Global Perspective of Civics Conference July 16-19, 2023

The Global Perspective of Civics Conference was hosted by the Institute of World Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Institute for Global Studies at the University of Minnesota for a group of 12 Minnesota and Wisconsin teachers. This conference was supported by the Title VI National Resource Center African Studies Initiative (UMN) Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (UMN), the Human Rights Program (UMN), and Human Rights Educators USA. The Global Perspective of Civics Conference was part of a year-long fellowship program jointly created by both institutions and will serve as a catalyst for change and a platform for fostering dialogues and building networks among educators and individuals dedicated to creating an equitable society. The conference offered educators insights, strategies, and approaches to nurture empathy, critical thinking, and active citizenship in students. By integrating principles of human rights, democracy, and student voices, educators can create empowering learning environments for global citizens to drive positive change.

Key Takeaways:

Understanding Human Rights: A Foundation for Global Education

A pivotal aspect of the conference was Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva’s session on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and its role in global education. Educators were introduced to the principles and strategies that facilitate discourse and implementation of human rights values among students. By integrating the UDHR into the curriculum, educators are empowered to foster tolerance, respect, and empathy among students from diverse backgrounds. This approach contributes to creating a learning environment that is inclusive, compassionate, and conducive to nurturing future global citizens.

Empowering Educators with the 5-Step Strategic Effectiveness Method

To bring about meaningful change, educators were introduced to a 5-step strategic effectiveness method:

Identify the Problem: Focusing efforts on a specific issue.

Create a Vision: Defining goals and direction.

Map Terrain: Understanding the social, political, economic, and cultural context.

Explore Tactics: Innovations that drive strategy forward.

Take Action: Implementing the strategy with smart goals and evaluating outcomes.

This method provides educators with a systematic approach to addressing challenges and effecting positive change within their educational environments.

Democracy: Principles and Challenges

Maina Kiai, a Kenyan lawyer and human rights activist, shared profound insights into democracy and its significance. Democracy’s core principles include respect for human rights, the management of minority interests, and the art of compromise. Kiai emphasized that democracy is not about getting everything one wants, but rather about dealing with minority perspectives and fostering open dialogue. Educators were encouraged to promote critical thinking by engaging students in discussions about the complexities and nuances of democratic governance.

“You cannot be a democracy if you don’t respect human rights”- Maina Kiai

Connecting Classroom Learning to Real-World Events: George Floyd Square

Educators had the opportunity to visit George Floyd Square, a significant memorial. This firsthand experience enabled them to bridge the gap between academic concepts and real-world events, facilitating critical discussions on social justice. By integrating insights from the visit, educators can create lesson plans that embrace cultural diversity and historical contexts, fostering inclusivity and empathy among students. This visit also empowers educators to inspire a sense of agency and civic engagement among students.

Harnessing Street Art for Global Understanding

This conference introduced educators to the Urban Art Mapping initiative, which uses street art to track responses to moments of crisis. Educators learned how to leverage street art analysis as a tool to explore real-time expressions of people’s thoughts and feelings during crises. By incorporating this approach into their teaching, educators can help students understand immediate global responses to significant events, encouraging a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Empowering Students to Combat Corruption

This virtual program featured inspiring individuals from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo who shared their experiences, motivations, and strategies in the fight against corruption. Educators learned that combating corruption requires recognizing its presence at both individual and institutional levels. Storytelling emerged as a potent tool in inspiring and empowering youth to act against corruption. Educators were encouraged to guide students in recognizing their power and agency to effect change. By fostering ethical awareness and social responsibility, educators can nurture a generation committed to transparency and accountability.

Nurturing Inclusive Learning Environments through Student Voices

An integral aspect of the conference was the emphasis on student voices and their role in creating inclusive learning environments. The Caring and Committed Conversations approach highlighted the importance of creating a Student Voice Leadership Group, representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Through this approach, students can actively engage in open discussions, collaborate, and drive positive change within their school and community. Educators were equipped with practical steps to empower students as leaders, encouraging critical thinking and connection.

Throughout 2023-2024, educators will focus on fostering youth action and responsible civic engagement within their classrooms. They will work on engaging and globalizing their curriculum through four virtual sessions, culminating in a three-day summer 2024 institute at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


New tactics in Human Rights strategy toolkits:

Tactical mapping tool:

Urban Art Mapping:

Story Maps:

Suggested Movie: Till


This event was supported in part by grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI National Resource Centers program. The content of this event does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

About the Author:

Christiana Ibiwoye is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, specializing in organizational communication. She also works with the Institute of World Affairs as a Communications Assistant. Her passion lies in using communication as a bridge to foster understanding and collaboration amongst diverse stakeholders. She plans to apply the knowledge and skills from her program to support organizations in building effective communication strategies that leads to successful project outcomes.