Civic Nebraska has a unique vocabulary. Here are the key phrases and words that we invoke most often to describe our work and our impact across the state.


Advocacy. The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. In Civic Nebraska’s case, advocacy is used to describe our work to ensure Nebraska’s elections are nonpartisan, accessible, and accountable through research, policy, observation, investigation, and litigation.

Asset mapping. An activity, often in small groups, that provides information about the strengths and resources of a community and that can help uncover solutions. Once community strengths and resources are inventoried and depicted on a map, community members can more easily think about how to build on these assets to address community needs and improve health.

Automated Verification and Registration. Also known as “Automatic Voter Registration,” and an expansion of “motor voter” laws included in the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that connected states’ DMVs to election officials. When you go to the DMV to get a new or renewed driver’s license or state ID, you fill out a form that confirms your name, address, age, and citizenship. Your information is then transferred securely and electronically from the DMV to the election office, where the same information is used to create or update your voter registration. Automated Verification and Registration improves the accuracy of our voter rolls, and saves voters from having to update their information with multiple government agencies. Voters can decline registration.

Average daily attendance. The official average of students participating each day in Civic Nebraska’s Community Learning Center programs.


Ballot access. The ability of participants in a democracy to cast their votes without encountering barriers, either physical or abstract.

Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center. Located at the University of Nebraska Omaha, this is the home of Civic Nebraska’s Omaha offices as well as the headquarters for ONE Omaha. We sometimes call it the CEC for short.

Block Talk. Also known as a walk audit. ONE Omaha’s proper name for a group process among members of a community to measure the walkability and accessibility of neighborhoods and develop strategies for improvement. Often results in an action plan for project, policy, and program development.


Campbell Elementary School. Elementary school in north-central Lincoln in which Civic Nebraska runs the Community Learning Center. Named after Anne Campbell, a former Nebraska Commissioner of Education. Julie Lawler is the principal. The school’s mascot is the Coyotes. Campbell is a Title 1 school, which means at least 40 percent of students have applied for the free and reduced lunch program. 

Capitol Experience Day. A daylong session at the State Capitol hosted by Civic Nebraska and involving individual classes from schools around Nebraska. The session helps students hone civil discourse, critical thinking and community leadership skills so that they can effectively advocate for their communities. Students observe legislators in action, learn state government history, meet with a state senator, a Supreme Court justice or State Court of Appeals judge, and a member of the state’s executive branch. They then engage in a mock committee hearing to deliberate a piece of current legislation before the Nebraska Legislature.

Circles. A Civic Nebraska Youth Civic Leadership program that works with adolescent girls in poverty to decrease the odds of dropping out or engaging in high-risk behavior. Circles connects middle-school girls with highly successful women in their community as coaches and mentees. Coaches serve as teachers and role models.

Civic. Relating to a city, town, or local area. More specifically, relating to the duties or activities of citizens for the maintenance and betterment of their city, town, or local area.

Civic Nebraska. Our organization, founded in 2008, that creates a more modern, robust democracy for all Nebraskans. We do this by building informed, engaged citizens of all ages, strengthening communities across the state, and ensuring our elections are free and fair. See Nebraskans for Civic Reform.

Civic health. The state of civic life in Nebraska, which is measured by how communities are organized to identify and address public problems. Communities with strong civic health have low unemployment, quality schools, more physically active residents, and more responsive governments.

Civic Health Program. One of three main areas of focus at Civic Nebraska, Civic Health Programs encompass our efforts to organize communities so that they can identify and address public problems. Our Civic Health Programs include several ongoing initiatives: Capitol Experience Days, the Nebraska Civic Health Index, Media Literacy, Civil Discourse, the Rural Civic Action Project, ONE Omaha and Collective Impact Lincoln.

Civic health indicators. Four societal attributes upon which civic health is measured. They are social connectedness; community engagement; confidence in institutions; and political involvement. Communities with strong civic health have low unemployment, quality schools, healthier residents, and more responsive governments.

Civil discourse. Engagement in discourse that is intended to enhance understanding. Civic Nebraska’s Civic Health Programs have extensive knowledge in civil discourse and provide presentations and trainings on the topic across the state.

