A generous gift from  International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life Board member Norbert Weissberg (pictured at left) and his wife, former Board member Judith Schneider (pictured at center), is enabling the national expansion of the Advocacy For Policy Change Initiative – a model program for civic engagement that since 2010 has engaged Brandeis undergraduates with the legislative process on key, state-level social issues. The new program, ENACT: The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation, builds upon the original vision for the Center, which was inspired and supported by Abraham Feinberg, the father of Judith Schneider.

The Advocacy program is hands-on: student teams research their chosen issues and design and implement models of legislative activity. Students choose existing laws they can challenge on policy, legal or moral grounds, or proposed laws that redress perceived wrongs. Students work with a legislative mentor and/or a member of an advocacy organization, and strive to effect social change.

The results have been impressive: 121 students have advocated for 40 bills – 12 of which have been signed into law – concerning 27 policy areas.

For the national expansion, Brandeis is helping to launch programs in 15 colleges and universities located in or near state capitals, and will build a national network of students, faculty, activists and legislators. The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation will be a strategic and information hub – a needed resource for state-level players ­– that will enable participants to connect with counterparts throughout the country.

Many programs and networks feature advocacy efforts based on single issues, while others target federal policy. The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation will be a distinctive effort to link together state-level advocacy on a national scale. It will also be a flagship program for stimulating young people to acquire the type of personal interaction that will inspire them to adopt University namesake Justice Brandeis’s belief that “the most important political office is that of private citizen.”

The Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation will be a major voice in addressing challenges to American democracy by engaging young people around the country in civic activism built on knowledge, cooperation, justice, and integrity. The program was formally launched in July 2015, with public information about its activities published in September 2015.