Working together to build a more connected, informed, and engaged Wisconsin.

Civic Health of Wisconsin

The Civic Health of Wisconsin initiative is dedicated to strengthening current civic health efforts around Wisconsin, to spur innovation and foster more connected and engaged communities. The initiative includes a steering committee and broader network of nonpartisan organizations involved in civic health efforts spanning democratic participation, volunteerism, and community connection, among other issues. To stay connected to the initiative, share your contact information for timely updates and join our Civic Health of Wisconsin Facebook Page.

The Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies has partnered with the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) and a coalition of nonpartisan organizations to publish the first report on civic health across Wisconsin. The report summarizes data from the 2019 Civic Health Index™ on Wisconsin residents’ civic engagement and community connectedness. These data are presented alongside Wisconsin demographic information, civics education standards, trends in local politics and news, and current civic health efforts.

Download the report

The Civic Health of Wisconsin initiative is using these data to strengthen existing civic engagement efforts and spur innovative new approaches to civic health. Coalition members include:

Campus Compact for Wisconsin
The Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management at UW-Milwaukee
League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Morgridge Center for Public Service at UW-Madison
The UniverCity Alliance at the UW-Madison
UW-Madison Division of Extension
Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service

Coalition members have committed to engaging in civic health efforts informed by the report. To learn more about their commitments, ongoing civic health efforts, and other Wisconsin data, explore the pages below.

Arts and Culture

Arts Wisconsin Arts Wisconsin is Wisconsin’s community cultural development organization, activating a vibrant creative economy and access to creative opportunities statewide.
Purple River Project Purple River Project is a year-long look into the culture and changing political landscape of Wisconsin’s Mississippi River valley counties.

Civic Health in Rural and Small Town Wisconsin

Center for the Small City The Center for the Small City, housed in the College of Letters and Science of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, sponsors the biennial National Conference that brings academics, small city elected officials and staff together to discuss the development, needs, and problems affecting small cities.
Wisconsin Rural Partners Wisconsin Rural Partners Inc. is a neutral, nonprofit organization that brings together a cross section of residents, organizations & leaders that cross political affiliations & organizational boundaries to advance initiatives important to rural communities throughout the state.

Coalition Building

Campus Compact for Wisconsin Campus Liaisons Campus Compact advances the public purpose of colleges and universities by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.
Wisconsin Partners Wisconsin Partners is a coalition of statewide associations and civic-led community groups committed to deep collaboration. Our goal is to be an effective community-building network that brings about positive change through the building of the enduring broad-based relationships that make bold action possible.
Wisconsin Public Health Association WPHA is the largest and most recognized membership association for public health professionals in Wisconsin. WPHA’s mission is building a healthier, safer Wisconsin through policy and partnership.

Data and Technical Assistance

WiCC IMPACT Project The WiCC IMPACT project attempts to catalogue all partnerships in the state between WiCC campuses and their communities of interest.
Forward Labs Forward Labs works with community-based organizations and cities throughout the state of Wisconsin (and beyond) to design tools, games, and experiences that bolster participation in local democracy.
League of Wisconsin Municipalities The League of Wisconsin Municipalities was created to help Wisconsin cities and villages share ideas and learn from one another, to train and provide information to the people elected and appointed to govern those cities and villages, and to advocate on their behalf with the Wisconsin Legislature, Governor and state agencies.
Local Government Center We teach, learn, lead and serve, connecting people with the University of Wisconsin, and engaging with them in transforming lives and communities.
Polco Polco’s civic engagement platform makes meaningful communication between community leaders and the people they serve not only possible, but enjoyable.
WI Institute for Public Policy and Service The mission of Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service is to address local, state and national issues by linking public scholarship, civic outreach and student service to enhance community life throughout Wisconsin.

