A letter from the founders...

The E-Collaborative for Civic Education (ECCE) is a newly established, U.S. based 501c3 organization with a mission to leverage technology to promote civic learning and democratic political life internationally. Through live e-learning platforms, social networks, mobile phones, television, radio and more, ECCE helps empower civil society groups by arming them with democratic knowledge and human rights awareness. The assumption guiding our vision is that individuals committed to democratic values, the rule of law, and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties are likely not only to press for their freedom but build the civil and political institutions that will sustain democracy and human rights.

As co-founders and co-directors of the organization, we share a long standing interest in civic education as well as personal histories of civic activism and aiding civic groups struggling against repressive regimes worldwide. Both of us are from Iran, a country where a resilient civil society continues to do battle for the most basic of human rights. Akbar spent ten years in the leadership of the Iranian student movement and was one of the original drafters of a referendum calling for a democratic constitution. He left Iran in 2005 and continues to work closely with civic activists throughout the country. Mariam left Iran during the 1979 revolution and has spent over 15 years crafting capacity building initiatives for civil societies across the globe.

We share a passion for the ideas that shape an active citizenry and democratic political life. For us, the citizen and her civic duty in sustaining a democratic polity are primary, as fundamental as the universal rights any citizen should enjoy. The E-Collaborative for Civic Education sees democracy as the only political system able to secure equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties for each and every citizen. We see democracy as both a set of values as well as a set of institutions and processes that foster peace, pluralism and open societies that reward human dignity and human achievement.

In 2010, our team launched ECCE’s flagship project, Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society. Tavaana is the pioneer effort to bring cutting edge e-learning technologies and pedagogic approaches to Iran. The site has become a trusted learning community by providing secure, anonymous live instruction courses for students throughout the country in subjects as varied as women’s rights, cybersecurity, and leadership. Complementing the live instruction courses, the institute offers self-learning manuals, case studies on civic movements and democratic transitions, interviews with activists and intellectuals, an annotated resource library, tools and guidance for Iranian educators and translations of key democracy texts. Tavaana’s inclusivity and attention to the full spectrum of rights has earned the credence of a broad spectrum of Iranian civic actors.

The E-Collaborative for Civic Education’s goals are to link the worlds of academia and practical learning, to bridge the knowledge and technology divides between civic actors working in free and unfree contexts, and to compensate for the ideological, rote learning forced in places such as Iran with engaging, international standard civic literacy initiatives. We believe strongly in the power of partnership, and see technology as facilitating collaboration in ways that transcend all manner of boundaries. Our partners include courageous, civic-minded women and men fighting against repression across the globe, as well as international organizations such as: the Center for Civic Education/CIVITAS, the Albert Shanker Institute, Mobile Active, and the New Tactics in Human Rights Project. Our teaching faculty includes the world’s leading experts in human rights, democracy and civil society.

ECCE will continue to build the capacity of Iranian civil society while also shaping similar learning communities for other repressive regime contexts. And we will always stand ready to help those standing in defiance of repressive regimes, including civic leaders, intellectuals, educators, human rights defenders and others engaged in the hard struggle for human rights and democracy.

We hope you will join us! You can get involved by spreading the word, helping us recruit students, by volunteering your time or by making a financial contribution to our efforts. Thank you for sharing in the mission of education for freedom!

Akbar Atri and Mariam Memarsadeghi