Collective Impact Lincoln. An intensive, multi-year partnership bringing vitality to Lincoln neighborhoods. Collective Impact Lincoln creates lasting and meaningful resident-led investment and positive change in six of Lincoln’s core neighborhoods. Through canvassing, community events, and Community Builder Workshops, Collective Impact Lincoln assists neighbors in examining their communities’ natural strengths and in taking up new ways to improve. Launched in 2017, the initiative focuses on Belmont, Clinton, Everett, Hartley, Near South, and University Place neighborhoods. Collective Impact Lincoln is organized among Civic Nebraska’s Civic Health Programs. See Nebraska Appleseed, South of Downtown Community Development Organization

Community. People who live and work together and who form social bonds. A community differs from a neighborhood, which is a space where a community gathers or lives. 

Community Builder Workshops. Regular sessions, typically on weekends, to attract, identify, connect, and provide resources for emerging community leaders. See Collective Impact Lincoln, Nebraska Appleseed, South of Downtown Community Development Organization.

Community engagement, civic engagement. Activity by stakeholders of a community — individuals, groups, neighborhoods, etc. — to work together to achieve long-term and sustainable outcomes, processes, relationships, discourse, decision-making, and/or implementation. Community engagement respects the right of all members to be informed, consulted, involved, and empowered. It employs a range of tools and strategies to ensure success. It also places a premium on fostering and enhancing trust as a critical element in long-term, sustainable engagement, and effective governance.

Community Learning Centers. A school-based or school-linked program that provides space and structure for extended-learning opportunities and education as well as community activities, child care, information, and other services. Civic Nebraska runs four centers in Lincoln and Omaha. In Lincoln, Community Learning Centers are administered by Lincoln Public Schools. In Omaha, CLCs are administered by Collective For Youth.

Community organizer(s). Someone who works with people and groups that live in proximity to each other to come together into an organization and act in their shared self-interest. At Civic Nebraska, our community organizers work with and develop new local leaders, facilitate coalitions and assist in the development and execution of issue-based campaigns.

Community partner(s). Local, state, national, international, public, community-based, private, and/or academic organizations that come together around a shared cause or initiative.

Confidence in institutions. The level of public trust, conviction or faith of the foundations in an established custom or structure designed to serve and involve the public. Confidence in institutions is one of four key Civic Health Indicators used by Civic Nebraska to measure the civic health of a community or local area.

Contextualization. The ability to consider an idea, event, activity, or issue together with everything relating to it in order to understand it better. Contextualization is one of the core learned skills of Civic Nebraska’s Youth Civic Leadership curriculum.

Corroboration. The ability to support a position or fact with evidence or authority. Corroboration is one of the core learned skills of Civic Nebraska’s Youth Civic Leadership curriculum.

Critical thinking. The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. Civic Nebraska’s proven model for after-school and club programming, as well as its student-driven activities such as Capitol Experience Days, focus on critical-thinking skills.


Deep canvassing. Conversations with residents in a targeted area where the object is to learn what really matters to the resident. Canvassers follow a script designed to help the canvasser engage with a resident. The canvassers’ concerns are having a meaningful conversation and allowing residents to share a bit of themselves.

Democracy. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections, directly or through elected representatives; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; and the rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. The United States has been referred to as a democratic republic, a representative democracy, a constitutional democracy, and a constitutional federal representative democracy. There is no basis for saying that the United States is “not a democracy, but a republic.” “Democracy” and “republic” are terms that have been given meaning by English speakers more broadly. Both today and in the Framing era, “democracy” has been generally understood to include representative democracy as well as direct democracy. See Republic.


Early voting. The process of casting a ballot, either in person or by mail, during a designated period before Election Day. In Nebraska, all county election offices accept Early voting applications up to 120 days prior to a statewide primary or general election. The last day to request that an early-voting ballot be mailed is close of business on the second Friday preceding the election.

Election Day. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in an even year designated for national elections in the United States.

Election Day Hotline. The term for Civic Nebraska’s landline telephone number — 402.904.5191 — on both primary and general election days in Nebraska.

Election observation. The observation of an election by one or more independent parties primarily to assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of fairness, accessibility, transparency, and adherence established election standards. Civic Nebraska’s election observers monitor polling places across the state each Election Day.

