Youth Empowerment for Civic Engagement is a case study that highlights an example of accessible youth programming. This is an instructive example because it showcases indicators of success including meeting youth where they are at; relationship building; programming informed by those who participate; clear community standards or group norms; adult support for youth; and identifiable allies and network support for youth.
Youth Empowerment for Civic Engagement was an event put on by the Saskatoon Open Door Society. It was a partnership between an immigrant and refugee settlement agency and an aboriginal school, Oskayak School. Youth were provided transportation to the event location, which helped overcome the geographical barriers to participation. The sessions took place in late afternoon and early evening, where supper was also provided, so that there would be maximum opportunity for attendance. Through experiential learning, youth were encouraged to apply the skills for empowerment they learned to an issue that they were concerned about. This provided them with the opportunity for agency in their own learning processes.
After having created the opportunities for programming informed by participants, the youth were invested in their project. They determined that there were two issues of particular interest, tourism and improving the local bus system. These were issues that affected the youth directly because the local public transportation system was not meeting the needs of the patrons.
Tourism in their community was also an important issue because of the lack of knowledge about the school and communities from which the youth represent. These youth wanted to put their home on the map and to increase awareness. This event, from its inception, had the intent of inclusion and created the means to be open to youth from diverse communities. Through these active learning opportunities, youth had the opportunity to make meaningful change in their communities as well as meet with the mayor, city councillors, and school trustees.
After Halifax’s Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development did research on youth engagement, a group of dynamic youth developed “the Circle of Awesomeness” as a tool to guide public engagement practitioners in linking people to their communities. The tool’s end goal is sustained youth engagement. This tool can be used as a guide during the development of an organization’s activities, programs, or projects.
Related Indicators of Success
- Diversity is understood, valued, and named;
- Youth have had previous interactions with organizers;
- Group understands harassment statement;
- Situations are addressed in a constructive way;
- Youth have strategies to engage with the status quo;
- Youth are trained to respond to injustices they encounter;
- Language translation is provided;
- Programs explicitly use a diversity of learning and teaching tools;
- Flexibility in program design and delivery to respond to and support local context;
- Adult and peer support are welcome to attend;
- Organizational or institutional policy exist regarding barriers to participation with those you are serving, or want to serve.