2024 CommUnity Conference: Civic Health in Wisconsin and Beyond

CommUnity Conference

The CommNS is excited to be returning to civic health for the 2024 CommUnity Conference, in collaboration with our partners in the Civic Health of Wisconsin Initiative. We look forward to connecting with community leaders, students, faculty, researchers, and nonprofit professionals — all of whom bring unique perspectives on building more vibrant, democratic, and engaged communities.

Mark your calendars for April 16th, 2024! The full-day convening will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Union South.

Register now!

Join or Die Movie Screening! – Monday, April 15, 2024

Please join us for our Pre-CommUnity Conference event at the Marquee Theater (Union South) at 6:30pm.

The event is free and open to the public! No registration required!

Click for more information!

Agenda at a glance – Tuesday, April 16, 2024

*Please refer to the bottom for comprehensive descriptions of each session!

 

8am | Registration, Networking, Continental Breakfast

Collaboration Cafe with tabling and interactive activities *available all day

9am | Opening Remarks & Sneak Peek/Preview into 2024 Civic Health of WI Report

10am | Session A

Local News and Civic Health

We Want You! It Takes a Village to Raise Responsible Citizens

Civic Health: A Key Factor for Improving Community Health and Social Connectedness

Youth Voting Access and Civic Engagement

11:15am | Session B

The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy

Grassroots Efforts for Civic Health

Making Your Community More Engaged: Local Government Actions & Partnerships

12:15pm | Grab Lunch

12:45pm | Keynote Session

2:15pm | Session C

Civics Education at All Ages and Information Discernment

Constructive Dialogue Strategies – An Introduction! And Practice Strategies

Global Perspectives on Civic Health

Policy Issues and Advocacy for Civic Health

3:15 pm | Snack Break in the Collaborative Cafe

3:40 pm | Closing session

(report outs from breakouts and civic health reflection + action exercise)

4:40 pm | Post-Event Networking

 

*Stay tuned for updates on bonus sessions!*

CommUnity Conference 2024 Session & Speaker Information

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All Day | Collaboration Cafe

Throughout the day, CommUnity Conference attendees will be encouraged to visit our “Collaboration Cafe” area, where we’ll offer some snacks and the opportunity for informal networking. All participants can share information about their respective organizations and civic health efforts through an open tabling opportunity – no need to reserve a table; we’ll have a space where all can share their literature and materials. A special feature on the importance of Third Places in civic health and the opportunity to register to vote will also be part of our Collaboration Cafe.

9am | Opening Remarks & Sneak Peek/Preview into 2024 Civic Health of WI Report

Our Civic Health of Wisconsin Initiative launched after the publication of our first ever Civic Health of Wisconsin Report in 2020, which shared data and information which highlighted the state of Wisconsin’s civic health, through various metrics related to voting, volunteering, connecting with our neighbors, philanthropy, education, media, and more. The Second Civic Health of Wisconsin Report is now underway, with anticipated publication in Summer 2024. The second report will share much more information than the first, drawing upon robust research and information about the way Wisconsinites civically engage, and challenges and opportunities for our collective civic health. Hear from the team of co-authors of the Second Civic Health of Wisconsin Report about key metrics that have been identified in our second round of reporting. This information report will help orient participants to the current status of Wisconsin’s civic health, how it has changed since our last report, and key issues to focus on throughout the day’s sessions as well as in our future work to nurture civic health in our state. 

10am | Session A

Local News and Civic Health

This session will take stock of the state of local news and the value of local news, especially as it relates to civic engagement. It will explore how Wisconsinites are getting information that would support their ability to be more involved in their community and informed about their government and leaders. There will be time for questions from the audience. 

Organizers:

  • Judy Davidoff, editor of Isthmus
  • Eve Galanter, president of Galanter Public Affairs Consulting

Speakers:

  • Rob Chappell, executive editor of Madison365
  • Luis Montoto, co-founder and programming director of La Movida Radio
  • Michael W. Wagner, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, director of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal at UW-Madison

 

We Want You! It Takes a Village to Raise Responsible Citizens

Becoming responsible and engaged citizens requires more than a few civics lessons. Young people need opportunities to apply their civic knowledge, skills, and attributes in meaningful ways in their schools and communities. This session will explore the current state of civic education in Wisconsin along with opportunities for any individual or organization to contribute toward raising responsible citizens in their communities. Be ready to put your civic skills to use in this interactive session!

