Note: I just finished this interview for a community newspaper in New York City, and they gave me permission to repost it here. Enjoy
Adam Fletcher is the founder and coordinator of The Freechild Project, one of the world’s largest online repositories for information about social change led by young people. We talked with Adam over hot tea at a shop in Queens.
How did the idea for The Freechild Project come about?
The idea for The Freechild Project came about while I was serving as a “youth ambassador” in Washington State’s education agency as part of a program operated by a large national foundation located in Washington, DC. This foundation thought I should be promoting their traditional forms of youth involvement throughout communities, including youth councils, youth forums and youth on boards. I thought all that was cool, but not necessarily relevant to the young people in the types of communities where I grew up. I saw so many amazing examples of youth-led organizing, intergenerational activism and action-oriented service that I just couldn’t settle for the “company line” – I had to take it one step further. Rather than just limiting that to the state where I lived at the time, I decided it should be national and international.
When did you set up the program?
Set up The Freechild Project in 2001. In 6 years we have gone from zero to over 5,000 listings, 1,500 newsletter subscribers, and released a dozen publications.
What do you enjoy most about running Freechild?
What I enjoy most is finding really amazing examples I want to go interact with and then tell other people about. I have traveled across the United States, Canada, to Brazil, the UK and Ireland to work with some of them. My big plan is to take a year out to tour The Freechild Project into low-income communities around North America.
Are you involved much in the youth community across the United States?
Not particularly involved in anything here in New York City, yet, although I am looking forward to getting as deep in as possible over the next year. Went to my first school in the Bronx yesterday, the International School for Liberal Arts. They were deeply interested in empowering student voice, and I have trained their principal before. You really get a sense the school – especially the students – want to develop a wonderful learning space as quickly as possible. I will keep working with them through the end of the school year, at least.
What did you do last Saturday?
Last Saturday I actually moved into my apartment! I live in Floral Park, and have taken the last week to sink into my place, unpack boxes, and explore the area. It is wonderful to have space to spread out and a place that is peaceful enough to imagine, but still have the vibrant urgency of the city at my fingertips. I spent that night driving around Queens with a friend who helped me move out here, and yeah, it was a good day.