Frequently Asked Questions

What good does joining the Institute for Civility in Government do?

The purpose of the Institute is to combine the voices of people who believe that civility is important. By joining, you spread the word in your community that differences in ideology are not insurmountable, that dialogue trumps discord, and that treating adversaries as enemies is not an acceptable way to conduct politics in the United States.

But more than that, by joining the Institute, you use your voice and your resources to stand behind the cause across the country. The more people we represent, the louder our voice in city halls, statehouses, and in Washington D.C. And the more people we represent, the greater our ability to organize and promote programs like Congressional Student Forums, Civility Training Workshops, and Student Legislative Seminars.

What do I get if I join?

Members of the Institute receive a quarterly newsletter filled with updates on our work, reviews of relevant books, and reflections on civility from Institute co-founders Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath. Members receive invitations to Institute events in their area, such as Congressional Student Forums, Open Houses, and other programs. And via email, members receive inspirational quotes of the month.

What members do not receive is a constant barrage of emails and mailings. We want to be connected, but we do not want to be a nuisance. For more frequent updates about Institute events and civility around the web, have a look at The Civility Blog, “like” the Institute on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @CivilGovernment.

I am dissatisfied with my elected officials’ behavior. What are you going to do about it?

The question is: what are you going to do about it? The best way to change our culture of incivility is to model civility in return. So write to your mayor / city councilperson / representative / senator, and let them know, kindly but firmly, what you think. And if you need help, please email us and tell us about your situation. If we know the problem, we can better help you come up with strategies to solve it.

My elected official is a paragon of civility. Can the Institute endorse him / her or otherwise help him / her get reelected?

No. The Institute for Civility in Government is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means that we cannot endorse anyone for any political office, or take a position on any issue.

We encourage you, however, to write to your elected official and ask him / her to participate in a Congressional Student Forum, or appear as a guest on The Civility Blog. The Institute does not hold Congressional Student Forums during the fall campaign season. But still, it’s good exposure, it’s good for us, and it’s good for the cause of civility.

Why focus on civility in government?

The Institute for Civility in Government believes in civility everywhere, in all walks of life, public and private. But we focus on the governing process because it is so visible, because it is something in which we all have a stake, because it is a venue where we can make a positive change, and because by changing the culture of government, we believe that we can change the culture at large.

With so many pressing policy problems facing the United States, why focus on civility at all?

If recent history has taught us anything, it is that if we cannot speak freely and respectfully about our genuine and firmly-held differences, we cannot accomplish much else. Voter apathy has led to a situation in which a small but vocal fringe determines the meaning of ideological purity. And incivility among constituents, political candidates, and elected representatives has led to a situation in which we too often mistake our political adversaries for our enemies.

Civility is a critical first step toward increasing participation in civic life, disarming enmity, and growing effective collaborative relationships. And therein lies a path toward long-term problem solving that recognizes and accommodates the needs of every citizen.

I want to host an event for my organization, or participate in a Congressional Student Forum. Who do I call about that?

The Institute for Civility in Government leads Civility Training Workshops with schools, faith organizations, businesses, and groups in the public and nonprofit sectors. And Institute co-founders Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath are available for speaking engagements, media appearances, exhibits, or conferences. Programs are available in both English and Spanish.

For any and all arrangements, please contact us via email, or via telephone at (713) 444-1254 or (281) 782-4454.