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What is Public Achievement anyway?

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Public Achievement was created in 1990 by Harry Boyte in partnership with the City of Saint Paul and several other key collaborators. It grew out of a series of focus groups - involving over 200 young people in a variety of settings - in which the youth were asked about problems in their schools and communities, and about their views on politics and public life. These young people were capable of listing any number of problems, but saw themselves outside of the solutions and outside of politics and public life. The meeting at which Public Achievement was founded took place on May 24, 1990, at the Martin Luther King Center in St. Paul.

Public Achievement was designed to give young people the opportunity to be producers and creators of their schools and their communities, not simply customers or clients. The goals of Public Achievement in its pilot project stage were to test whether young people could learn to have an impact on problems in their schools and neighborhoods in a serious way, to define this work in political terms, and to integrate civic education into institutions that work with young people.

Public Achievement is a model for civic engagement and education focused on the most basic concepts of citizenship: democracy and public work. Public Achievement draws on the talents and desires of ordinary people to build a better world and to create a different kind of politics. It started with young people, and young people today still do Public Achievement in many parts of the United States and internationally. Now, adults are also using Public Achievement to engage in public life through colleges, faith-based institutions, businesses and civic groups.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs