Power in Action!

Our annual national conference is like no other civic gathering in America. Hundreds of changemakers, activists, and catalysts show up to learn about power, build their networks, and recharge their sense of purpose.

Our theme this year was Citizen Power Now, and over 550 people from 30 states and across the political spectrum joined us. This is a time when citizens are solving problems in new ways, bypassing broken institutions, stale ideologies, and polarized politics. We are part of a movement to rekindle citizenship in America. Join us!

Citizen University National Conference 2015

2015 Agenda

Friday March 20

5:30p Opening Reception Doors Open. Paul Rucker (Artist)
6:30p Keynote The Future of Elder Care: What We Need for a Changing America Ai-jen Poo (National Domestic Workers Alliance, Caring Across Generations)
Plenary Panel Dignity and Economic Justice Ai-jen Poo, Carmen Rojas (The Workers Lab), Susie Young (SEIU), Silvia Gonzalez (Casa Latina). Moderated by Courtney Martin. Co-presented with Reclaiming Prosperity Series.
Plenary Panel Ferguson and Beyond Bukky Gbadegesin & Waylon McDonald (Organization for Black Struggle, St. Louis), Reuben Riggs (St. Louis Students in Solidarity), Jazmine Cañez (Women of Color for Systemic Change), Leslie McSpadden (YouthBuild St. Louis). Moderated by Eric Liu.
8:45p Book Signing

Saturday March 21

8:00a Conference Check-in
8:30a Conference Opening How Power Works Eric Liu (Citizen University)
9:00a  Plenary Talks Opportunity Youth United National Council of Young Leaders
Social Disruption and the Sharing Economy Matt Kibbe (FreedomWorks)
Understanding and Dismantling Mass Incarceration Alison Holcomb (ACLU)
10:30a Breakout Session I,
choose one
Opportunity Youth United National Council of Young Leaders
Fight the Power: How Social Media Can Undermine Special Interest Politics Matt Kibbe (FreedomWorks)
Understanding and Dismantling Mass Incarceration Alison Holcomb (ACLU)
Mapping Civic and Creative Power Hanmin Liu (Wildflowers Institute) & Janet Seibert (City of Austin)
Action Civics: Get Off the Sidelines! Heather Van Benthuysen (Mikva Challenge)
A Difficult Conversation: A Dialogue on Race & Inequity Using the Power of Love & Good Questions Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo (Coming To The Table)
12:00p Lunch Let’s Eat, Family-Style!
1:00p Plenary Talks Online Conversations to Offline Movement: Changing the Conversation on Gun Violence In America Shannon Watts (Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America)
The Peer Effect Mauricio Lim Miller (Family Independence Initiative)
The Power of An Inclusive Economy Nick Hanauer (Entrepreneur)
2:30p Breakout Session II,
choose one
Your Message in a Minute Shannon Watts (Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America)
Catalyzing the Peer Effect Family Independence Initiative Families
Flipping the Frame on Prosperity Nick Hanauer (Entrepreneur)
Improving Ourselves, Improving Our World Ruthie Ackerman & Asha Curran (92nd Street Y)
‘We The People’ and The Climate Movement Annie Leonard & Rachel Rye Butler (Greenpeace)
What is Prison For? Lynn Novick (Florentine Films)
4:00p Plenary Discussion The Art of Social Change Claudia Rankine (Poet) & Robert Schenkkan (Playwright) with Eric Liu
5:15p Conference Closing Pastor Patrinell Wright (Total Experience Gospel Choir)
5:30p Closing Reception Book Signing

Times and speakers subject to change.

Conference Resources


Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center


Thank You


We are sold out for 2015. Registration is closed. Stay tuned for registration info for 2016. 

Conference Headquarters: Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, located west of the Armory & south of the International Fountain. Here’s a map of Seattle Center 

Traffic and Parking Alert: NCAA Championship Games are Friday night in Key Arena. Plan lots of time to park in a Seattle Center garage or lot — or use public transit. We suggest Seattle Center 5th Avenue Garage near the Gates Foundation on Friday or Saturday. We also suggest the 1st Ave N and Thomas garage on Saturday. 