Organizers:

  • Wisconsin Civic Learning Coalition

Speakers: 

  • Libby Falck, Director of Research & Product Design at iCivics
  • Kevin Miller, K-12 teacher, administrator, and consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
  • Abby Pfisterer, Director of PK-12 Education at the Wisconsin Historical Society

 

Civic Health: A Key Factor for Improving Community Health and Social Connectedness 

The relationship between community health and civic health is underscored by the understanding that a truly healthy society goes beyond physical well-being—it thrives on active engagement, connectivity, and a shared commitment to community betterment. The collaboration between these two areas strengthens the foundation for a healthier and more resilient society. At the heart of this connection is the essence of belonging and the spaces we nurture for dialogue, discourse and problem solving for our collective health.

In this session we will explore how community health promotion, the social determinants of health and efforts to create communities that foster a sense of belonging are integral to all of our health and well being. This panel discussion aims to highlight initiatives across Wisconsin that can create a supportive and health-conscious environment where individuals are actively engaged in promoting their well-being and the well-being of the community as a whole.

Organizers: 

  • Marjory Givens, Associate Director of UW Population Health Institute, Co-Director of County Health Rankings & Roadmaps
  • Margarita Northrop, Healthy Wisconsin Coordinator at Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • Soraya Willems-Neal, Special Projects Coordinator with the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) Group at UW Population Health Institute

Panel moderator:

  • Paula Tran, State Health Officer and Administrator of the Division of Public Health at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Speakers:

  • Kadijha Marquardt-Davis, Director of Advocacy & Civic Health, Program Founder & Director at ECCHO (Engaging Communities to Change Health Outcomes)
  • Shelly Shaw, Director of the Office of Community Health at UW-Madison Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
  • Korbey White, Health Program Manager for the State of Wisconsin

 

Youth Voting Access and Civic Engagement

This session will discuss the importance and power of the youth vote in Wisconsin and draw from our knowledge and experiences as organizers across the state to provide insight into how students, educators, and community members can work to increase youth voting in Wisconsin. The panel discussion will feature a group of speakers from diverse sectors related to youth civic engagement.

Speakers:

  • Beth Sondel, Director of Education and Organizing for the Civics Center
  • Debra Cronmiller, Executive Director of League of Women Voters of Wisconsin

11:15am | Session B

The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy

Amidst polarization and divisiveness, companies continue to advance strategies that support corporate social responsibility and their position as corporate citizens.  This session will explore how companies, communities, and advocates are banding together to create innovative solutions to the child care crisis across Wisconsin while recognizing the complexity of navigating the ever present political discourse. Moderated by Tony Shields, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network, this engaging and insightful conversation will highlight approaches that foster real change for companies and communities.

Organizers:

  • Noah Salata, Senior Community & Social Impact Specialist Grantmaking and Community Engagement at American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation
  • Tony Shields, President & CEO of Wisconsin Philanthropy Network

Speakers:

  • Jilly Gokalgandhi, American Family Institute
  • Ruth Schmidt, Executive Director at Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA)

 

Grassroots Efforts for Civic Health

All across Wisconsin, individuals and groups are doing creative and impactful things to nurture and sustain civic health!  Join in this discussion facilitated by the Director of Wisconsin Partners, Rachel Peller, who will moderate a conversation among representatives of diverse grassroots initiatives from across Wisconsin.  Hear about their different projects, ranging from mobilizing youth organizers, to finding ways to civically engage incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Wisconsinites, to hosting a local variety show to bridge across difference, to deploying community members to hold local government accountable for equity initiatives.  Explore what barriers and bright spots exist in this work.  Share about the work you may be aware of or a part of in your community.  Re-ignite your spark to creatively work for civic health.

Facilitator:

  • Rachel Peller, Wisconsin Partners

Speakers:

  • Alisson Anguiano Salas, Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT)
  • Dennis Franklin, EXPO of Wisconsin
  • Nancy Jones, Stronger Together Fox Valley
  • Claudia Looze, American Shindig
  • Tamra Oman, EXPO of Wisconsin
  • Guy Anahkwet Reiter, Menikanaehkem – Community Rebuilders
  • Anthony Wood, American Shindig

 

Making Your Community More Engaged: Local Government Actions & Partnerships

Many communities struggle to find ways to make their community more engaged. If people aren’t engaged, don’t feel welcomed, or don’t know how things work, they struggle to reach their full potential. Local governments impact citizens’ daily life and have an opportunity to make their communities more engaged. This panel will explore actions these local governments can take on their own and in partnership with other civil society and private sector groups. Participants will then reflect on actions they can take in their community to better engage local governments in their quest to make their residents more engaged.

