About 15 years ago, I conducted a statewide scan of youth voice in Washington State. In the process I talked with 50 different organizations all conducting some form of youth voice, including civic youth engagement. This is a summary of youth civic engagement in Washington State in 2020.
The other day I had the opportunity to talk with some folks from the Washington State Courts Civic Learning Council. They are interested in promoting youth civic engagement, so I scanned some examples of activities in our state focused on their interest.
- Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council—These young people work with the Washington Legislature to promote youth voice in the legislative process, including conducting bill analysis and sharing youth opinions about new rules, laws and other state government issues.
- King County Youth Advisory Council—A program of the nonprofit SOAR, the King County Youth Advisory Board gathers young people of color from south King County to respond, react and advocate for issues affecting their neighborhoods and the larger community.
- Seattle Foundation Youth Grantmaking Board—Given opportunities to lead on all phases of grantmaking, this board is made of young leaders who direct a foundation giving.
- All Home King County Youth Advisory Board—Young people experiencing housing instability or homeless in King County are invited to join this board to advocate for the interests of homeless youth.
- Seattle Youth Commission—A program of the city department of neighborhoods, this commission meets twice monthly with Seattle youth to explore what’s happening in neighborhoods across the city and devise ways for the city to address the most important youth issues.
- MOPOP Youth Advisory Board—A group of youth that guides the Museum of Popular Culture, these youth work with local artists and musicians to create exhibits and activities.
These activities aren’t even representative of the breadth of activities happening statewide to engage young people. However, they do begin to hint at the breadth and diversity of youth civic engagement. There are a lot of considerations when assessing and identifying these opportunities, and from that place we brainstormed a list of potential activities for the statewide Civic Learning Council to pursue with young people as partners.
- Youth Participatory Action, which is research focused on identifying current youth civic engagement activities statewide
- Classroom Curriculum supporting active student learning focused on youth civic engagement
- Greater Credit for youth civic engagement by higher education
- Identifying Best Practices in youth civic engagement statewide
Another set of activities the council could pursue is to focus on fostering new roles for youth civic engagement in ongoing government transformation activities, particularly the role of police across the state. I believe several areas of government should be having these conversations, including local, county and state governments; schools; parks and recreation; courts; etc.
Potential partners in Washington that could support these activities include:
- Washington Association of Counties
- Association of Washington Cities
- OSPI Social Studies Department
- Tribal governments
- Ethnic / cultural / racially oriented nonprofits
By way of illustration, here are a few of the youth engagement activities I’ve facilitated across the state over the last 20 years have included…
- Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families Youth Surveying
- Downtown Olympia Homeless Youth Engagement Project
- Seattle Youth Engagement Zone
- Research for the Washington State Office of Homeless Youth
These are just some beginning steps in the conversation about youth civic engagement in Washington State today. What would YOU add to the list? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!