The American Association for State Colleges and University’s (AASCU’s) American Democracy Project (ADP) and the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE), located at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, formed a three-year partnership to pilot a process for fostering institutional change to advance political learning and engagement on college campuses. The multidimensional approach to collecting information, deploying dialogues, and crafting interventions provided insight into the necessity of generating institutional support for civic engagement initiatives.

This article reviews the goals, plan, and process of this three-year, multi-phased initiative. We weave throughout the results of multi-stage evaluations of the project’s successes, challenges, and lessons learned, evaluations drawn from a mid-term survey and focus groups and exit focus groups upon the completion of the project. Throughout this report, we insert testimonials authored by campus teams, offering direct insight on a range of stages of the project and conclusion. We also offer a meta-analysis of the reports each campus team produced from their own focus groups and interviews, identifying common themes and overarching findings.

We conclude that qualitative methods, followed by dialogue, provide an effective approach to assessing and shifting campus climates for political learning and engagement. Not only does this approach produce compelling insights and influence campus structures and culture, it also serves to catalyze change. Campuses reported that the dialogic approach used in the focus groups during the assessment phase itself fostered discussion, raised awareness, and generated interest in political learning and democracy.

Finally, we found that a cohort model and the multi-campus community of practice served to strengthen both the project and the participating representatives from the campuses. The importance of the community of practice speaks to the broader ethos of conversation, collaboration, and community in the project.