Join us Friday, August 16th at the American Village in Montevallo, Alabama for an exploration of the forces that pull us closer. 

The 2019 Civic Institute is your chance to connect with civic-minded change-makers and thought leaders from across Alabama in a dialogue on our state’s past, present, and future.

This year’s theme is “Closer to Home” and the day will be packed with engaging speakers and interactive sessions centered around some of the most profound issues we encounter as Alabamians. The Civic Institute is the perfect event to collectively ponder the power of our citizens and our communities to build the kind of Alabama they want to call home. Dr. David Mathews, president and CEO of the Kettering Foundation, will deliver the luncheon keynote address. Breakfast and lunch are provided.

We’ll gather from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM on Friday, August 16th at the American Village in Montevallo for a day of panels, sessions, conversations, and more. View FAQs and save your seat today here!

If you are registering a total of three or more people to attend the day-long event, you are eligible to save 10% per person. Contact the event organizer, Kate Zeliff, at with the details and you will receive a promotional code.

Interested in helping to sponsor the Civic Institute? Click here to find out more.


*Each participant will attend two of the six sessions, which run concurrently.

Inside Out: Strategies for Resisting Disconnection and Crafting Civic Identity in Alabama Communities and Prisons

This session will explore the responsibility we all share for welcoming the formerly incarcerated back into the fold of public life. We will deconstruct the core tenants of civic life (education, participation, socialization, work, etc.) as they serve to define and limit the carceral subject. This session will feature speakers on the front lines of this work who are making investments into the currently and formerly incarcerated; from teaching college courses behind bars to providing housing for women during reentry, we will explore creative strategies for resisting disconnection and isolation through dialogue and deliberation. Read more and register here.

The Benefit of the Doubt: Preparing Ourselves for Authentic Engagement and Productive Disagreement

What does it mean to engage with each other in “good faith”? What does it mean to afford our neighbor “the benefit of the doubt”? What, exactly, is the benefit of assuming the best in a stranger? There are plenty of opportunities to become involved as a formal practitioner of dialogue and deliberation, but far fewer chances for us to examine the ways we interact with friends, neighbors, and strangers interpersonally. This session is about how to act—how to let down our individual and collective defenses to bring strangeness closer and become comfortable living with the ambiguity and uncertainty that characterizes community work and public identity. Read more and register here.

Building a Durable Life: The Impact of Social Infrastructure on Alabama’s Public Health

Often regulated to the realm of professionals, health may be one of the most ubiquitous, yet compartmentalized topics of daily life. And like any other issue of both public and deeply personal concern, expert terms will only ever be a part of its definition. Considering people’s lived experiences, and the spaces, networks, and cultural contexts in which they occur, is vital to understanding the importance of social infrastructure in public health. This session will view health not just as a result of research and medicine, but also as a product of dynamics hidden in plain sight. Read more and register here.

Geographical Imaginations: The Role of Storytelling in Southern Culture and Identity

Stories help us make meaning of the world, and there is perhaps no region of America more storied than the South. But Southern stories, like most, aren’t simple. The stories of home that we tell ourselves and each other are intertwined with history and collective mythmaking. Some stories are passed down from generation to generation, while some stories are lost, forgotten, and/or erased—and must be recuperated. This session will explore some of the groundbreaking work being done to resuscitate the stories of marginalized voices in Southern history, and will examine the narrative structures of feeling that undergird our public and private identities. Read more and register here.

Found in Translation: Engaging Communities Across the Language Barrier

Talking about difficult issues is challenging in any language. In every community there are problems to solve, limited resources, and different perspectives. Cultural and language barriers can make communicating about shared problems and opportunities an even greater challenge. But these barriers represent rich worlds on each side, and sometimes in order to address problems well—and heal divides—it becomes necessary to look at an issue from a broader vantage point. This session will feature community leaders who represent, and often inhabit both worlds daily, working to bring people together across language and cultural barriers in Alabama communities. Read more and register here.

A Public Enterprise: Civic Education and Community Collaboration in Workforce Development

Active citizenship and civic education are rarely the first things that come to mind when discussing workforce development. This panel seeks to change that perception. The dedicated Alabamians featured in this session are working in their communities to create programming that prepares the next generation for a successful career and for active citizenship. Panelists are leaders in Alabama’s workforce development field, who will highlight the essential role of partnership, collaboration, and community engagement in effectively preparing young Alabamians for the jobs of the future. Read more and register here.

View FAQs and save your seat today here! If you have additional questions, contact the event organizer, Kate Zeliff, at We hope to see you on August 16th!