Democratic Participation

Madison area coalition for voters of Color Madison area churches, nonprofits, college students and others are joining forces to make sure that voters of color can get to the polls armed with the documents they need to vote.
ACLU Get out the Vote The ACLU of Wisconsin is the state affiliate of the national ACLU and is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization. The ACLU of Wisconsin has 13,000 members and is dedicated to defending the civil liberties and civil rights of all Wisconsin residents.
Badgers Vote Coalition Vote Everywhere is a national, non-partisan, initiative to register, educate, and empower young voters through civic engagement and voter information. This branch of the organization works with University of Wisconsin students and alumni.
Wisconsin League of Women Voters The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, grassroots, political organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government. Our members are women and men who work to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through education and advocacy.
Building Unity Bus Tour The Building Unity Tour is about making connections, raising awareness, and taking action for change. By listening, informing, finding common ground, and seeking solutions, together we can help each other build the unity we need to realize the world we all dream of.
Voces de la Frontera Voces de la Frontera is a membership-based community organization led by low-wage workers, immigrants and youth whose mission is to protect and expand civil rights and workers’ rights through leadership development, community organizing and empowerment.
Wisconsin Council of Churches The Wisconsin Council of Churches offers resources to assist you and other members of your congregation in exercising your rights and responsibilities as voters.
Wisconsin Farmers Union The Wisconsin Farmers Union membership is made up of people from all walks of agriculture and life. From conventional to organic, rural to urban, our members find community in an organization that empowers them to have a voice in the issues that affect them.
Wisconsin Philanthropy Network The Joyce Foundation has provided funding for a two-year project to engage regional funders in ensuring a more thorough and accurate census count in 2020. The Forum will focus on providing tools, information and other resources on this site that will enable regional funders to advocate with local and state governments to provide adequate funding for census outreach and education.
Wisconsin Voices Wisconsin Voices envisions a Wisconsin where every person has the means, motivation, and freedom to fully participate in a just democracy that provides opportunities for all people to thrive.

Dialogue and Facilitation

Beyond the Headlines Wisconsin Beyond the Headlines is a program of the Wisconsin Humanities Council that brings members of the Wisconsin media and the public together to examine how we can obtain information that we need and trust in order to meet our communities’ challenges.
Center for Community Stewardship The Center for Community Stewardship builds the capacity of people working to make our community better through facilitating community conversations and offering fiscal sponsorship.
Interactivity Foundation The Interactivity Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our democracy through the use of a small-group discussion process to explore diverse perspectives and generate an expanding set of divergent possibilities.
Local Voices Network Local Voices Network aims to surface the perspectives and concerns of residents through facilitated community conversations in person or online that invite anyone and everyone to the table to speak and be heard.
Millennial Action Project Millenial Action Project UW is a student organization focused on creating an environment where students of all political parties can collaborate and discuss solutions to issues that affect our generation.
Reach Out Wisconsin Reach out Wisconsin is a nonpartisan group dedicated to fostering respect and understanding in Wisconsin politics. In an era when the left and the right seem so divided, we want to reach out to each other.
Women’s Fund of Milwaukee The Women’s Fund of Milwaukee hosts Community Talk Backs assembling diverse groups of people and facilitating inter-generational conversation about relevant topics to advancing equity for women.
Zeidler Center The Zeidler Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people have difficult conversations. We offer professional facilitation, team building, strategic planning and community engagement services, working with organizations, neighborhoods, businesses and faith communities across a range of issues.

Leadership Development

Leadership Wisconsin Program The Leadership Wisconsin Program is a partnership of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Extension and Leadership Wisconsin, Inc, to connect and cultivate leaders, and to amplify their effectiveness.
Local Government Institute The Local Government Institute of Wisconsin, Inc. is a not-for-profit, non-partisan corporation representing all citizens of Wisconsin at the local level and created to conduct research, enhance collaboration, and educate the public and policymakers on ways to improve local government’s ability to serve the people.
Running for Elected Office This set of materials – developed by UW-Extension, the Local Government Center, and the League of Women Voters, with contributions from the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Manitowoc County – will help you decide whether you should run, how to run, and how to present the topic to others.
Thompson Center on Public Leadership The Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership provides a multi-disciplinary, non-partisan environment to study, discuss, and improve leadership.
Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute Wisconsin Lake Leaders Institute enhances Wisconsin’s lake resources through leadership, training, and civic engagement.

Volunteering and Civil Society

Medical College of Wisconsin Regional Community Engagement Network An informal group focused on community engagement, organized through the Medical College of Wisconsin Office of Community Engagement.
Feeding Wisconsin Feeding Wisconsin is the statewide association of the Feeding America food banks that sources, warehouses, and provides food to over 750 affiliated agencies and 1,000 local food programs throughout the state.
Water Action Volunteers Water Action Volunteers is a statewide program for Wisconsin citizens who want to learn about and improve the quality of Wisconsin’s streams and rivers.
Wisconsin Master Gardeners The Extension Master Gardener Program educates, empowers, and supports volunteers to use university research-based information to extend the Wisconsin Idea, making a positive difference in lives and communities.
Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program The Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program develops a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities.

