Little Rock Chosen as “Champion” for Model Community

CALS to host series of panel discussions to share “Our Common Purpose”

Arkansas’s capital city will be the nation’s municipal “champion” as part of a nationwide effort – led by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences – to increase civic learning and engagement across America. The Academy launched a bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship to study political and civic life around the country. The commission’s final report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, includes 31 interconnected recommendations to help the nation emerge as a more resilient democracy by 2026. Little Rock was chosen by the Academy to serve as a model for the application of the study at the local level.

“The City of Little Rock is honored to have been selected as the model city to apply the commission’s recommendations in the pursuit of creating a stronger democracy for our nation,” said Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. “My administration has put accountability, being clear, and transparency, or ACT, at the center of our public engagement while also creating new opportunities for residents to have a voice in their local government. Having led the way before when nine black students integrated our public schools, Little Rock is ready again to help develop the roadmap for other cities to follow.”

Champions are committed to advancing the strategies in the Our Common Purpose report: 1) Achieve Equality of Voice and Representation; 2) Empower Voters; 3) Ensure the Responsiveness of Political Institutions; 4) Dramatically Expand Civic Bridging Capacity; 5) Build Civic Information Architecture that Supports Common Purpose; 6) Inspire a Culture of Commitment to American Constitutional Democracy and One Another.

Central Arkansas Library System will host a four-part series of virtual conversations in conjunction with the City of Little Rock and the Mayor’s Office. Registration is available at

“As a resource for learning and information, the public library in America has always been involved in helping sustain the components of our democracy,” said Nate Coulter, CALS Executive Director. “CALS is pleased to play a part in providing an opportunity for every interested resident to examine with its authors the health of our institutions for self-governing, particularly at the local level. As a defender of freedom of expression, the library is an ideal place to encourage a conversation among people with differing points of view, but we also believe that this series led by some of the brightest scholars and thought leaders can remind us of our shared interests in the health of democracy.”

The first session will take place on April 29 at 6:00 p.m. This session will serve as an introduction to the study and will address how Little Rock will bring the spirit of Our Common Purpose to life. The goal is to create best practices that other communities can easily replicate so they can also undertake this important work. Sessions 2 and 3 will delve into the report’s strategy 4 (“Dramatically Expand Civic Bridging Capacity”) and strategy 5 (“Build Civic Information Architecture that Supports Common Purpose”).

“We believe focusing on these topics relating to strengthening our culture of democracy, with some specific examples of how the Commission’s recommendations might have implications in Little Rock, makes a lot of sense for a library sponsored series,” said Coulter. The focus of the 4th session will be determined by public interest.

“These conversations come at a perfect time as Little Rock continues to amplify ways residents can engage with their government,” said Scott. “We’ve recently launched Scott Strolls, neighborhood walks with residents to discuss issues in their areas of town and R.O.C.K. Academy, a six-week course designed to cultivate a better understanding of city government. These are in addition to the Mayor’s Youth Council and upcoming college council to launch this summer.”

“The Academy is thrilled to be working with Little Rock and its residents to bring to life recommendations in Our Common Purpose, with its vision for more engaged citizens and more responsive institutions,” said David Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. “The discussions ahead are an opportunity for us to learn from one another about how to accomplish what must be done to strengthen our democracy. We are grateful to Little Rock for leading the way as our first municipal champion.” A full copy of the report can be found here:

For more information, contact Jay Barth, Chief Education Officer for the City of Little Rock, at