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Nominate for the Civvys!!

Nominate a Collaborator for the Civvys on #ListenFirst Friday – Caroline Klibanoff

If you’re in need of inspiration and hope, look past all that divides us to focus on the people bringing us together – the collaborators. The Civvys Awards are accepting nominations through Monday, July 15 at civvys.org.

On this #ListenFirstFriday, I want to share something that has helped me keep the faith when it comes to the future of our nation and our democracy, even when it seems like hyperpartisanship, division and entrenched attitudes prevail.

As the program manager for the American Civic Collaboration Awards (also known as the “Civvys,”), I have had the privilege every year to read through a broad swath of nominations that paint a much brighter picture of America than you might see on your social media feed or in the news. The Civvys celebrate exemplar cases of collaborative work at the national, local and youth levels, and the nominations we receive are nothing short of inspiring. Each year, I’m bolstered just by learning about the relentless efforts of Americans from coast to coast to improve their communities and pursue a better future, and I am deeply invested in listening to how they got it done and what they’ve learned.

Last year, for example, Civvys winners included a civics education platform reaching over 5 million K-12 students (iCivics), a dialogue program between the Syracuse Police department and the local community (El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at Interfaith Works), a college campus model for civic engagement and community outreach (Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation), and a pioneering virtual voting platform used across North Carolina schools (First Vote NC). We were so moved reading all of the inspiring nominations that we even created a Committee’s Choice Award to honor the work done by a group of middle-schoolers in Montevallo, a small, rural Alabama town, who petitioned their mayor to create a Junior City Council that now has representation at the “adult” City Council meetings. The kids are alright – we just have to listen to their ideas!

But it’s not just the winners and finalists that are leading the way. All of the Civvys nominees demonstrate the effectiveness of collaboration, from every corner of the country, in politics and governing, in neighborhoods, schools and faith communities, and in workplaces large and small, using the power of listening to understand each other and working across the aisle or even just across departments or roles. Many submissions note the “contagious” effect of this kind of work, where nominees have inspired similar efforts in other states or with other audiences, and we believe that sharing these stories can help communities “catch the bug” of civic engagement and collaboration.

I know it can be all too easy to focus on what divides us, on the insults and injuries of living in a divided nation, and to stay crouched in our corners, scanning for the next piece of horrible news or attack on our “side.” But if we can suspend the defensive position for a moment, long enough to listen, more hopeful stories emerge. Stories of the collaborators, the problem-solvers, people who refuse to get mired in the hate and fear and simply get to work. By sharing and listening to their stories, we can give collaborators their due.

You can help us find more of these stories to tell by nominating a project, person or organization for a 2019 Civvys Award by Monday, July 15 at civvys.org. If you can think of work that inspires you, that gives you faith in the future of our nation, that uses collaboration to achieve their goals – chances are they’re a good fit for the Civvys. Tell us about them, so we can tell the world, and so we can all look forward to a brighter future, led by those who work together and #ListenFirst.