Center for Civic Engagement
Effective, relevant, and respectful civic engagement work starts from a deep, nuanced understanding of the community being affected, the issues it faces, and the people working to resolve those issues. The AUCA Center for Civic Engagement thus supports a suite of research programming to enhance the knowledge-base for civic engagement programming in the Kyrgyz Republic. This research is not only supports the work of AUCA students, faculty, and staff, but also provides key support and data to community partners, the government, and international organizations. Our research programming falls into three core categories:
From local NGOs to the National Parliament, many organizations in the Kyrgyz Republic struggle to communicate with local stakeholders, to develop responsive programming and strategies, and to learn from past mistakes and successes. Similarly, many AUCA students struggle to effectively design and implement their own community interventions, ultimately shutting down their programs due to low interest from the people they intend to engage, poor organizational management, or a combination of both.
In response to both of these challenges, the CCE has designed an “action research” program, engaging select AUCA students in workshops on organizational development, NGO strategy, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), then facilitating these students to advise community-partner-NGOs on these issues. The hands-on research experience helps these students think more critically about their own work while giving them a solid background in the growing field of development M&E. Meanwhile, community-partner-NGOs receive high quality review of their work and suggestions for improvement, either for free or for substantially less than market price (depending on each NGO’s financial capacity). Ultimately, the CCE intends to create a new generation of skilled professionals willing and able to tackle the most challenging development priorities faced by their countries.
Though phrases like “civic engagement” and “social capital” are enjoying a renaissance among Kyrgyzstani development actors, little is understood about how local citizens understand these concepts, the extent to which citizens engage in civic-minded activities (and if so, with which organizations and on what issues), barriers to citizens’ participation, and enabling or motivating platforms that could increase grassroots participation.
As a first step to filling these knowledge gaps, the CCE is adapting the 2002 European Social Survey (ESS1) - including its special module on measuring citizens’ civic engagement - to the Kyrgyzstani context. With its extensive testing and high-quality Russian translation, the ESS is an ideal survey instrument to build from, though key changes are needed to adapt it to the governmental, familial, religious, and social context of the Kyrgyz Republic. The adapted questionnaire will be translated to Kyrgyz and tested on the AUCA campus in the 2019 fall, with roll-out to the national level (for statistical relevance across all regions and gender-, ethnic-, and socio-economic breakdowns) in the 2020 spring, pending the successful of the fall pilot and sufficient financing for national implementation.
Beginning in the 2019 fall, the CCE will support AUCA faculty to integrate experiential and community-based learning techniques into their courses by, for example, providing planning and organizational support, engaging local partners to host class projects, and facilitating post-project reflection sessions. While an extensive and wide-ranging literature exists on the success of these methods in the United States, such approaches are new to the Kyrgyz Republic. As such, the CCE will support faculty members to study how effective these methods were in their own classes (e.g. in terms of student learning and community satisfaction) as a first step toward creating a broader body of academic support for community-based learning in the Kyrgyz Republic and in development contexts more broadly. Such an evidence base may eventually serve for CCE advocacy to the Ministry of Education and other educational institutions in the Kyrgyz Republic to implement CBL methods.
To learn more about these research programs or with further questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.