CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, is a non-partisan, independent research organization focused on youth civic engagement in the United States. We conduct extensive research on youth participation, and we leverage that research to improve opportunities for all young people to acquire and use the skills and knowledge they need to meaningfully participate in civic life. In all of our work, we are especially concerned with understanding, addressing, and ultimately eliminating the systemic barriers that keep some young people marginalized from and underrepresented in civic life.
We conduct and share practical research about how a broader diversity of young people can have a voice on issues that they care about, and in the democratic processes, in order to play a role in forwarding solutions to the community problems. We call this civic engagement, which can include a wide range of actions and activities: voting and electoral engagement, activism and volunteering, media use and creation, and other ways in which youth participate in their communities and in the political process.
We are especially interested in the academic, social, professional, and economic benefits to young people and to their communities when they engage in civic life. We seek to understand and improve the contexts and conditions that shape youth engagement, which are too often inequitable, with special emphasis on K-12 civic education's role in preparing youth to participate in democracy. Our research informs policy and practice in order to drive substantive change–whether in the classroom, the county clerk's office, or the community organization–that promotes stronger youth development and a more inclusive society.
CIRCLE was founded in 2001 at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. Since 2008, we have been based at Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. In 2021, we celebrated CIRCLE's 20th anniversary and produced CIRCLE at 20, a major report on our work and impact over the past two decades.
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CIRCLE's work is guided by core values that encapsulate our vision for how to ethically, equitably, and effectively work as a team; pursue change with others; and support greater and more equitable youth civic participation. We strive to uphold and promote these values in how we conduct our work and ourselves.
Strengthening civic education and engagement is a necessarily collaborative endeavor that draws on multiple strategies, experiences, and types of knowledge. We view partnerships across a wide range of fields as core to our mission, and our work is constantly informed by our relationships with practitioners, youth, and other advocates.
For nearly two decades, CIRCLE has been a premier source of data on youth civic engagement and a key partner in efforts to increase and diversity young people's participation. We're proud of our contributions to critical scholarship, our advocacy for reforms, and our influence on public conversations about youth and democracy.