The Path to National Public Service

Founded in 1997 by government law and policy expert, Harry Pozycki, who has served as its full-time leader ever since, The Citizens Campaign attracted other civic leaders, most notably Derek Bok, president of Harvard University (1971 – 1991). With the credibility provided by President Bok, who served on the board of The Citizens Campaign for several years, Harry assembled a team of volunteer experts—former city mayors, school board administrators, municipal attorneys and other experts with a record of getting things done on the local level.  This team, called The Citizens Campaign’s Law & Policy Task Force, chaired by Gary Stein, chief of policy for New Jersey Governor Tom Kean (1982 – 1990),works on a volunteer basis to support citizens, trained in No-Blame Problem Solving©, to adapt successful, cost-effective solutions from other communities for adoption in their own towns and cities.

Citizen Empowerment Laws

In its early years, the Task Force worked with Harry to develop citizen empowerment laws, including the Nation’s strongest Pay-to-Play reform laws to reduce the political dominance of big money; the Open Public Records Act, which gave citizens access to the details and costs of current government policies; the Citizen Service Act, which opened the doors for citizens to appointed positions on local government boards and commissions; and the Party Democracy Act, which required political parties to adopt constitutions empowering grass roots party representatives.

It soon became clear that the publicity around the adoption of these laws was not enough to inform citizens of their new powers, so The Citizens Campaign began to hold public forums, which started with gatherings of 50 to 100 people, and soon ballooned to conferences of well over a thousand citizens for a single event. 

Citizen Empowerment Education

Realizing that the demand was greater than a small non-profit could handle, Harry wrote THE CITIZENS MANUAL, a text to inform citizens of these new powers, and The Citizens Campaign partnered with the University of Pennsylvania to develop a course, based on THE CITIZENS MANUAL, that could be taught at educational institutions beginning with public high schools.

The course was praised by teachers and leaders in the education community, and successfully piloted in several high schools, but while the impact was much broader given this public education-based approach, it was limited by the fact that the course was offered as an elective that didn’t reach all students.  Undeterred, The Citizens Campaign began working with Political Science teachers to find a way to transform the course into a set of teaching tools that could be embedded in mandatory social studies courses for all students.

The full course was then upgraded for use in colleges and successfully piloted at Rutgers University and Providence College, among others.  To expand further the impact of its citizen empowerment training, The Citizens Campaign developed a curriculum of online video classes for the general public.

The combination of the mandatory high school instruction, the college course, and the online video class curriculum, provided a cost-effective approach to broad citizen empowerment education.  What’s more, citizens who received this leadership training went on to gain adoption of hundreds of local laws that improved their communities.

Citizen Leadership Service

The lessons were learned—broad citizen empowerment education was possible with a proven, cost-effective strategy, and more importantly, empowerment produced “citizen leadership.”  This was an exciting discovery, but it too had a limitation: the majority of the citizens who became successful leaders, gaining adoption of laws to improve their communities, withdrew to their personal lives, satisfied that they had made a contribution.

The challenge now was to find a way that empowered citizens could continue their public service beyond an initial successful experience.  To address this, The Citizens Campaign developed Civic Trusts—non-partisan, local civic associations comprised of a few dozen “citizen leaders” who come together in monthly Solution Sessions to search for successful policies at work in other communities and propose them for adoption in their own.  These “Civic Trustees” serve for a term of one to three years, after which they are term limited, and make room for new citizen leaders.  Civic Trusts were successfully piloted in several cities and proved sustainable, and especially impactful, in economically challenged cities.

Initially, Civic Trustees who choose their own issues, were heavily supported by the Law & Policy Task Force in the development and presentation of their solutions, but the goal of expanding Trusts across the Country had to be addressed.  To this end, Harry Pozycki, with support from the Law & Policy Task Force, developed a step-by-step, No-Blame Problem Solving© Guide, for use by Trustees, that was based on best practices of successful practitioners in researching and implementing evidence-based, cost-effective solutions.  

Importantly, the Guide also required that solutions “benefit the community as a whole” and incorporated a NO-BLAME approach to solutions development and advocacy.  This practical, No-Blame Problem Solving© Guide not only gives Trustees the power to tackle their chosen issues with little or no coaching, it creates a NO-BLAME environment that attracts and maintains Civic Trustee service.   The blame game that dominates our current political culture is rejected by Civic Trustees who now pledge to leave their communities and country better than they found them without pointing fingers or assigning blame.  All that remains is an environment of service and mutual respect. 

A Pipeline of Principled Leaders and Practical Solutions

The Citizens Campaign realized it now had the materials to produce a pipeline of principled leaders and practical solutions — cost-effective high school, college and online citizen leadership training, coupled with attractive, community based public service opportunities in Civic Trusts.  Encouraged by this result, The Citizens Campaign produced CITIZEN POWER, a citizen leadership training text that introduces the Art of No-Blame Problem Solving and Civic Trustee service, for use in all 50 states.

And in order to accelerate countrywide implementation, The Citizens Campaign built a ‘Citizen Power Portal’ to largely automate and make broadly accessible teacher and professor training and support and facilitation of Civic Trusts on a national basis.  It also developed a list, with full contact information, of all community college political science professors in the Country, so that it can offer its training tools and on-campus citizen leadership service to them directly and efficiently.

Then, it all came together.  The citizen leadership training tools, text, and Civic Trusts began to attract the support of national organizations.  First, the NFL Alumni Association offered a partnership to promote The Citizens Campaign’s National Citizen Leadership Initiative.  Next, local and national community college associations provided platforms for introducing the Campaign’s citizen leadership training and service programs to community college presidents across the Country.  Soon thereafter, Rutgers University Press published CITIZEN POWER and agreed to make it available for free to community colleges.  Significantly, Rogers Smith, highly esteemed Political Science professor and president of the American Political Science Association (2018-2019), committed his support for The Citizens Campaign program to offer its citizen leadership training tools, including the text CITIZEN POWER, and its facilitation of Civic Trusts, to all 1,081 community colleges in the Country—effectively creating a new National Public Service. 

A New National Public Service

The Citizens Campaign’s goal is now in sight.  The teaching tools for educating all Americans to the fullness of their political power have been successfully piloted.  The Civic Trusts have been tested and are sustainable.  The strategy of embedding these leadership training and service opportunities in community colleges, coupled with the ability to give newly empowered citizens the opportunity for on-campus citizen leadership service, establish the core components for a new National Public Service.

A National Public Service that unlike past ones, is community based, cost effective, and importantly, one that will produce a nationwide pipeline of principled leaders and practical solutions, giving America the capacity to tackle the problems of the 21st century.