Civic Engagement and Leadership Development - Spring 2020 Saturday Sessions

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CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

25 West 43rd Street, 18th Floor

New York, NY 10036

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Civic Engagement and Leadership Development

Saturday Sessions -- Spring 2020


The Civic Engagement and Leadership Development program (C.E.L.D.), CUNY's very popular civic leadership program will hold its annual Saturday morning sessions starting on February 1, 2020 and ending on Saturday, March 28, 2020. Registration will be open until January 20, 2020.

The program is sponsored and hosted by the new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, which grew out of the Murphy Institute, and its over 30 years of educating tens of thousands of New Yorkers about the challenges and possibilities confronting organized labor and working-class communities.

Each of the 8 Saturday morning sessions will feature veteran practitioners and CUNY faculty with years of experience and expertise in civic leadership, electoral politics, the history of mass movements, and policymaking at the local, state and national levels of government.

Participants completing at least 7 of the 8 Saturday morning sessions will receive a certificate. All participants will join the growing network of C.E.L.D. alumni, and be invited to future civic leadership events and gatherings.

Registration info and tentative class descriptions are below. Questions? Email us at

Registration Information:

  • Registration is open December 10, 2019 through January 20, 2020.

  • To ensure that we have a participant group that is diverse in race/ethnicity, gender, age, work background, organizational affiliation and neighborhoods represented, as well as bring together a group committed to use the skills and knowledge gained in this course to further their own activism and engagement, we ask applicants to fully complete all registration questions.

  • Registrations will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

  • Applicants will receive confirmation of their place on the course roster within 2 weeks of submitting their registration.

Tentative Class Descriptions:

Session 1: Civic Engagement in this Moment: Concepts, Context, and Content

This is session is an overview of the scope, procedures, requirements, and expectations of the course. It will also provide a conceptual framework for understanding the contemporary role of civic engagement plays in expanding participation in the democratic process as well as survey critical civic engagement challenges.

Session 2: Pivotal Movements at Pivotal Moments in U.S. History

This session utilizes pivotal movements that emerged at pivotal moments in U.S. history to illuminate uniquely innovative ways and means activists utilized to exercise the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” to successfully influence public policy, deepen as well as broaden democracy, and transform governance.

Session 3: Utilizing Power Mapping

Power mapping is both a theoretical and a practical tool that community organizations, civic movements, issue coalitions, and unions use to understand and to positively influence how political power and policymaking authority is wielded within specific jurisdictions. Students will be mentored in power mapping and participate in an exercise in which they use this tool to design ways of effectively engaging “the powers that be.”

Session 4: Navigating Progressive Priorities Through the Budget Process

Existing programs require continuous funding. New programs require new appropriations. The budget process is the central institutional vehicle governments use to decide “who gets what, and how much.” This session will review the ways in which unions, civic movements, and community coalitions navigate their priorities through the New York City and New York State budget processes, as well as examine how civic activists utilize participatory budgeting to fund community priorities through grassroots democratic civic decision-making now that voters approved citywide participatory budgeting.

Session 5: Advocacy & Organizing in Electoral & Non-Electoral Contexts

This session surveys a range of advocacy and organizing skills, techniques, and strategies issue-based coalitions utilize on an on-going basis as well as during election cycles. This session will also examine how engaging these interconnected contexts can strengthen civic engagement and build unity among diverse constituencies. Students will also design approaches that community-based organizations, civic coalitions, and unions can undertake in electoral and non-electoral contexts.

Session 6: Engaging Political Parties in the Policymaking Process

Civic engagement involves complex challenges related to engaging the political process — particularly now that Democrats are in the majority in the House of Representatives and the New York State Senate. Engaging the political process requires interacting with political parties. What if the candidate(s) your union, community organization, or issue coalition supported wins? What if that election also results in this candidate’s party keeping or gaining control of the legislative or the executive branch? What if the candidate(s) your union, community organization, or issue coalition opposed wins? What if his or her party maintains or regains control of the legislative or executive branch? This session focuses on the challenges leaders and activists face in responding to disparate outcomes; new political situations; engage political parties in the policymaking process; and influence the policy priorities and staff appointments of elected officials.

Session 7: Thinking Big! — A Case Study of an Innovative Approaches to Empowering Communities

The most successful civic engagement movements of the past and present are characterized by innovative strategies — above all, innovative thinking — that broke with past patterns and practices. This session reviews how a contemporary civic engagement initiative uses innovative thinking and approaches to the rules, procedures, mechanics, pressure points, lobbying, institutional participants, and civic involvement to re-conceptualize labor-community coalition-building and ultimate goals, and in this way formulate new approaches to influencing public policymakers and mobilizing public support. Students will apply what they have learned to construct their own model for engaging the policymaking process.

Session 8: Class Dialogue: Civic Engagement Challenges in 2020 and Beyond

*** Certificate Presentation & Reception ***

This session focuses on key challenges civic engagement leaders and activists face with the upcoming 2020 elections. Discussion will center on ways in which CELD students — based on what they have learned — could civic engagement initiatives should tackle overlapping local, state, and national political dynamics.


Photo credit: Ted Eytan @tedeytan

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CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

25 West 43rd Street, 18th Floor

New York, NY 10036

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