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New Civic Engagement Toolkit from Better Utah Institute

A "gamification" approach to learning civic engagement-for all ages

The Utah Civic Learning Collaborative's Judi Hilman interviewed Melissa Nelson-Stippich, Civic Engagement Coordinator for Better Utah Institute about use of the toolkit for civic teaching and learning.

What is the Civic Engagement Toolkit?

A project of the nonpartisan Better Utah Institute , the Civic Engagement Toolkit uses “gamification” to educate users on what civic engagement is and how they can effectively advocate for the issues they care about to make a positive change in their community. Learn more here.

What can people expect from the toolkit?

Users navigate through three different levels:

  • Level 1 Getting to Know You: Users learn what type of advocacy they are most comfortable with and identify their top issue of concern.

  • Level 2 Civic Engagement 101: Users learn the basics of civic engagement, including getting informed, taking action, voting, building relationships, and taking a leadership role.

  • Level 3 Make an Action Plan: Users build on their knowledge to set goals and develop strategies to get civically engaged.

Why this toolkit now? What motivated you to create it?

Maybe people learned civics in school, but they don’t remember what they learned. We wanted to show that civic engagement isn’t difficult to do or dull at all! After last summer when people got interested in advocacy around the protests for racial justice, we saw lots of interest in being engaged but not necessarily knowing how. So we wanted to create an easy point of entry that helps people pivot from social media discussions to action in the real world.

What is your audience for the toolkit?

Really anyone! From 9th grade all the way up to retired folks wanting to get involved, say, for the first time. It’s for people who care about an issue but don’t quite know the next step to take. My daughter is in the 7th grade, and she loves it. Some of the activities can work for younger students, even 5th graders.

Do you see K-12 classrooms using it?

Yes! As a parent, I was volunteering in my child’s elementary classroom and in computer labs. Civic engagement sounds boring or intimidating, but not for me. So I wanted it to be fun and “trick” people into learning about it with bright colors and fun games. My older daughter, a high school sophomore, is getting involved in causes. I wanted her voice to carry beyond posting a picture on Instagram.

One of our games addresses misinformation and media bias in social media posts. The Toolkit also encourages people to vary their social media feed and interact with people with different points of view.

Can you say anything about future plans for the toolkit?

Going forward, we will be adding additional modules to the toolkit that will get more complex, but still middle & high school students will find it easy to engage with. At some point we may want to convene “ living room conversations'' or structured dialogues to build understanding and empathy. As part of the Better Utah Institute’s soon to be released Election Hub we will be adding family activities to encourage learning about elections and voting, including ranked choice voting.

We are also developing an educational landing page for the Civic Engagement Toolkit to alleviate any concern about data privacy for educators who want to use the platform with their students. Keep an eye on us!

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