Small Group Dialogue

Web Lab and Project 540

Web Lab is pleased to be the online partner in Project 540, a national civic engagement initiative for high school students. Web Lab is committed to the development of innovative uses of online technology that add new voices to public discourse and encourage the use of the Internet as a positive, transformative force in society. Project 540 is housed at Providence College and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Project 540 will engage 200-250 high schools in 10 locations throughout the country. At each school, a small group of students, with the assistance of teachers and administrators, will lead a student dialogue and mapping process, designed to achieve positive change for greater community involvement inside and beyond the school. At the heart of the process are a series of school-wide conversations, face-to-face and online, to address what issues students are passionate about and what would cause them to get engaged in public life; and what opportunities their high schools currently provide for civic engagement.

One hundred thousand (100,000) students at participating schools will hold face-to-face deliberations, and 20,000-25,000 will join the online dialogues. Student deliberations will include the development of an action report, to propose new strategies for change and civic engagement at each school.

The face-to-face dialogue process will be created by Youth On Board, a Boston-based non-profit committed to involving youth in decision-making. The online deliberations will be created by Web Lab and held using SGD, a tool and technique for discussion created by Web Lab to maximize thoughtful communication and minimize the volatility and the apathy that afflict most online conversation.

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Web Lab is also leading the development of a vibrant web site that not only supports the off-line activities of Project 540, but crystallizes and fuels the project's purpose and its potential. The site will serve as a place for deliberation, training and information-sharing among students, teachers and regional site coordinators. will provide a context for the project community to contribute and interact, deepening their investment and helping them define their mission collaboratively. The site will also feature the project's Civic Resource Guide, a selective review of nationwide civic engagement and related programs. Additional information can be found at

Web Lab is a New York-based non-profit that encourages and supports innovation on the Web, with a special emphasis on developing the potential of the medium to bring people together to explore both personal and public issues. Web Lab was created on the premise that the Web can be more than an efficient place to find and buy commercial products or to access information. It is also an extremely powerful communications medium that provides unprecedented opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds and experiences to connect with, and learn from, each other.

more about Project 540...


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