The Ben Franklin Circles (BFC) is a collaborative project of 92nd Street Y (92Y), the Hoover Institution, and Citizen University. BFC reflects a shared commitment to fostering civic participation, open dialogue, and ethics-based leadership.
The Ben Franklin Circles reflect 92Y’s longstanding belief in the power of community and the power of renewing, for a new generation, the kinds of core values represented by Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues. 92Y is a community that stretches across the world, reimagining what it means to be a community center in the digital age with initiatives like the award-winning #GivingTuesday and the Social Good Summit, in addition to BFC. These programs are transforming the way people share ideas and translate them into action both locally and around the world. The organization, founded in 1874, is a center for innovation and the visual and performing arts; a convener of both people and ideas; and an incubator for creativity. 92Y is built on a foundation of Jewish values: the unparalleled capacity of civil dialogue to change minds; the unlimited potential of education and the arts to change lives; and the eternal commitment to welcoming and serving people of all races, religions and ethnicities.
BFC is a program within the Mary Jo and Dick Kovacevich Initiative at the Hoover Institution, Educating Americans in Public Policy, that seeks to provide citizens with accurate facts, information, and an analytic perspective to enable them better perform their civic duties, hold their elected leaders accountable, and, as expressed in the Constitution, “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” America’s Founders recognized that our form of government requires more than the exquisite constitutional framework they devised; it needs an engaged, virtuous citizenry. BFC builds on Hoover’s scholarly efforts to identify and preserve the enduring virtues and values that sustain the American way of life. From 2008 to 2013, our Virtues of a Free Society Task Force assessed the ability of contemporary institutions, particularly schools, family, and religion, to sustain and nurture the virtues on which our liberty depends. BFC offers an excellent vehicle for putting that research into practice.
Founded in 1919, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a public policy research center devoted to the advanced study of economics, politics, history, domestic and foreign political economy, and international affairs. With its eminent scholars and world-renowned Library & Archives, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity and secure and safeguard peace for America and all mankind.
BFC aligns with Citizen University’s mission of spreading the values and skills of powerful citizenship, thus providing a powerful opportunity to build person-to-person engagement that can strengthen communities and build networks of participation, in addition to fostering and teaching the values and skills of citizenship.
Citizen University is a national nonprofit based in Seattle that works to help Americans cultivate the values, systems knowledge, and skills of powerful citizenship. Programs and initiatives include the Civic Collaboratory, a civic leadership network; Sworn-Again America, a project on civic rituals; programs and resources to teach civic power; and a new initiative, the Joy of Voting, that aims to reinvigorate a culture of participation and engagement around voting. The Citizen University National Conference features hundreds of change makers, activists, catalysts, and students from across the country, an annual civic gathering unlike any other. This is a time when citizens are solving problems in new ways, bypassing broken institutions, stale ideologies, and polarized politics. Citizen University is part of a movement to rekindle citizenship and remake the narrative of America.