Electioneering. Also known as passive electioneering, or the act of wearing campaign paraphernalia, placing signs, or carrying signs to a polling place with the intent of influencing voters. In Nebraska, anyone who does any electioneering, circulates petitions, or performs any action that involves solicitation within 200 feet of buildings designated for voters to cast ballots is guilty of a Class V misdemeanor.

Extended learning opportunities. Also called extended learning time. Any educational program or strategy intended to increase the amount of time students are learning, especially for the purposes of improving academic achievement and test scores, or reducing learning loss, learning gaps, and achievement gaps. Civic Nebraska offers numerous extended learning opportunities in its after-school programs and youth-based clubs.


Fiscal agency. An arrangement between a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and a project, often a new charitable effort, conducted by an organization that does not have official nonprofit status. Fiscal sponsorship allows the exempt sponsor to accept funds restricted for the sponsored project on the project’s behalf. The sponsor also accepts the responsibility of ensuring the funds are properly spent to achieve the project’s goals. 

Fiscal sponsorship. An arrangement with an established charity to act as the legal agent for a project, but not to retain the discretion and control of a fiscal sponsorship. Under agency law, the agent acts on behalf of the principal, who has the right and legal duty to direct and control the agent’s activities. This arrangement makes sense when a small nonprofit that has its own tax-exempt status wishes to contract with another organization to provide administrative support. The key difference between fiscal sponsorship and fiscal agency arrangements is that funds contributed to a non-exempt project that has a fiscal sponsor are tax-deductible to the donor and those that are contributed to a project with a fiscal agent are not.


Greater Nebraska. Generally refers to the areas of the state beyond Lancaster, Douglas, and Sarpy counties — that’s a lot of space, and we’re expanding farther into Greater Nebraska every day.


Independent. Generally used to describe someone who is not registered as a Democrat, Republican, or with any other political party in the United States. In Nebraska, independent is officially recognized by the state by the term nonpartisan.

Issue identification. The first step in the problem-solving and decision-making process. A problem can be regarded as a difference between the actual situation and the desired situation. Civic Nebraska’s service learning and Youth Civic Leadership teaches issue-identification skills.


Leadership Academy. Regular monthly in-depth education by ONE Omaha for Omaha community leaders. Focus areas include grant writing and fundraising; capacity building; administrative support and newsletters; bylaws, legal issues and liability coverage; strategic planning; and neighborhood revitalization.

Lewis and Clark Middle School. Middle school in north Omaha in which Civic Nebraska runs a Community Learning Center. Named after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Lisa Sterba is the principal. The school’s mascot is the Trailblazers. 

Long session. Informal term for the 90-day term for the Nebraska Legislature in odd-numbered years. Sessions convene on the first Wednesday following the first Monday in January of each year. See short session.

Lothrop Elementary School. Also known as Lothrop Magnet Elementary or Lothrop Magnet Center. Elementary school in north Omaha in which Civic Nebraska runs a Community Learning Center. Gary Westbrook is the principal. The school’s mascot is the Panthers. Lothrop is a Title 1 school, which means at least 40 percent of students have applied for the free and reduced lunch program. 


Media literacy. The ability to access, analyze, and evaluate media to better understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of communication. From a curricular standpoint, media literacy is an effective, engaging way to apply critical thinking skills to a wide range of issues. Civic Nebraska’s after-school and club programs, as well as its Civic Health Programs, often focus on media literacy.

Modern and robust. Civic Nebraska supports a modern and robust democracy for all Nebraskans. This means a diverse, engaged, informed and active society that enjoys all the benefits of a healthy and active democracy — free and fair elections, active participation in civic life, civil rights, and equal protection under the law.


Nonpartisan. 1. The official status of the Nebraska Legislature, meaning a senator’s or candidate for senator’s political party is not listed on the election ballot. 2. The state’s designation for registered Nebraskans who do not wish to identify as Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. 

Nebraska Appleseed. A nonprofit organization based in Lincoln that fights for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans. Nebraska Appleseed takes a systemic approach to complex issues such as child welfare, immigration policy, affordable health care, and poverty and takes its work wherever it believes it can do the most good, whether that’s in the courthouse, at the State Capitol, or in the community. See Collective Impact Lincoln.

