Social Innovation and Civic Intelligence


Fall 2013, Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 quarters

Taught by

social informatics, computer supported cooperative work, computer science, software engineering

We are surrounded with problems that aren't going away; problems that cannot be solved by individuals acting alone. At the same time, a variety of powerful barriers often stand in the way of working together successfully. And all too frequently, the institutions that are supposed to help in these matters seem either oppositional or ineffectual.

How can we develop and nurture the "civic intelligence" that will help ensure our actions produce the best outcomes? What sorts of creative and, often courageous, actions, events, policies, and institutions are people devising to help meet these challenges? And how can these add up to more widespread and enduring social change? As John Robinson of UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability stated, "If we can't imagine a better world, we won't get it."

Social innovation helps us to create and ponder possible futures. Civic intelligence is an evolving, cross-disciplinary perspective that examines, proposes, initiates, and evaluates collective capacity for the common good. It builds on concepts from sociology and other social sciences but also intersects with most — or all — of the other disciplines including the hard sciences, education, cognitive science, the media, and the humanities. In this three quarter program we will focus our efforts — both reflective and action-oriented — on the theory and practice of social innovation and civic intelligence in which "ordinary" people begin to assume greater power and responsibility for creating a future that is more responsive to the needs of people and the planet. 

Throughout the program we will gain understanding and skills through collaborative projects, workshops, films, experiments, games, and group processes. All quarters will include theoretical readings and workshops. Spring quarter will also involve student projects with the goal of effecting real-world change.

Students will help determine the topics for winter and spring, which may include deliberation, alternative economics, collective memory, cooperation, media, participatory design, inequality, or war and peace.

Students registering for 12 credits will be working within CIRAL, the Civic Intelligence Research Action Laboratory, for 4 of their credits. CIRAL is designed to help support ongoing, student-led, collaborative projects. It is intended to foster sustained and engaged relationships with groups, organizations, movements, and institutions.  In addition to our regular meetings, these students will meet each Wednesday before class from 4:30 to 6:00.


Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

social service, non-profit organizations, government, education, journalism

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Evening and Weekend

Advertised schedule: 6:15-10p Wed, 10a-5p Sat (four Saturdays per quarter: fall: Oct. 5, 26, Nov. 16, Dec. 7; winter: Jan 11, Feb 1 & 15, Mar 8; spring: Apr 5, 26, May 17, 31).  Students registering for 12 credits will also meet Wednesdays 4:30 to 6p.


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.


Date Revision
November 1st, 2013 Spring dates added.
September 30th, 2013 Winter dates added.

Registration Information

Credits: 8, 12 (Fall); 8, 12 (Winter); 8, 12 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 20


Course Reference Numbers

(8 credits): 10365
(12 credits): 10366

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

(8 credits): 20256
(12 credits): 20257

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

(8 credits): 30218
(12 credits): 30219

Go to to register for this program.

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