Youth Civic Engagement

Civics Games Through the Wisconsin Civics Games and coverage of civic affairs, Wisconsin newspapers aim to help cultivate an understanding among future generations of their role in our democracy.
Dane County Youth Governance Program The Dane County Youth Governance Program offers greater opportunities for youth leadership development and youth empowerment in Dane County through direct participation in county government decision-making.
Future Leaders Active in Government Through FLAG, high school students explore the role of local government and decision-making processes at the county level. Students acquire valuable leadership skills and connections, learn to voice their opinions, and understand they have the ability to identify important issues and work within government and systems to address those issues and concerns.
Kenosha County Youth as Resources Kenosha County Youth As Resources (YAR) is a grant-giving program which funds youth-designed, youth-led community service projects in Kenosha County. Youth, with guidance from adults, determine the project they believe will address a need in their community.
Kids Voting USA-Wisconsin/Marathon County Kids Voting Wisconsin is part of a national network of nonpartisan, not-for-profit organizations that collaborate with schools and election officials to promote civic education and citizenship among K-12 students.
DC Trips – The Kohl Foundation and Boys and Girls Club Jainsville Scholarships made possible by a grant from the Herbert H. Kohl Charities Foundation allow 40 Janesville middle school (6th-8th grade) students to take an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC with Boys & Girls Club of Janesville during the summer.
Teen Court Teen Court offers eligible youth an opportunity to receive a meaningful sanction from a jury of their peers. This experience provides youth an alternative to appearing in juvenile court, justpaying a fine and/or having a criminal record.
Youth in Governance Youth in Governance means youth and adults working together in positions of authority to make decisions and take action to strengthen organizations, communities, and our democratic society.
Youth in Government The Wisconsin YMCA Youth in Government program seeks to foster the next generation of thoughtful, committed, and active citizens. The program aims to enable young people to prepare for leadership through participatory training in the theory and practice of determining public policy.
Youth on Local Boards and Committees UW-Extension is working with county boards and city councils and their committees to include youth representation in several Wisconsin counties.

UW-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies

June to December 2020:

  • Create an online platform for sharing about civic health efforts across Wisconsin, and hosting of the Civic Health of Wisconsin Report and supplemental data.
  • Seek additional financial support and convene an initial advisory group for ongoing civic health of Wisconsin initiative.
  • Convene partners to share strategies and information about civic engagement around specific issues (COVID19 and Racial Justice, spring + June 2020).


  • Continue to seek additional financial support and convene an initial advisory group for ongoing civic health of Wisconsin initiative; explore support for a second, more extensive Civic Health of Wisconsin Report, comparing to inaugural report.
  • Connect with NCoC and the national network of civic health groups to gain knowledge related to peer models for ongoing initiative work and best practices for COVID-19-era civic health and modifications to civic engagement efforts.

Campus Compact for Wisconsin

June 2020 to December 2020:

  • Host higher education summit on what higher education institutions can do to work with community partners and students to promote civic health.
  • Promote the “All In Campus Democracy Challenge” for WI.
  • Promote student participation in the 2020 Census.
  • Promote and engage partners around race, equity, access, diversity, and inclusion in Wisconsin civic health efforts.


  • Promote recommendations of the report and actively convene higher ed leaders to promote civic health activities.
  • Promote and engage partners around race, equity, access, diversity, and inclusion in Wisconsin civic health efforts.

League of Wisconsin Municipalities

June to December 2020: 

  • Publish article on the civic health of Wisconsin effort in League magazine.
  • Explore possibility of hosting webinar focused on civic health of Wisconsin.


  • Focus on action steps or resolutions which may be taken up by local government League members.

League of Women Voters of Wisconsin

June to December 2020: 

  • Work on fair, safe and accessible elections in the Fall of 2020. Provide information and advocacy for adequate PPE, sanitation supplies and COVID related protocols for poll workers and voters.
  • Provide voters candidate information through an online resource, VOTE411.
  • Provide education on the importance of voting and registering to vote.
  • Provide assistance to voters on how to register online and request and complete absentee ballots or utilize other early voting options to minimize the health risks associated with in-person same day voting.
  • Work with the Wisconsin Election Commission and municipalities to ensure all voters have access to the best information through MyVote to access early voting sites, absentee ballots and easy to read voting information including having this information available for voters with limited English proficiency or disabilities.
  • Continue to build awareness on the importance of completing the 2020 Census and build awareness about districting and representative government.


  • Continue 2020 activities in 2021 elections; continue pre-COVID efforts to restore civility in government through education, social media campaigns and public forums (as possible).
  • Work to ensure district maps are drawn in a transparent and nonpartisan, non-disenfranchising manner with the input of citizens.

