The Askew Institute is named in honor of former Governor Reubin O'Donovan Askew (1971-1979). Acknowledged as one of the ten best governors of the 20th century, Governor Askew is known for his personal integrity and his commitment to racial justice, transparency in government, and environmental protection. He remains an active participant in the Institute and holds the Eminent Scholar Chair in Florida Government and Politics at Florida State University. The Institute was created in 1994 to bring Floridians together to discuss critical issues facing the state. For much of the second half of the twentieth century, citizen engagement in public life has declined dramatically as Florida’s population growth exceeded 1,000 people per day and as different ethnic, age, and racial groups located to Florida. In the wake of this tremendous growth, Florida witnessed a loss of civic engagement, a decline in community, and increasing political conflicts over issues of concern to particular groups. The founders of the Institute viewed the deterioration of community and civic discourse and the age, ethnic, and racial divisions in Florida as detrimental to the health of the state’s democracy and to its citizens, and focused its programs on rebuilding civic engagement, mutual understanding, and community.
With grant funding from the John Scott Dailey Institute of Government at Florida State University, periodic funding from state and national foundations, and with private funds raised by Governor Askew and David Colburn, the Askew Institute was launched in the mid-1990s as a statewide forum for the citizens and policy leaders of the state. The following are a few examples of topics considered at the Askew Institute statewide forum: "Florida and the Global Economy; " "The Graying of Florida;" “Democracy and the Economy in Florida at a Time of National Crisis;” “The Health Care Crisis: Seeking Solutions for Florida and the Nation;” “Confronting the Public Education Challenge in Florida and the Nation;” and “How Should Florida’s Water Supply be Managed in Response to Growth?”
The Askew Institute is an affiliate of the John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government and works closely with the FIG each year. The goal of the Institute remains focused on building citizen engagement and understanding through education, research, and especially through outreach. The Askew Institute also seeks to complement the efforts of the other Institute Affiliates and statewide organizations that are dedicated to civic engagement, enhancing the quality of life for Floridians, and preserving and protecting the state’s environment.