CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

CIRCLE Online Seminar: It’s a Wrap

March 13th, 2014
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On February 21st, CIRCLE wrapped up a 5-week online seminar. The seminar explored our recently released report All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Civic Engagement. More than 230 people registered for the seminar, 133 people joined a dedicated Facebook group, the seminar’s learning portal drew more than 1,700 unique page views, and a dedicated group of 20-40 individuals participated in our five weekly live chats and shared over a 100 resources to support people working towards improved youth engagement.

Participants represented diverse fields: K-12, higher education (both research and campus engagement), out-of-school time, community-based and nonprofit groups, civic organizations, local government, policy advocates, and broad-based civic engagement organizations that reach beyond youth.

Each week of the seminar was dedicated to exploring a different aspect of the All Together Now Report:

The Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge grounded its suggestions in two fundamental goals: supporting free expression and civil deliberation among youth, and creating more equal and better engagement opportunities for young people. These goals spurred seminar participants to talk about strategies to create safe spaces for controversial issue discussion both in and out of the classroom (e.g. the Responsive Classroom program).

In week two, the group talked about how to engage youth who may not self-select into existing opportunities. The group considered strategies such as linking youth engagement to youth employment and looking at informal educational settings, such as out-of-school time programs. A discussion on how institutions of higher education are supporting youth work, specifically working with community-based organizations was also a focus. The important role of community engagement offices in colleges and universities was highlighted, as well as how community-based organizations can build direct connections to faculty and higher education staff.

Participants also talked about how local governments could work in stronger collaboration with community-based organizations, especially to strengthen engagement at the local level. One participant talked about Nury Martinez, a Los Angeles City Council member who worked with a number of local organizations (e.g. National Council for Jewish Women, the Mary Magdelene Project) to address local issues of human trafficking.

During week three, participants explored examples of youth leadership in city decision making in both Cambridge and New York City. Participatory budgeting committees, like the one in Boston that allows youth to allocate public resources, were part of this conversation.  Other strategies for involving and teaching youth about deliberation were shared, such as mock Congress simulations, power structure analysis, and media literacy and analysis.

As week four shifted towards the ideas of collaboration and innovation, the conversation addressed challenges of how to translate languages or jargon across fields. Participants also wrestled with ways to engage families and parents more. Inviting parents to chaperone events and encouraging discussing the news at home were two strategies shared during the session.

In the last week, an open forum discussion had participants sharing the successes and challenges facing them, their organizations, and their communities in advancing youth engagement. There was interest in continued cross-sector convening, as well as more focussed discussion on specific niches or sectors. Efforts to improve and expand upon teacher education were also discussed. Many people said they were more interested in looking beyond their own settings to find support.

Insights from the Seminar

From this five-week learning exploration, we leave knowing that people in diverse fields are itching to connect and converse with one another to share expertise and find support.  There is a desire to continue such connections beyond the seminar. There is also a thirst for more resources and concrete data related to youth engagement programs and strategies.

Some Next Steps

  • We have turned the seminar content into a “syllabus” of sorts and self-directed learning guide. Find that document here, as well as the same content formatted as worksheets.
  • CIRCLE will be holding a face-to-face gathering of seminar participants who are based in the DC area in late March. To learn more email Abby Kiesa.

  • While the seminar used a special Facebook group during the seminar, we will be working to cultivate our main Facebook page to move this conversation forward.

  • CIRCLE will be exploring the possibility of hosting future live online conversations that will allow us to have more sector or niche specific conversations within certain fields.

  • Seminar organizers will be re-formatting the learning portal to serve not only as an archive, but also a resource for self-directed learning for individuals or groups looking to explore ways to work towards multi-sector improvements to youth engagement.

Find more analysis in our 2016 Election Center. For regular updates in your Inbox about youth and the 2016 election, sign up for CIRCLE's monthly E-Update here.

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