Civic Engagement

Tom has delivered over 200 workshops and presentations across the city since 2008!

Prof. Dick Simpson said this after my October 24, 2018 presentation at the University of Illinois Chicago:

“Thank you for once again giving your talk “Memo to Chicago’s Next Mayor – Chicago Is Not Broke!” for the Future of Chicago Lecture series on October 24th. It was very timely with the Mayor’s race underway in Chicago and the early voting.

The students learned a lot from your presentation, especially about the costs of corruption, police abuse and Toxic Bank Deals.  Equally importantly, they learned about the alternative ways of funding Chicago and how to resolve the problem with TIFs.

Thank you for highlighting the issues of budgeting and more efficient ways to collect money in Chicago. These are issues which the students are still discussing. Your experience as a civic educator will inspire them to engage in the future civic activities.”

The CivicLab has launched the POWER Institute for training people to win for justice. We started in the summer of 2017 with “Chicago 101,” “Organizing 101.” and “Grassroots Campaigning 101.” Our goal is to help train 500 social justice champions by Chicago’s 2019 municipal elections.


We had 40 people attending the first set of “101” sessions during the Summer of 2017!

Comments from PI workshops:

  • “Passionate, experienced organizers share real world examples of effective organizing, philosophies, practices and opportunities to work in small groups on real, pressing issues.” – Lisa Haufschild, 39th Ward
  •  “Tom and Jonathan really came through! Their presentation on ‘Chicago 101’ made people mad about how Chicago works, and it made people curious, but most of all it got people engaged. This is exactly the kind of education every citizen needs in order to make meaningful change in our city. One of my favorite moments of the night was when one particularly engaged audience member literally threw her hands up and said, ‘Why doesn’t anybody teach us this stuff?’ Well, Tom and Jonathan are teaching this stuff – and I will gladly welcome them back to continue to inform, engage, and empower our community.” – Gabe Piemonte, Candidate 5th Ward Alderman
  •  “Your ‘Chicago 101’ training was great last night!! It was the boost I needed. It reminded me of what I really care about and where I come from in terms of activism and my roots. In our activism we are working with a lot of people who have never engaged so conversation is tough because they aren’t aware of the history, there is no context. We often get caught up in nonsense and focus is lost as we try to get the newly engaged to act. Being with seasoned pros was so nice. I gained some new perspective and knowledge as well as reaffirmation of my values and goals. It was energizing and gave me some clarity, just what I needed for the burnout I’ve been feeling. I’m really looking forward to the next two sessions!” – Meaghan McAteer, Co-founder Indivisible Brookfield
  •  I recently attended the Power Institute workshop on T.I.F. I was amazed how informative the class was. Tom spoke truth to power and I could see his passion for his work. I was inspired to get involved with civics (boots on the ground) LOL. I will be taking my first steps toward working with communities in our great city of Chicago! I highly recommend this workshop and others that are offered through the Power Institute.” – P.H. – Hyde Park
  • Amazing resource for Chicago residents. An opportunity to learn how those in power keep robbing the everyday people!” – Gaylon Alcaraz – Chicago Tribune endorsed candidate, Cook County Commissioner, 4rh District
  • “Worth every penny! I have heard of these political operatives and cannot believe that I got to speak to them in such an intimate environment. I also loved the workshop because it was cathartic and was grounded in the reality that we still have a democracy. We still matter. We can beat the Machine – but we have to be ready for a fight. I can fight. I’ve fought my whole life. But I’ve been thinking about whether it’s worth fighting And this training reminded that it was.” – Priscilla Orta

I was named a “Best of Chicago 2015” by New City as “Best activist in the interest of the public defense”!

Best of ChIcago

My biggest civic engagement project is the organizing and publishing of a new book in 2016: “Chicago Is Not Broke. Funding the City We Deserve.” It’s a collection of short articles by local experts on how Chicago can save and generate MAJOR revenues. We are doing presentations and workshops all over the city to get the ideas in the book discussed and acted on. In the first two years since the book was published we’ve been invited to 63 public meetings!

Broke-cover-smallHere’s a few words of endorsement from  former Alderman and UIC Professor Dick Simpson:

” I have known Tom Tresser for many years and have had him speak to my Future of Chicago class at UIC on Tax Increment Finance Districts.  Tom is an outstanding lecturer and I recommend him highly to teach courses or to do presentations not only about specific topics like TIFs but broader topics like community organizing and Chicago politics.  Students and community members learn a lot from his presentation and are fired up to help to change the world afterwards.”

My presentations posted to SlideShare have been viewed over 184,000 times!

I teach classes and workshops on civic engagement that leverage my 40 years of political work (I was the Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President in 2010) community organizing, civic work and research.

Adler_UniversityI’m doing workshops on civic engagement and community organizing for Adler University’s Community Engagement Program. Here is the workshop I did on “Civic Engagement 101” on September 15, 2015 (1 hour, 40 minutes):

Civic Engagement screen

The technology education and training program, i c stars has engaged me to design and teach a six week experience for their interns called “Civics 101.” This class covers material in leadership, civics and community organizing. We bring in leaders of current social change campaigns in Chicago to share their stories and methods. Organizers have visited us from these organizations: The Fight For 15, Little Village Environmental Justice, Raise Your Hand, SEIU Healthcare, Immigration Youth Justice League and Freedom Lifted.

Douglas Hunter

I got this “thank you” from the Summer 2016 class.Cycle 36 Thank You

Here is a very sweet note from the Fall 2014 class.

A note from the interns in Cohort 32 from i c stars. You're most welcome!

A note from the interns in Cohort 32 from i c stars. You’re most welcome!

Here are a some comments from students in the Fall 2013 class.


UIC SCStudiesI am teaching classes on public policy advocacy and civic engagement for the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Continuing Studies Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management. The first class was on “Nonprofits and Public Policy Advocacy” and the second was a new class I helped design, “Nonprofits and Civic Engagement.”

These are five-week online classes that I teach and guide along. Each week I post  a short video to set up and frame some of the key concepts we’ll be looking for that week. Here is the video from the final week of the class on civic engagement…

The class was rated very highly by the students. The percent of students who “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that they can “explain the process of integrating social change values into an organization’s work” rose from 26.316% in the pre course assessment to 90.909% in the post course assessment!

In the post course assessment, 100% of students “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that they are able to “recognize the crucial role that nonprofits play in our democratic society beyond the direct provision of products and services.”

In the post course assessment, 100%  of students “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” that they are able to “differentiate different types of social change organizations.”

Some student feedback:

“The interactions between the students and Tom, our instructor, were very informative, instructive and energetic. The first studio assignment was genius! It introduced us to to civic engagement and the role of nonprofits and made us practice sharing, reflecting and engage in a form of civic engagement.”

“I really liked the way Tom Tresser challenged and questioned students after we submitted an assignment, It allowed for thought provoking conversations. I also enjoyed the diversity within the class and the many perspectives, experiences, culture, knowledge that others brought to the discussion. I also enjoyed the video at the beginning of each week to introduce the subject for the week.”

“Tom gave great feedback to the homework, and pointed me at some great information on the web. He was a really effective instructor.”






As the co-founder of the CivicLab in Chicago’s West Loop (which operated for two years through June of 2015), I curated and organized over 75  workshops on a wide range of civic topics and skills. Here is a list of all the learning events we did at the CivicLab..


2 responses to “Civic Engagement


    l need to lean more from u teacher l George

  2. Pingback: Tom Tresser’s Teaching Resources | Tom Tresser's Teaching

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s