Tony Massengale and Peg Michels started testing the concept of citizen politics in 1987 while Michels was at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

By 1994, they could see that people easily embraced the concept of citizen politics but had difficulty implementing it inside the systems where their immediate political and economic interests conflicted with its practice. They saw that this was a significant barrier to developing an engaged citizenry.

Massengale and Michels believed that we needed a new kind of political organizing. As a result, they coined the term “civic organizing” and authored the Civic Organizing Framework, a practical theory for civic renewal.

They established the Civic Organizing Foundation (COF) in 1998 as a national structure for implementing civic organizing. The Minnesota Active Citizenship Initiative is a COF field organization.