was collected prior to the session, share the list with the full group.

If not done prior to the gathering, ask participants to each write down at least 3-5 civic issues that matter most to them. The aim is to generate more than 16 topics in total for the full group.

Record and organize the issues on a board, flip chart or shared document. Try to consolidate or combine topics where appropriate.

Step Two: Rank Civic Issues (10 min)

Using a rank choice voting method, invite participants to vote for their top issues. If doing this in-person, give each participant a marker or sticker and allow them to distribute 5 points across their top issues. Explain that they can give 1 point to 5 different topics or 5 points to a single topic. They can distribute their 5 points however they like.

The goal is to determine the Top 16 Civic Issues that matter the most for the group.

Step Three: Seed the Bracket (5 min)

Ask each group, or if doing this online the assigned notetaker for each group, to load or seed the empty Sweet Sixteen Bracket on the handout with the top 16 issues.

Explain that they should follow the numbers shown on the empty bracket. So in the end, in true tournament fashion, they have the topic that ranks most important to the group (#1) to facing off against the topic that ranks #16, #2 vs. #15, #3 vs. #14, #4 vs. #13, and so on.

If helpful, share the Sample Civic Sweet Sixteen Bracket.

Step Four: Play the Civic Tournament (20 min)

In small groups, invite participants to play the Sweet Sixteen Civic Tournament. Ask them to discuss the various competitions or face-offs and, as a group, decide which topic will win in each face-off and continue in the tournament. Share the following prompts with participants to use as they play.

Helpful prompts for group decision-making:

  • If you had to devote your life (or the semester) to the issue, which one would you pick?

  • If you had to convince others to join you to make a change for this area, which one would you pick?

Helpful questions to ask during the discussion:

  • Why does this topic resonate with you?

  • Which values are helping to inform your choice?

Step Five: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)

Invite each group to share their final “winning” civic issue. Discuss:

  • Was it hard for your group to reach this decision? Was it a tough competition? Which face-off was the hardest?

  • How did your group decide the winner if opinions differed?

  • What was the hardest aspect of this activity?





Civic Collaboration

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average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

average rating is 4 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:18:02 AM


average rating is 5 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:17:25 AM

very good

average rating is 4 out of 5

September 16, 2023 at 2:25:09 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

September 11, 2023 at 9:02:29 AM

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