Serve Wisconsin

June to December 2020: Improve required civic training for AmeriCorps members.

United Way of Wisconsin

June to December 2020: 

  • Survey United Way organizations across Wisconsin for additional information related to volunteerism and other civic health themes; make additional connections and invitations to local organizations to participate in ongoing civic health of Wisconsin initiative.
  • Share about Civic Health of Wisconsin report among member and volunteer coordinator networks; link to Volunteer Wisconsin site.


  • Explore the role of United Way in other states’ civic health efforts.

UW-Madison, Division of Extension

June 2020 to December 2020: 

  • Proceed with county-based programs aimed at increasing youth civic involvement in Wisconsin communities — Teen Court, Youth in Governance, Community Vitality, and Placemaking.
  • Complete evaluation of youth programs and share with civic health Coalition.
  • Inventory civic health work being done by Extension, and connect it to the ongoing civic health of Wisconsin initiative; engage Extension colleagues about future possibilities.
  • Distribute the Civic Health of Wisconsin report to Extension partners and audiences, coupled with highlighting civic health efforts in Wisconsin.
  • Work with WIPPS and others on exploring design and implementation of a local survey instrument.


  • Conduct effort throughout northern Wisconsin counties to promote youth-adult partnerships around civic issues.

UW-Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service

June 2020 to December 2020: 

  • Host one-on-one “Community Conversations” with our community partners with the express purpose of listening to their new and evolving needs due to COVID. Based on what we hear, we will create plans for connecting campus and community through service, learning and research to meet their identified priorities.
  • Support the BadgersVote Coalition, a community-campus coalition committed to supporting student voter registration and engagement efforts on campus
  • Hire a Voter Engagement and Civic Education Coordinator funded by the Andrew Goodman Foundation to support increased efforts at increasing student voter registration, engagement and civic education efforts with special emphasis on lower turn out communities (graduate students, students in STEM fields and students of color)
  • Promote civic health by shepherding UW-Madison’s Civic Action Plan, moving recommendations forward in collaboration with other campus and community partners


  • We’re more committed than ever to try to respond to and match community-identified priorities with student engagement opportunities that enhance students’ learning and development as they define for themselves how to become their best civic selves during trying times like these.

UW-Madison UniverCity Alliance

June to December 2020:

  • Convene a discussion among local government partners on “how to encourage better civic health” generally, or focused on topics of specific community concern.
  • Explore collaboration with other Coalition members to host a workshop about how citizens work with local governments.

UW-Milwaukee Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management

June to December 2020: 

  • Continue work on research project studying the effect of COVID-19 on Wisconsin’s social sector and nonprofit organizations; highlight implications for civic health in Wisconsin; share with policy-makers and other stakeholders.
  • Disseminate, promote and host a virtual presentation/discussion on the Civic Health of Wisconsin Report with Milwaukee-area collaborating organizations.


  • Continued work on COVID-19 effect on Wisconsin’s nonprofit organizations.

Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service

June 2020 to December 2020: 

  • Assist with exploration of a localized survey instrument that could be used to gather information in complement to NCoC statewide data.
  • Through the Toward One Wisconsin Conference, convene stakeholders around racial and other demographic dimensions of civic participation; lead subsequent action steps.

Wisconsin Partners

June to December 2020:

  • Virtual workshop series: “Collaboration in an Age of Isolation and Polarization.”
  • Support of local efforts, including: Stronger Together Fox Valley, a dialogue series in the Fox Valley; and River 2 Ridge Disaster Resiliency and other efforts in Vernon, La Crosse, Crawford and Monroe Counties to encourage local, collaborative solutions to pressing community issues.
  • Collect additional civic health data from association partners; disseminate Civic Health of Wisconsin report and encourage ongoing participation from members and regional partners.

Wisconsin Philanthropy Network

June to December 2020:

  • Create a session to share and discuss findings of Civic Health of Wisconsin report to Wisconsin’s philanthropic community.

Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee

June to December 2020: 

  • Promote participation in Census 2020.
  • Share Civic Health of Wisconsin report among Wisconsin Alliance of Women’s Funds network, possibly hosting “Women’s Fund Conversation over Coffee” for discussion ad feedback.
  • “Community Talk Back” event in June 2020 to discuss the history of the 19th Amendment, voting rights, and activities related to voter engagement.
  • Promote Wisconsin voter participation in August and November 2020 elections.
  • Provide grants to area nonprofits to promote civic health.