Johnny is one of the most grounded and authentic humans I have ever met. He brings a genuine warmth and curiosity to relating to others. Though he is tremendously gifted and talented on many fronts, he is always looking for ways to support the advancement of the collective. He gracefully navigates the complexities of his positionality as a white-presenting gay man with Native American ancestry and educational privilege. He does not shy away from tension and conflict but rather embraces them as opportunities to learn and develop. The world of civic life needs more Johnny Shively’s.–Penn Loh
Second-year UEP student Johnny Shively was the well-earned recipient of the 2023 Tisch Presidential Award for Civic Life. He is one of two members of the UEP community honored with an award this academic year.
Each year this award recognizes undergraduate and graduate students from across Tufts University for outstanding achievement in community service and community leadership during their time at Tufts. Johnny was an exceptional nominee, meeting all criteria such as breadth and depth of experience, local, national and international impact, programmatic advancement, sustained commitment, and diversity of interests. The UEP community is proud to have been part of his nomination.
Johnny Shively is one of those people who brings a unique light and warmth to every community they are in. He embodies the definition of community (and civic life) as a verb — something you do/create — rather than a noun. Prior to Tufts, Johnny had more than five years of experience in community organizing and community building in New Haven, Connecticut. He chose to come to Tufts and UEP specifically because of UEP’s focus on social and racial justice. In his first semester at Tufts, Johnny was still finishing coordinating New Haven’s Cultural Equity Plan with the Civic Impact Lab (which he co-founded).
Johnny earned this award because he has continued to directly impact communities here at Tufts, in New Haven, and across Boston and Massachusetts. His work supporting the implementation of a sweeping participatory budgeting process in the City of Boston also contributes to democracy and solidarity economy movements globally.
Johnny’s work on participatory budgeting (PB) in the City of Boston most clearly illustrates his impact on civic life. In 2021 Boston voters passed a referendum requiring the City to implement a city-wide process for residents to allocate public spending – a first of its kind in the US. In spring 2022, Johnny was part of a 5-member UEP Field Project team that developed a plan for evaluation and oversight of Boston’s PB process. Their findings are now being used by the Better Budget Alliance, the grassroots coalition that advocated for PB and which is facilitated by the Center for Economic Democracy (CED).
Johnny continued working on PB with CED through a Tisch Summer Fellowship in the summer of 2022 and as a Research and Organizing Fellow ever since. He has facilitated stakeholder discussions, supported advocacy for Boston’s PB ordinance, and designed and facilitated popular education workshops for community organizations. Johnny’s master’s thesis is exploring how PB can be a tool for civic education and leadership. In March 2023, Johnny was called upon by the Boston City Council to testify on how to structure the PB process.
What stands out even more than his contributions to PB is how Johnny comes into the work with humility and respect. Johnny’s approach to working with and for marginalized communities is why Penn Loh, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice, hired him as an incoming student to support his Co-Research/Co-Education (CORE) community partnership work. Johnny interviewed half a dozen past CORE participants. After learning that many of them desired a way to stay in touch, he organized a CORE convening in November 2021 for more than 30 students, alums, and community partners.
Being new to Boston, Johnny has been intentionally developing relationships with partners rooted in working-class communities of color. In my Solidarity Economy movements course in the Fall of 2021, Johnny led a student team to conduct a dozen interviews with members of the Solidarity Economy Initiative (SEI). One interviewee shared a beautiful song in Spanish that she had sung every day in the cooperative primary school she attended in Colombia. Following this course, Penn Loh hired Johnny in the spring of 2022 to help compile these interviews and draft part of a report for SEI.
Johnny also built more community partner relationships through the Teaching Democracy course, which brings together Tufts students with community practitioners in a train-the-trainer popular education workshop. He was a student in spring 2022 and is now the TA in spring 2023, helping to co-design and co-facilitate. In addition, Johnny also found time in his first year to intern with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, where he co-produced a Municipal DEI Guide in collaboration with over 15 DEI leaders across the Greater Boston Region.
Johnny also has a strong record of campus and community activities and leadership roles from his time at Tufts. These included:
- Civic Impact Lab, Co-Founder – July 2018 – January 2022
- Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Community Engagement Intern – October 2021 – May 2022
- Tufts UEP CORE Assistant – Fall 2021
- Tufts UEP Research Assistant – Spring 2022
- Center for Economic Democracy, Tisch Summer Fellow – Summer 2023
- Center for Economic Democracy, Research and Organizing Fellow – September 2022 – present
Johnny is one of the most grounded and authentic humans I have ever met. He brings a genuine warmth and curiosity to relating to others. Though he is tremendously gifted and talented on many fronts, he is always looking for ways to support the advancement of the collective. He gracefully navigates the complexities of his positionality as a white-presenting gay man with Native American ancestry and educational privilege. He does not shy away from tension and conflict but rather embraces them as opportunities to learn and develop. The world of civic life needs more Johnny Shively’s.
The UEP community proudly congratulates Johnny for earning this esteemed award. His leadership, energy, and dedication to our community have been inspiring. We thank him for his commitment to civic engagement and look forward to celebrating his future successes.