The Project for the Civic and Environmental Commons is a cluster of initiatives, started by the Appalachian Center, University of Kentucky, in 1999, to support academic/ citizen partnerships in action research for equity and sustainability in the Appalachian region. It tries to serve as a bridge between movements within and outside academe. First, it attempts to link the university with the global movement for community-based development. A ferment of creativity in the nongovernmental sector in the last two decades has generated a rich variety of research methods (especially in participatory and place-based techniques for community assessment) and new organizational models for decentralized and democratic planning. The Project attempts to channel new techniques and models from this grassroots experimentation into university training and research, and to provide whatever support academics can give to citizen-led, community-based development. Second, the Project for the Civic and Environmental Commons tries to join this community-based work with reform movements within higher education that argue that institutional change is necessary for higher education to adequately respond to emerging problems of the 21st century. Those who call for a "New Academy" and for "public scholars" argue that much of academic research needs to be more targeted to meeting public needs and problems, and that the professionalization process needs to do a better job of producing scholars who are intellectually and emotionally able to engage in community-based work.

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