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April 08, 2005

exemplary civic projects

Within the last week, I've heard about two excellent projects. They each deserve a full post, but they also go so nicely together that I'll mention both here:

Citizen Joe is a website that provides substantive, ideologically balanced introductions to policy debates. It offers "weekly updates on the major bills being voted on in Congress," "guides to key policy issues with facts and a balanced pro & con," and "facts on over fifty policy areas with recommended links for readers who want to find out more." There is also a short, basic guide to civic engagement. I looked carefully at the subject areas that I'm supposed to know something about, such as education policy, and I found the guides accurate, balanced, and up-to-date. However, what's really impressive about this site is its origin. A band of volunteers have created it through their own free labor. At a time when the policy debate is fractured and shrill and the mass media typically neglect to explain basic matters of substance, it's great to see a few citizens work together to educate themselves and the public.

Orange Band is a student-organized project that has reached about 6,000 people so far. Organizers distribute "4x18 inch strips of orange fabric" to fellow students. Those who accept a strip write the name of an issue on it, thereby signalling their willingness to discuss that issue with people they meet. Many students wear the strips on a single campus, creating an impression of a community that is open to discussion. Orange Band also organizes educational forums on issues, with "with speakers, panelists, and video showings."

Posted by peterlevine at April 8, 2005 01:08 PM

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