A smart, wonderful, well-intentional teacher captured the essence of what most adults believe.
“We want to make youth feel like they are part of the process.”
Feel is not enough. Gestures of shared decision-making are not enough.
Instead, authentic engagement should be: “Youth are part of the process.”
One way to walk the talk is for adults to support youth-led campaigns in San Francisco and Berkeley to extend voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds. Please share these links with anyone you know who lives in these cities.
> Urge them to vote for…
Proposition F (San Francisco)
Learn more: http://vote16sf.org
Measure Y1 (Berkeley)
Learn more: http://www.vote16berkeley.com
> Phone bank regardless where you live:
> Watch compelling testimony by young people: http://youthactivismproject.org/2016/05/09/exciting-election-news-november-vote-to-extend-suffrage/
> Read this convincing commentary by youth historian Anthony Bernier and sociologist Mike Males:
Think about the proliferation of polling data about half the world’s population under the age of 30 and declarations resulting from youth summits such as the 2015 UN Major Group for Children & Youth. A compilation in a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies outlines 10 priorities and clear demands. This analysis packs even more punch because it includes the International Youth Foundation’s Global Youth Wellbeing Index.
A few highlights:
- Greater investment in education should include human rights, anti-discrimination, democracy and citizenship.
- Forget accolades about fresh and interesting ideas from young people.
- Data collection about youth civic engagement needs urgent attention.
- Meaningful youth input in decision making, specifically resource allocation and outcomes.
Countries that perform best in youth civic participation are largely those that rank near the bottom of overall rankings in the Index. Colombia, South Africa, India, Tanzania, Indonesia, Ghana, Uganda, Thailand, Australia, and the United Kingdom are rated the best, and of these countries, only three (Australia, United Kingdom, and Thailand) rank in the top ten.
The United States ranks 6th overall but 20th in youth citizen involvement. Reasons given include the lack of youth policies or outdated ones, higher age to run for elected office, negative youth perception, with young people feeling less valued and under served by their government.
Let’s hope the audience for this Pocket Guide for Policymakers take seriously these priorities. As the authors warn, “If we do not heed this call from our next generation, we do so at our own peril.”
The new report by the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing signals hope. This FCYO 2013 National Scan of nearly 100 organizations in low-income communities of color reveals an expanding leadership pipeline and significant victories by young activists. Here are some important findings.
- Emphasis has shifted to young people and adults building power together instead of independent youth-led movements, notably immigrant rights.
- Many multi-generational campaigns are also multi-issue, for example, education reform includes changing school lunch and other nutrition policies.
- The age range has broadened at both ends of the spectrum and 15% of organizations surveyed now collaborate with young people under age 13.
- Macro-level advocacy such as changing district-wide school suspension policies has replaced smaller scale efforts like making bathrooms safer and cleaner.
- Campaigns to establish new youth centers or parks now are less common.
- Budget cuts to summer job programs, Planned Parenthood, school closings have led to cross-generational organizing and these coalitions have a record of wins.
- A comprehensive system of youth services and supports from academic help to mental health is a core program component, especially for organizations that have survived for over a decade.
- Aspirations demonstrating the “transformative power of organizing” reveal that 80% of youth surveyed plans to go to college and among low-income youth whose parents did not get a bachelor degree “The likelihood of attending a highly-selective college is 17% for YO alumni compared to 5% for the general population.”
- Evidence of more adult practitioners who are experienced with intentional processes that address young activists’ concerns such as “being pushed into collaborating with adults, or not having the proper amount of power or support in multi-generational coalitions.”
Even with these signs of progress, the authors of this 2013 Scan conclude: “Demographics, however, is not destiny. Sheer numbers alone will not result in young people of color becoming more civically engaged…Many are deeply disillusioned with institutions that they believe have not served them well, and therefore can be loath to get involved.”
Indeed young advocates mobilizing for systemic change remain rare and tend to concentrate in certain cities but the Hill-Snowden Foundation is one funder aiming to propel social justice that uses the Multi-Generational Organizing (MGO) model. I recommend reading the Foundation’s Strategic Plan and make sure to eyeball the impressive organization list at the end of the FCYO report.