A key goal of YVote is equipping youth to be effective ambassadors of voting and civic engagement, prepared to engage peers in their schools and communities. We are big proponents of human-centered design (human-centered everything), which entails developing deep knowledge about the places we live and work and what makes people around us tick.
While YVoters will be doing this in our respective own communities, we also wanted to identify a community where youth are particularly disenfranchised, and where we could forge bonds and do our best to see if we could find the keys to motivate them.
We picked Hunts Point, which is part of Congressional District 15, one of the lowest voting districts by young people in the whole city and where longtime popular Congress Member Jose Serrano will be retiring, meaning there will be a competitive race in 2020 for the first time in many years.
Our goals for the day? To learn more about what (young) people in the community care about and how we can motivate the to vote and be civically engaged through the issues AND to bond and build knowledge and skills through an immersive offsite experience.
We were fortunate to connect with a true visionary in the community to anchor us and serve as a guide: Majora Carter
After getting some history and baseline knowledge about the community from Majora, we discussed perceptions of District 15–and the disparities the community faces–as well as what we want to learn about the area through our interaction. We brainstormed questions that can lead to authentic interaction and to forging bonds in the community.
Over lunch at Majora’s dynamic Boogie Down Grind Cafe, facilitator Kanene Holder gave us rules for effective community engagement and for getting people to care enough to stop to speak with us.
And with that, in groups of four, we sprawled out to local parks, to the subway station, to the McD’s across from the subway station. Groups returned on a real high.
While they had mixed experiences, getting healthy amounts of rejection, many also found our way into some meaningful conversations. We perceived certain patterns that provide initial inklings of what people are concerned about (for ex, trash and cleanliness!) which we will delve deeper into over the coming year.
We closed out the afternoon in a circle sharing thoughts about something we loved about the day.
Kanene and Majora closed out the day with inspirational words that connected us to our higher purpose through this work.
We departed already looking forward to returning.