Civic Collaboration

Embed yourself in a city, learn its challenges, and pursue its most pressing issues.

Five students pose for a picture at their internship site

The Civic Collaboration Summer is an opportunity for a small group of scholars to engage in a deep dive of a city. You explore its identity, grapple with its challenges, and enjoy its strengths. Your job is to learn as much as possible about an emerging dilemma that your city is facing, shed new light on the possible solutions, and contribute to the work being done.

Along the way, you’ll begin to understand the complex connections between a city’s economic, cultural, governmental, educational, political, and historical systems—and how leaders create change through them.

This is not an internship. You have a host organization, but every day you decide what you’ll work on and when and where you’ll do it. It’s not easy, but the outcome is an unmatched opportunity to stretch your abilities.

The Challenge

Students and city leaders gather around a conference tableEmbed yourselves in a city.

Get to know your host city intimately—the history, the people, and the culture. Not as visitors, but as resident researchers who interact with citizens and changemakers on the ground level.

Scholar draws on a whiteboard while recording a videoInvestigate and gain insight.

What are the major, unique issues facing your city? What’s your host organization trying to accomplish? Who are the leaders and influencers? Discover how progress is made. Each team will address a major dilemma—an open-ended question—relevant to your organization’s work.

Scholars snap a selfie in a reflection from inside an elevatorCollaborate.

Your hosts and alumni contacts are your greatest allies. But your accountability to fellow scholars is vital. Each team’s project has a finite starting place, but an undefined goal or endpoint. How will you work together to determine what you want to accomplish—and how you’ll do it?

Scholars present a plan to city and organization leadersContribute.

The best experts on creating change already exist in your city. They live and work in the community. We encourage you to join the effort; partner up, learn from locals, and find a way to contribute toward their work.

“I’ve learned to view the world more critically, and how to look at spaces from a number of different perspectives.”
  • Maggie Helmke
  • Class of 2022

For Prospective Hosts

We look for host organizations that are at the epicenter of change in their cities. Hosts’ expertise will be the linchpin in scholars’ success.

We expect scholars to give as much as they receive. We ask scholars to:

  • Research a relevant issue of hosts’ choosing. An ideal project is focused enough to give scholars direction, but open-ended enough to allow teams to follow discoveries wherever they may lead.
  • Shed light on issues facing a city from the perspective of bright, talented undergraduates.
  • Provide a detailed report and find other ways to contribute to the issue and community.

And we ask host organizations to:

  • Propose an emerging dilemma, question, or theme for scholars to investigate.
  • Provide guidance and mentorship rather than constant supervision. Unlike a traditional internship, we expect the scholars to manage their own schedule and work plan. They’ll need input, regular check-ins, and collaboration.
  • Endorse the scholars with a title from the organization, such as “Research Intern,” so that they have the cachet to contact and connect with people in the community.
  • Share information and resources, and sometimes make introductions, but allow scholars to research and create their own opportunities.
  • Include the scholars in the activities of the organization when appropriate.
  • If available, a physical space for the team in the office with access to the internet is welcomed. We find that the more dynamic the space, the more it contributes to the scholars’ experience.

Morehead-Cain provides each scholar with a cost-of-living stipend and transportation to and from the host city. Hosts are not expected to provide any financial assistance to scholars.

“Scholars walked into a dynamic situation with the changing landscape in both our region and organization. Not only did they still perform, they added value.”
  • David Leipholtz
  • Better Together, St. Louis

Previous Projects

Community Policing
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Read Albuquerque’s Report

Public Art Policy
Charleston, South Carolina

Read Charleston’s Report

Community Revitalization
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Read Colorado Springs’s Report

Affordable Housing
Louisville, Kentucky

Read Louisville’s Report

Supporting Immigrant Communities
Louisville, Kentucky

Read Louisville’s Report

Circular Economies
Memphis, Tennessee

Read Memphis’s Report

Government Restructuring
St. Louis, Missouri

Read St. Louis’s Report

Increasing Accessibility
Toronto, Ontatrio

Read Toronto’s Report