Nebraska Civic Health Index. A recurring document, first published in 2015, that documents Nebraskans’ rates of interacting with neighbors, communicating with family and friends, having confidence in public institutions, being members of groups, volunteering and giving, registering and voting, and being involved in politics. These indicators give us a picture of the state of civic health in Nebraska, and this report provides a data-based roadmap for strengthening engagement throughout the state. Civic Nebraska is a lead partner in developing the Civic Health Index.

Nebraska Legislature. The supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska. Its members are state senators or senators. The Nebraska Legislature is officially unicameral and nonpartisan, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states; no other state has either a unicameral or a nonpartisan legislative body. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.

Nebraskans. 1. People who live and vote in the state of Nebraska. 2. People who are originally from the state of Nebraska and who maintain deep connections with their home state. 3. People not from Nebraska who have lived in, have interests in, or maintain a regular connection with the state.

Nebraskans for Civic Reform. Original name for Civic Nebraska, from March 2008 to Jan. 9, 2018. Nebraskans for Civic Reform officially changed its name to Civic Nebraska on January 10, 2018.

Neighborhood. Often conflated with community. Neighborhoods are made up of space. Communities are made up of people living and working together forming social bonds.


ONE Omaha. A public-private initiative dedicated to actively facilitating the development of neighborhoods in the City of Omaha through communication, education, and advocacy. ONE Omaha is organized as a semi-autonomous organization under Civic Nebraska, which serves as its fiscal sponsor.

Outside-of-school learning, out-of-school learning. Experiences organized with community partners such as museums, sport facilities, charity initiatives, etc., that can range from service learning to summer school and expeditions or more commonly occur in day to day experiences at after-school with creative ventures such as arts courses and even sports. Other examples of out-of-school learning are homework and homework clubs, study clubs, mentoring, and community service and citizenship.


Political participation. Taking part in our political process by making one’s opinions and beliefs known, such as organizing or engaging in public discourse; or an action taken by a citizen to influence the outcome of a political issue, such as voting. One of four civic health indicators that contribute to a community’s civic health. Preferred over political activity. 

Politically diverse. Involving people of different political beliefs and persuasions, eg. liberals, centrists, and conservatives. This differs from nonpartisan or independent in that individuals may have partisan beliefs or affiliations but collectively contribute to the organization’s political diversity.

Primary, primaries, Primary Election Day. Preliminary elections in which the candidates for a particular office at federal, state or local level are chosen by registered voters in a particular jurisdiction. This includes the presidential primary, which nominates candidates for the presidential election. After the primary election, a general election is held to fill the office with one of the candidates chosen in the primary election. 


Registration. Also voter registration, enrollment, or voter enrollment. The requirement that a person otherwise eligible to vote register on an electoral roll before they will be permitted to vote. In Nebraska, voters can register in person at their county’s county clerk/election commissioner’s office, by mail, or via the Secretary of State’s website at

Republic. A political order in which power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them. The United States is a democratic republic that is beholden to its Constitution, which features protections for the minority from the “tyranny of the majority.” The United States has been referred to as a democratic republic, a representative democracy, a constitutional democracy, and a constitutional federal representative democracy. There is no basis for saying that the United States is “not a democracy, but a republic.” “Democracy” and “republic” are terms that have been given meaning by English speakers more broadly. Both today and in the Framing era, “democracy” has been generally understood to include representative democracy as well as direct democracy. See Democracy.

Returning citizen(s). Nebraskans with a previous felony conviction who have paid their debt to society. Civic Nebraska supports immediately returning the right to vote for returning citizens.

Robust. Strong and healthy; vigorous. Civic Nebraska promotes a modern, robust democracy for all Nebraskans. A robust democracy means strong democratic institutions and an engaged, informed citizenry that works together to address local, state, national problems; that supports the maintenance and strengthening of democratic institutions; and that votes in every local, state, and national election.

Rural Civic Action Project. A partnership with the University of Nebraska to engage rural high school students in critical thinking about community strengths and areas of improvement and to take action through a service learning project to address needs in their community. University undergraduates enrolled in a course on leadership and service learning collaborate as peer mentors, facilitating the high school students’ process of identifying community needs and crafting substantive projects to address those needs. Civic Nebraska connects the undergraduates to the network of rural teachers and ensures that the projects fulfill service learning and state education standards.