Organizers:

  • Daniel D. Foth, Local Government Education Program and Public Manager Program at UW Extension
  • Gavin Luter, UniverCity Alliance
  • Zach Vruwink, League of Wisconsin Municipalities

Speakers:

  • Kristy Kumar, Equity and Social Justice Manager, City of Madison. 
  • Megan McBride, Community Development Department, City of Beloit
  • Mayor Shawn Reilly, City of Waukesha
  • Mayor Anissa Welch, City of Milton

12:45pm | Keynote Session

Our CommUnity Conference Keynote Session will feature a panel of national nonpartisan organizations that are implementing programming in Wisconsin related to civic health. The conversation will explore the work each organization is doing, the key issues they identify with respect to civic health in our state, and what we can do to contribute to positive change. The panel facilitator, Tamia Fowlkes, is a Public Investigator for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has previously worked with the Washington Post, USA Today, and as a student representative for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

Lead facilitator:

  • Tamia Fowlkes, Public Investigator for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Participating Organizations:

  • Americorps
  • Braver Angels
  • Bridging Divides Initiative
  • Carter Center
  • Keep Our Republic
  • Local Policy Lab
  • Sphere Project CATO Institute
  • We are Many – United Against Hate
  • Urban Rural Action

2:15pm | Session C

Civic Learning and Engagement Across the Lifespan

We all must continue learning about issues that affect our communities, voting and elections, and other ways to engage, well after our formal schooling.  And, staying engaged in activities and volunteerism that keep us connected is a key aspect of staying civically healthy.  Increased isolation, changing media landscapes and decline in volunteerism and group activities signal challenges to these important components of civic health. How are Wisconsinites staying current on information they need, and how are they staying engaged in their communities?  What could we be doing better to support life-long learning and engagement?  Join the Carter Center, AARP of Wisconsin, Americorps, and United Way of Wisconsin to explore these critical questions.

Speakers:

  • Emily Conklin, United Way
  • Rachel Donaldson, Serve Wisconsin
  • David Haynes, The Carter Center
  • Amber Miller, AARP of Wisconsin
  • Andrea Robles, Americorps
  • Laura Schlachter, Americorps
  • Anthony Trombi, Keep Our Republic

 

Constructive Dialogue Strategies – An Introduction! And Practice Strategies

Join Urban Rural Action, a national organization which brings together Americans across divides, along with contributors to the Civic Health of Wisconsin Initiative to explore strategies for constructive dialogue and bridging across differences in your community!  In these times when we hear about and experience polarization, it’s important to remember that we often have more in common than not.  However, we may need strategies for re-engaging with others as we have become more isolated in social and digital settings which may lack diversity of perspectives.  In this workshop, we’ll explore Urban Rural Action’s strategies for constructive dialogue and ways dialogue can lead to understanding and collaboration in our communities.  Participants will leave the session with practical tactics to use in every day life, as well as receive information about a range of other strategies and tools curated by the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, which can help them develop and deploy these skills across a variety of settings.

Organizers:

  • Lisa Inks, Senior Director of Urban Rural Action
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies

 

Global Perspectives on Civic Health

This session is co-hosted by the University of Wisconsin Law School and the School of Human Ecology, bringing together a panel of UW scholars to speak on civic health in the global context, including pressing themes such as global decline in democracy, modern challenges to pro-democratic systems and engagement, and ways groups around the world are championing civic health in the face of these concerning issues.

The expert panel for this session features:

  • Sumudu Atapattu, University of Wisconsin School of Law
  • Joshua Braver, University of Wisconsin School of Law
  • Lori DiPrete Brown, UW-Madison School of Human Ecology and Director of the 4W Initiative
  • Heinz Klug, University of Wisconsin School of Law
  • Mark Sidel, University of Wisconsin School of Law

Mary Beth Collins, Executive Director of the UW-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, will facilitate a discussion on panelists’ respective observations of and scholarship on civic health trends, challenges, and promising efforts in various global contexts. Participants will learn not only about civic health in the global context, but also how global trends relate to civic health in Wisconsin.

 

Policy Considerations for Civic Health

Join in a workshop to explore what policies support civic health, and what policy changes might be needed for a more civically healthy Wisconsin.  Background research findings will be furnished by representatives of the State Democracy Research Initiative and the Civic Health of Wisconsin Initiative.  Participants will share perspectives from their own experiences and work in communities to brainstorm what might be needed and possible to break down barriers to civic health and participation, build more trust in and trustworthy government, and nurture and protect the ingredients to a functional democracy in Wisconsin’s communities and as a state.  Ideas generated at this session will be summarized and shared across our Civic Health of Wisconsin network.

Speakers:

  • Bryna Godar, State Democracy Research Initiative at University of Wisconsin Law School
  • Emily Lau, State Democracy Research Initiative at University of Wisconsin Law School