Measuring the Quality of Civic and Political Engagement ($100,000-$400,000)

In 2013, Spencer staff and senior advisor Professor Joe Kahne asked a number of researchers, practitioners, and teachers to help us reflect upon the aims of The New Civics initiative and the current state of the field. As a result of these discussions, we concluded that there is a need to support the development of new measures of the quality of the civic and political engagement of young people (ages 15-25). Our hope is that these measures will ultimately enable more systematic empirical attention to the quality of youth civic and political engagement and the factors that might impact it. Often, researchers rely on measures of how much or how often (quantity) someone participated, but these tell us little about the nature of that participation (quality). As a simple example: we can know if someone voted, but current measures do not tell us whether a voter was well informed about the issues.

In order to encourage new work about what quality is and how researchers might identify and measure it, we worked with a team of civics and measurement scholars to develop an RFP to fund research teams interested in developing valid and reliable measures of quality within two priority areas: (1) Engagement with Evidence and Arguments and (2) Engagement Across Difference.

Please click here for the RFP.

Important Dates

  • Informational Calls: April 8, 2014 and May 13, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. Central Time.

Participation in these calls is not required in order to submit a proposal; they are optional for those who have questions not addressed in the RFP. During the call, we will go over key aspects of the RFP and respond to questions about the submission and review process. If you would like to join one of those calls, please register to have your name added to the call, and we will send you the dial-in number in response. To register, send an email to with a subject line of “Info Call on [date of call you wish to join]” and include within the message your name, organization, and where you will be calling from. If you have any specific questions in advance of the call, please include those as well.

  • AERA Informational Session: April 4, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time in Philadelphia.

We will be holding an informational session about the RFP at AERA. Again, this is an optional session for those interested in applying. To register, send an email to Doris Fischer at with a subject line of “Measures RFP.” Registration emails must be received on or before March 12, 2014. Doris will send out details about the location of this meeting.

  • Preliminary proposals due: July 1, 2014 by 4:00 p.m. Central Time.

Preliminary Proposals should be submitted electronically through the Spencer Foundation online submission system. The narrative for the preliminary proposal should be no longer than 2,500 words, not including the reference list. It should clearly respond to the six evaluation criteria detailed on pages 7 and 8 of the RFP. Principal Investigators will be notified in early August, 2014 as to whether they are being invited to submit a full proposal.

  • Full proposals due: October 7, 2014 by 4:00 p.m. Central Time.

Full proposals will be approximately 5,000 words (20 pages, double-spaced). Submission guidelines will be sent to those invited. Decisions on full proposals will occur within six months of their submission. Following review, we may request a response to reviewer concerns from the PIs.

  • Final funding decisions will be made by April 2015, with awards available for a start date on or after May 1, 2015. We anticipate funding six to eight projects through awards ranging from $100,000 to $400,000 to cover direct and limited indirect costs for projects that last up to two years.