Core Concepts of Public Achievement

“Core concepts” are a defining feature of Public Achievement; they distinguish PA from community service and many forms of service learning. Public Achievement is unique because speech and action are framed in terms of their political and public dimensions.

Any experience has multiple dimensions– i.e. educational: what did I learn? psychological: how do I feel? inter-personal: how did we work together? practical: what did we do? and political: what are the power dynamics at play, how do our actions affect the larger public? Concepts enable us to consider the broader implications of this work, to situate it in a larger public sphere, and to compare it against other forms of action. At the same time, the actual work done informs one’s understandings of political concepts. In practical terms, it is not difficult to incorporate concepts into work, simple questions like– how is your project public? what power does the administrator have over this issue? what power does our group have?– can go a long way in helping teams be more effective.

  1. Public Work
    The organizing concept of PA, defined as the work of ordinary citizens, who together, solve public problems and create things of lasting importance in our community, nation, or world.
  2. Politics
    Politics is the everyday processes of negotiating situations involving power relations and making public decisions (i.e. bargaining, making decisions, and thinking strategically).
  3. Citizenship
    Citizenship is the on-going contribution of citizens to our common world.
  4. Democracy
    The rule or work of the people.
  5. Freedom
    Is a product of collective self-determination. In other words, we are free if we live under the laws, society, or world that we have made for ourselves.
  6. Public
    There are three related meanings to the concept “public” that are relevant to Public Achievement: as a group of people, a kind of space, and a common interest. Creating a project that is “public” is one of the important steps in the Public Achievement process.
  7. Free Spaces
    The concepts of public and freedom are combined in the idea of free spaces. Free spaces are places where people can express themselves, honestly disagree, and work together to take action. Public Achievement presents an opportunity for citizens to create their own free spaces for action.
  8. Interests
    What makes a particular person or group connected to (or interested in) an issue or problem.
  9. Diversity
    Is a fact of public life. In the public world, one encounters a variety of different people, ideas, histories, and cultures. To effectively solve public problems, one must learn to listen, appreciate, and work with others who, while different from themselves, are also affected by the same public issues and problems.
  10. Power
    Is the ability to influence other people, institutions, or processes.
  11. Accountability/Responsibility
    Being accountable is being answerable to, in PA students are accountable to the group and the public world.

Summary of Basic Steps
These are the basic steps for teachers integrating PA:

  • Identify how you want to incorporate PA;
  • Introduce PA to your students;
  • Guide the development of issues, goals, and objectives;
  • Guide project development and research;
  • Develop reflection activities;
  • Connect project work to standards of learning;
  • Develop assessment measures;
  • Assist in project planning;
  • Facilitate completion of the project(s); and
  • Guide celebration planning.

Public Achievement (like this guide) is a work in progress. It is continually being revised, altered, and improved based on the participants’ experiences. We actively seek input from those involved with the program. So send an email to Elaine Eschenbacher at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship to let us know what worked and what didn’t, and what you, as well as your students, think can be done to improve Public Achievement.