Tips & Resources

  • Pre-reads and videos from some of our speakers and presenters are here
  • Sign up for breakout sessions begins Friday night. Arrive early to get your first choice.
  • Bring an umbrella or raincoat. It will rain.
  • Wear comfortable clothes, shoes and dress in layers. It will be cool.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle. We will not have water for purchase. 
  • Bring a notebook and a pen. 
  • Social Media: follow & use #CitizenUCon15
  • Like us on Facebook. Follow @CitizenUniv on twitter. 

Arrive. Check-in. Sign Up! When you arrive at Fisher Pavilion you will pick up your name badge and sign up for breakout sessions (descriptions are below). Space is limited in each breakout, so arrive early to get your first choice. 

  • Doors open at 5:30pm Friday. Reception with light snacks and a cash bar 
  • Doors open at 8:00am Saturday | Coffee, tea and snacks available 

Food: There will be a reception with light snacks and a cash bar on Friday at check-in, and at the end of the day Saturday. There will be coffee, tea and snacks on Saturday morning. Family-style lunch is provided on Saturday. If you need a full meal on Friday evening or breakfast on Saturday there are many places to eat in the Armory.


There are many hotels in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood near Seattle Center. Use RoomKey.com to find a good deal on a hotel near Seattle Center.


Press Release

Citizen University National Conference March 20 & 21 at Seattle Center Bringing Nation’s Top Organizers, Activists & Artists To Teach Citizen Power

Seattle, March 12, 2015 — Citizen University National Conference, March 20 and 21, is bringing hundreds of Americans from across the country and political spectrum together to teach and practice citizen power. The lineup of speakers and presenters includes the nation’s top organizers, activists, educators and artists. The annual conference is organized by Citizen University, a Seattle-based non-profit founded by author and civic entrepreneur Eric Liu.

Citizen University National Conference begins Friday, March 20th at 6:30pm in Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center and continues Saturday March 21 8:30am – 5:30pm. Over 500 people will attend. More information and registration is at citizenuniversity.us. Conference speakers include:

  • Ai-jen Poo, 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, author of The Age of Dignity, founder of National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign
  • Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen, an American Lyric, nominated for the 2015 National Book Award (in poetry and criticism) and the National Book Critics Circle Award
  • Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks, author Don’t Hurt People, and Don’t Take Their Stuff
  • Bukky Gbadegesin, organizer with Organization for Black Struggle, Ferguson, MO
  • Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
  • Nick Hanauer, Seattle-based serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and activist
  • Maurico Lim Miller, 2012 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, founder of the Family Independence Initiative
  • Robert Schenkkan, Tony-award winning author of All the Way and The Great Society
  • Lynn Novick, a documentary filmmaker, producer, and collaborator with Ken Burns
  • Alison Holcomb, national director of the ACLU Campaign to End Mass Incarceration
  • Family Independence Initiative Families are working inside their communities across the nation — from Boston to New Orleans to San Francisco — to improve their lives and neighborhoods.
  • Annie Leonard, executive director Greenpeace, USA.
  • YouthBuild USA National Council of Young Leaders

What is power? How is it exercised in civic life? Who has it? Who doesn’t, and why? Such questions go to the heart of self-government — but most people are fundamentally illiterate in power. This is why — particularly in the shadow of Ferguson and Staten Island, and the 50th anniversary of so much of the Civil Rights Movement — Citizen University National Conference 2015 will focus on citizen power.

Citizen University works across the political spectrum to foster a culture of strong citizenship. Founder and CEO Eric Liu served as a White House speech-writer and later as deputy domestic policy adviser to President Clinton. He’s a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for CNN. For more information, visit www.citizenuniversity.us

Contact Jená Cane for more information.