Servant leadership. A leadership philosophy in which the leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. In the servant leadership model, leaders unlock purpose and ingenuity in those around them, resulting in higher performance and engaged, fulfilled followers. Civic Nebraska’s after-school and club programs focus on service learning and servant leadership.

Sherman Elementary School. Elementary school in north Omaha in which Civic Nebraska runs a Community Learning Center. Named after Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Dana Barker is the principal. The school’s mascot is the Sharks. Sherman is a Title 1 school, which means at least 40 percent of students have applied for the free and reduced lunch program. 

Short session. Informal term for the 60-day term for the Nebraska Legislature, which occurs in even-numbered years. Sessions convene on the first Wednesday following the first Monday in January of each year. See long session.

Social connectedness. The measure of how people come together and interact. Social connectedness involves the quality and number of connections an individual or a community possesses. One of several components of community cohesion, social connectedness provides benefits to both individuals and society as a whole.

South of Downtown Community Development Organization. A nonprofit organization at 1301 S. 11th St. in Lincoln that preserves the history and diversity of existing neighborhoods by developing collaborations and creating opportunities for community members to improve their quality of life. Its goal is to help the public, private sector, and city government work together to ensure that Lincoln’s South Downtown is a strong, vibrant city center, providing new opportunities for people who live and work in the area. See Collective Impact Lincoln.

STEM. Abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Civic Nebraska’s after-school programs embed STEM into their curricula.


Tactical urbanism. Low-cost, sometimes temporary changes to cities designed to improve local neighborhoods and city gathering places. Also referred to as guerilla urbanism, pop-up urbanism, city repair, or DIY urbanism. Tactical urbanism offers local solutions for local planning challenges, requires short-term commitment and realistic expectations, is low-risk with a possibility of high reward, and develops social capital between residents while building organizational capacity between public and private institutions, nonprofits, and their stakeholders.

Think, Make, Create Lab. A six-foot-by-12-foot mobile trailer that is a maker platform designed to enrich the state’s expanded learning opportunity programs. Civic Nebraska has two Think, Make, Create Labs — one in Lincoln, another in Omaha — through partnership with Beyond School Bells. The lab is transported for use at extended learning opportunity programs and community-based learning sites. Tinkering and making occurs outside of the trailer, either using tables under pop-up canopies or inside nearby buildings.

Title 1. Title 1 funding ensures that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. Schools with large concentrations of low-income students receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting students’ educational goals. Low-income students are determined by the number of students enrolled in the free- and reduced lunch program. For an entire school to qualify for Title 1 funds, at least 40 percent of students must qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.


Vote-by-mail. Also known as Vote At Home. A method of voting in the United States in which a ballot is mailed to the home of a registered voter. The voter fills it out and returns it via postal mail or drops off the ballot in person into a secure dropbox or at a voting center. 

Voter ID. A voter ID law is a one that requires a person to show some form of identification to vote or receive a ballot for an election. In jurisdictions requiring voter IDs, the voters must present a photo identification. Civic Nebraska’s position is that voter ID is an unnecessary and costly barrier to voting.

Voting Rights Advocates. Volunteers for Civic Nebraska who observe elections, activate constituents, and contact elected officials on behalf of the organization and the general public in support of open, accessible, modern, and fair elections as well as the right for all Nebraskans and Americans to participate in their democracy.

Voting Rights Advocacy. One of three main program areas at Civic Nebraska, Voting Rights Advocacy ensures that elections and electoral institutions are nonpartisan, accessible, and accountable. We do this through voting rights research, policy advocacy, observation, investigation, and litigation.

Youth civic engagement. The process of youth working to make a difference in the civic life of their community and developing the knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. Youth civic engagement activities enrich the lives of youths and are socially beneficial to the community.  Civic engagement plays a valuable role in shaping how youths learn to interact with their community and develop skills, values, and sense of empowerment necessary to become active citizens.

Youth Civic Leadership ProgramOne of three main program areas at Civic Nebraska, Youth Civic Leadership builds critical thinking, civic leadership, and civil discourse skills in youth at after-school programs and outside-of-school clubs. They also forge proficiencies in STEM and career readiness.


After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132

  • Lothrop Magnet Elementary

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510

  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507