Civics FAQ

What is the Civics Program mission and how do you strive to advance it?
Our mission is to strengthen the civic education system to better facilitate informed and effective lifelong civic engagement in Chicagoland. The Civics Program uses traditional philanthropic grant making, direct-service programming and advocacy to impact local civic education. We fund some of the most well-established nonprofits as well as new and innovative start-ups. Our grantees educate and engage middle school, high school and college-age young people in traditional classroom settings as well, as through innovative extracurricular offerings.  Click here to learn more.

What theory of change underpins your work?
 We believe that a lifelong commitment to participation in civic life requires knowledge, skills, attitudes, and engagement experiences that are best acquired in our youth. While civic learning is a lifelong endeavor, our work focuses on young people between the ages of 12 and 22. This period of adolescence is traditionally thought of as the bridge between youth and adulthood. It is at this critical juncture that we acquire important civic knowledge and skills and can begin to utilize them.

Our work is underpinned by the six promising approaches for citizenship development outlined in the 2003 Civic Mission of Schools report. These six approaches include formal instruction in U.S. government, history, law, and democracy; structured engagement with current and controversial issues; service learning linked to the formal curriculum; extracurricular activities that encourage greater involvement and connection to school and the community; authentic student voice in school governance; and finally, participation in simulations of democratic structures and processes. Click here to learn more.

What do you fund?
Our grantmaking focuses on four areas: civic education, professional development and training for teachers, civic engagement and policy change. For additional information, see our grantmaking guidelines.  A grants list is also available online.

What is the Democracy Schools initiative?
The Civics Program is deeply committed to cultivating the civic mission of schools. To further this cause, we have partnered with—and taken a leadership role in steering—the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, an alliance of foundations, nonprofits, school administrators, educators and elected officials. The Coalition spearheads the Democracy Schools initiative, which accredits Illinois secondary schools that provide students with authentic experiences in the rights, responsibilities, and tensions inherent in living in a constitutional democracy.

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Robert R. McCormick Foundation
205 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 4300
Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: 312 445 5000
Fax: 312 445 5001