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.
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?
This activity can be completed by any discussion group.
This activity can be used to support facilitation skills. See Sample Facilitation Certificate Program Design to illustrate sample sequencing.
This activity might be considered high energy or more playful than other activities.
This activity can be used to build trust and interpersonal connection.
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