In our Partner Spotlight Series, see how Motivote partner organizations are making the digital platform their own and driving community engagement goals. In this Spotlight, learn more about Miami Dade College – “Democracy’s College” with eight campuses and 100k+ students – uses Motivote to address the civic empowerment gap, digitize its programming, and reach all students regardless of voter eligibility and status.


As the self-proclaimed “democracy’s college,” Florida’s Miami Dade College (MDC) has long been known for its commitment to civic engagement.


President Emeritus Eduardo Padron was a vocal champion for civic action. While he stepped down in 2019, the dedication to civic and democratic participation continues. It’s baked into their ethos.


Yet matter how much democracy is intertwined in the school’s DNA, it’s no small task to build and and manage civic engagement programming for a community college with eight campuses and 100k+ students.


At the helm of this effort is the Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy (iCED).


Within iCED is a team of students, faculty, and staff who are leading the college’s voter engagement initiative — with Motivote at the center.


To implement Motivote, iCED Director Joshua Young partners with Heily Rivas, the Program Coordinator who joined as an intern when she was 16.


Together they are working to bridge the “civic empowerment gap” and bring civic education to everyone — regardless of voter status. 



The Civic Empowerment Gap

A commitment to civic engagement is nothing new for colleges and universities. “Many colleges have some sort of civic engagement and action plan in place,” Young acknowledges.


But with almost half of college students attending community colleges and more than 900 public community colleges, the need for focused and quality civic engagement programs is essential.


“There’s a big need for civic education and empowerment,” Young says. “Motivote is a great fit because it helps to amplify what we’re trying to do.”


There’s a big need for civic education and empowerment. Motivote is a great fit because it helps to amplify what we’re trying to do.”


So what are community colleges like MDC trying to do?


To start, they are addressing the civic empowerment gap.


According to Young, students at community colleges often deal with “lower quality civic engagement opportunities compared to white and middle-upper class students.”


The PEW Research Center defines this as the gap that exists between the civic and political knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors of low-income non-white individuals and middle-class and wealthy white individuals.


And this isn’t just a knowledge gap. It can also contribute to people feeling less interested in voting and politics, less likely to believe they can make a difference, and less likely to be politically active. So, this gap can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 


Meeting the Challenge with Motivote 


The 2020 election was the first time that MDC decided to use Motivote on a college-wide level. During that election, every one of MDC’s eight campuses was using Motivote.




But program coordinators soon realized that the power of the platform wasn’t solely driving voter registration and engagement — they could also embed the college’s overarching civic engagement goals within the Motivote platform itself. 


At MDC, they have a tool called a Civic Action Scorecard — a list of civic actions that students can complete to make change in their communities.


Bucketed into categories like Democratic Engagement & Advocacy and Community Well-Being, the actions range from fact-checking media to calculating one’s carbon footprint. Students who complete enough actions earn a Civic Action Award.


This year, MDC digitized its Civic Scorecard using Motivote. “A lot of the actions that are on Motivote are linked onto that scorecard,” shared Heily. “So if a student completes an action for a scorecard, they can earn points there, but also on Motivote.”



“I think one of the most important things a school can do is to come up with a list of civic actions that are important to you and your school – things you want your students to know and to do, and build those into the platform as actions,” explained Young.


By embedding the college’s established civic programming into the Motivote platform, they can meet some of their own goals while leveraging the incentives, actions, and prizes. 


Going Beyond Voter Engagement


Embedding goals isn’t the only place where MDC takes a unique approach with Motivote.


What’s most exciting is how MDC uses the platform to reach all students regardless of voter eligibility status. Instead of using Motivote to solely drive voter registration and engagement, MDC considers it a valuable tool throughout the civic engagement ecosystem. That includes those who may not be eligible to vote yet — or people who won’t ever be able to vote.


At MDC “our focus is mainly on civic learning and democratic engagement,” Young shares.


“What do you know, what are things that we all should know to be an effective changemaker and contributor?”


While voting will always remain one of the most important ways to do that, there’s still much foundational knowledge that’s important for students to know. 


“What do you know, what are things that we all should know to be an effective changemaker and contributor?”


Heily agrees: “From my experience of using Motivote as someone who wasn’t eligible to vote, I think it’s very useful for that student population. We’re navigating the world and we’re trying to make a change, but we don’t have the power to vote.”


For these students, the ability to create actions and learning experiences within the Motivote platform helps them understand where they have power and what they can do to make a change.