Civic Activity at Grinnell


At Grinnell, we believe democracy or civic activity is a way of life; albeit, how we approach civic activity evolves and is different for every individual and community. While at Grinnell you will have the opportunity to explore your place in civic life through dialogue, volunteering, community-engaged learning courses, Service Learning Work-Study, systems thinking programs, local social innovation projects, and skill-building workshops. Trained advisers will be happy to help you figure out exactly how you want to make an impact.

No matter where you are on your civic journey, we have programs and resources for you. Where does YOUR journey begin?

  • Do you want to volunteer or work on a community project?
  • Do you want to participate in a civil rights march or another form of more quiet advocacy?
  • What about joining a civic dialogue?
  • Is analyzing complex and inequitable systems your thing?
  • Or are you one of those people who likes combining one or more of the above?

You don’t need to do it all, you just need to do what is right for you right now. Maybe all you can do is make voting a habit. Perhaps you can do more. Only you can really know, but we are here to help you explore what is possible. The diagram and examples below are designed to help you think about how you might want to engage civically while at Grinnell.

Venn diagram of service, activism & systems thinking with social innovation at the center

Our Core Values: (Click on a value to learn more)

    • Flourishing Community
      We place fostering a flourishing community at the center of our service and social innovation work. A flourishing community nourishes an interdependent ecosystem of mutual trust and sustaining, generative care that is shaped by play, compassion, curiosity, friction, support, and rest.
    • Intentional Self-Reflection
      Socially just service and social innovation rely upon equitable, power-aware relationships where all parties intentionally seek to understand their own identities, contexts, positionality, and biases. This necessitates continual self-reflection, assessment, and the humility to change.
    • Diversity & Inclusion
      Service and social innovation endeavors inevitably entail cross-cultural experiences. Successful endeavors acknowledge the power dynamics at play in the activity and honor the strengths and voices that each participant brings to the table. Power in collaborative service relationships should be balanced in favor of the community and the traditionally oppressed.
    • Collaborative, Power-Aware Partnerships
      Service and social innovation partnerships should be characterized by mutual trust and respect. To guard against service and social innovation becoming colonialism in the guise of serving the common good, relationships should be characterized by a mutual agency and an ethic of co-creation.
    • Reciprocity
      Service and social innovation endeavors do not only benefit the community. Each party ideally both gives and receives. Every effort should be made to develop relationships where parties honor each other’s needs while also creating an environment that actively acknowledges how each party is both giving and receiving.
    • Sustainability
      Service and social innovation endeavors should be contextually responsive, well researched, fiscally responsible, personally and interpersonally feasible, and aim toward sustainable positive change. Every effort should be made to understand the larger social, economic, and environmental consequences of proposals and projects and should not only focus on short-term solutions, but also on longer-term, systemic change.

News & Advice

Cultural, Geopolitical, and Structural Barriers to Social Innovation

by Heather MacCleoud, Ph.D.


Cultural, geopolitical, and structural barriers prevent many social innovation initiatives from achieving their desired impact. These barriers include social pressures, regulatory burdens, lack of resources (funding, people, knowledge), and inequitable power structures. Fortunately, there are …

By Susan Sanning
Susan Sanning Associate Dean and Director of Service & Social Innovation
Read more »

Stanford Haas Center for Public Service Database for Post-Graduate Service Year and Fellowship Programs by Service Theme

In this resource you will find lists of postgraduate opportunities hosted by external organizations as a resource for exploring public service careers. A listing does not imply endorsement. Please contact a program or organization representative directly for more information about …

Read more »

Ready to Volunteer? Community Partner Highlight: The Iowa Kitchen

The Iowa Kitchen offers a service-learning opportunity for two volunteers per month to be mentored by a trained chef, while also serving the community by helping to prepare and serve meals every Saturday of that month.  This is a one-month …

By Guinevere Wallace
Guinevere Wallace AmeriCorps Coordinator for Community Engaged Learning Partnerships
Read more »


Contact Us

(641) 269-4940

John Chrystal Center
1103 Park Street
Grinnell, IA 50112


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