Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Pay It Forward: A case study in transforming students into changemakers

Photo Group Discussion via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Group Discussion via Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) – a national campaign committee fighting for progressive change – convened a discussion between professors, policy leaders and students to discuss Pay It Forward and ways to turn university classrooms into hubs of civic action.

PCCC has done incredible work to introduce professors and their classrooms to public policy work. This summer, for example, they organized more than 1,000 professors in support of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s student loan reform bill.

Now, they’ve created a case study out of Pay It Forward to demonstrate how professors can develop classes that empower students to tackle real world problems. After all, it was Professor Barbara Dudley’s determined Portland State University class that put Pay It Forward on the national stage and successfully passed Oregon’s pilot program legislation, with the help of the Oregon Working Families party.

Yesterday’s discussion – which took place via conference call – included U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Barbara Dudley, and Nathan Hunt and Tracy Gibbs (former Portland State University students who were in Professor Dudley’s class). EOI joined the call to discuss the Pay It Forward proposal and our ongoing work with the Working Families Party to educate policymakers and citizens about the idea, and advocate for legislation to make it a reality.

This underscores an aspect of Pay It Forward we haven’t talked about much yet: the incredible and largely untapped power of our classrooms to translate academic studies into real-life knowledge and action. As Tracy noted, she entered the classroom as a student and left as someone committed to working for progressive change.

Too often, the public policy process may seem overwhelming or unfamiliar. But PCCC is ready to support changemakers and their work with a network of 10,000 professors from around the country, connections with advocacy organizations and lawmakers and strategic counsel for legislative action plans.

Interested? Check out the PCCC toolkit for professors and students who want to turn their ideas into law. It’s time to blaze some trails and be a leader in progressive change!

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