History

In 1990, the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs created the Public Achievement organizing model.

It grew out of a series of focus groups involving over 200 young people in a variety of settings in Minnesota. The youth were asked about problems in their schools and communities and about their views on politics and public life. They named many problems, but saw themselves outside of the solutions and outside of politics and public life. Nobody had ever asked them what they could do about the problems that mattered to them.

Public Achievement was first implemented in schools. It gave young people the opportunity to be producers and creators of their communities, not simply customers or clients. They showed that they could do serious work and have an impact on real problems.

Today, Public Achievement is used in schools and communities in several states, and around the world in Turkey and Eastern Europe, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel, and Gaza and the West Bank.

Those sites continue to be learning laboratories to discover what works in engaging young people in public life. Many of the lessons learned from these efforts are listed under tools and resources.

An internationally-recognized model
Public Achievement has been recognized as one of the best youth citizenship education efforts in the world. In 2007, it was named one of 15 finalists for the prestigious Carl Bertelsmann prize. Awarded annually since 1981, the international award recognizes “innovative approaches and outstanding ideas that help shape and further develop democratic societies.”