Coaching Civic Action Planning

May 15, 2017

Launched in January 2017, Civic Action Planning (CAP) Coaches provide an expert advice and an outside perspective to campuses developing Campus Civic Action Plans in line with Campus Compact’s 30th Anniversary Action Statement. With extensive community organizing and development experience to share, our CAP Coaches work with higher education institutions to reignite their commitment to the public purposes of higher education.

Campus Compact CAP Coaches

Steve Dubb

Speciality: Community Economic Development


Over the past decade, Steve Dubb has been deeply engaged, as a researcher and a coach, to thinking about how universities might play a more effective role in community economic development.

Steve’s has written extensively on this topic. In 2007, Steve authored Linking Colleges to Communities—which examined the history of universities and community engagement. In 2009, Steve was part of the core team that developed recommendations for the Obama administration to inform federal policy with respect to anchor institutions. In 2012, Steve was co-author (with Rita Axelroth Hodges) of The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads (published by MSU Press). That year, Steve also co-authored a paper with Ted Howard on Leveraging Anchor Institutions for Local Job Creation and Wealth Building.

In 2013, Steve was lead author of The Anchor Dashboard: Aligning Institutional Practice to Meet Low-Income Community Needs, which introduced a framework for hospitals and universities to assess and improve their impact in low- and moderate-income communities. This work became the basis for the Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort. Launched in 2014, Steve helped develop this project into a partnership involving six universities who are co-creating measures to track and assess their impact in ways that are respectful to community partners. In fall 2016, Steve led workshops at three Campus Compact Civic Action Planning Institutes on how to develop place-based strategies and create evaluation frameworks to measure progress. Steve is available to advise interested campuses on how to effectively address these issues.

John Reiff

Speciality: Community Organizing


Dr. John Reiff earned his Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1982. He has worked with civic engagement and service-learning for over 35 years as a college teacher and administrator. From 1992 to 2000 he helped a small college in Tennessee, Tusculum College, focus itself on a mission of the “civic arts”—the knowledge and skills needed by citizens to work collaboratively to build solutions to community and societal problems. He brought service-learning into the curriculum and created and directed the service-learning center.

From 2000 to 2016, Dr. Reiff directed the UMass Amherst office of Civic Engagement and Service-Learning. He worked with about 150 faculty members through a Service-Learning Faculty Fellows program, and he worked with community organizations to leverage university resources for community goals. He taught service-learning courses on leadership, public policy, organizing, and mentoring, and he consulted with colleges and universities across the region to help them develop service-learning programs. In 2013 he was named the first Annual Higher Education Community Service Champion by the Massachusetts Service Alliance.

Since 2015, Dr. Reiff has worked through the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to help all public colleges and universities in Massachusetts implement a first-in-the-nation policy to make civic learning an “expected outcome” for their undergraduates.

Through his consulting business, Civic Engagement Associates, Dr. Reiff works with colleges and universities across the nation on faculty and curriculum development, program evaluation, and strategic planning for civic learning and engagement. He also teaches courses on civic engagement.

Having met with several institutions in varying contexts, Steve Dubb has found it “inspiring to work with campuses to move from the Civic Action Plan concept to implementation.”

Several institutions have taken advantage of the 1-hour sessions to run their Civic Action Plan drafts by the Coaches.

Participants in coaching sessions have shared unique value they found in getting expert advice from CAP Coaches. Laura Rao of Buffalo State University explained that “It was incredibly helpful to know that we are on the right track, as well as review and discuss what the committee has not yet considered. We received valuable feedback that will be important to moving the campus forward.”

In his experience working with campuses as a CAP Coach, John Reiff finds that “one of the most important things a campus can do when it starts down the path of building something like a Civic Action Plan is to convene a working group of a significant number of stakeholders from different parts of the campus, charge it with producing a comprehensive plan, and provide it with staff support to help it get that work done.”

“When developing an anchor mission, you need to operate within your campus’ unique niche”, Reiff explained. “Certainly, there are common principles, such as aligning community partnerships with your campus’ business side (e.g., campus safety, hiring, purchasing). You also want to include the community in setting your goals, not just after-the-fact. Most important is matching your action plan with your capabilities. Goals are important, but be sure that you can fulfill the commitments you make.”

John Suarez from SUNY Cortland finds the Civic Action Planning work “especially important in the current political atmosphere.”  He continues, “Even if that atmosphere were a civil one, we would still want to promote students’ civic engagement, especially regarding civic decision-making.  I hope that we, as a profession, demonstrate that our work focuses on improving life for all through civil and evidence-based discussion.”

Campus Compact member campuses engaged in the Civic Action Planning development and implementation process are encouraged to request a meeting time with the CAP Coaches. Both John Reiff and Steve Dubb have times available throughout the month of May.