Building a Youth Civic Ecosystem in NYC
Our country is in the midst of significant civic distrust and unrest, which necessitates the activation of a new generation of young people to become civically involved. Providing meaningful on-ramps for positive and ongoing civic engagement, particularly for historically disenfranchised youth and vulnerable populations, is vital now more than ever.
New York City and State have taken steps to support stronger civic participation among young people in recent years through:
- Voter pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds
- Creation of a Seal of Civic Readiness for high school graduates recognizing proficiency in civic knowledge and experience with civic participation
- A Civics for All initiative by NYCDOE that helps participating schools integrate civics into their curricula and extracurricular activities
Despite these promising developments, civic participation among young New Yorkers is still low.
- In 2018, youth voter turnout in New York (16.4%) was the second lowest for all states
- Teens and young adults are consistently the lowest voting demographic
- Only 8% of 16 and 17-year-olds in NYC have pre-registered to vote
- Confidence and trust in our core civic institutions are lower for each succeeding generation with Generation Z (18 – 22-year-olds) citing the most distrust
While recent changes at the state and city levels could enable more youth civic participation, progress will continue to be limited without a strategic effort by an integrated body of civic organizations. The time is right to build a much-needed civic ecosystem in New York that instills young people with strong civic identity, agency, and efficacy.
To this end, YVote is joining civic organizations in an effort spearheaded by Do Something to create a coalition and hub honoring civic opportunities both in and beyond NYC schools.
The Civic Engagement and Participation Coalition
To develop an integrated vision and plan for the critical civic ecosystem, we have brought together leaders of key civic nonprofits in the city, such as the Citizens Committee for Children, CUNY’s Intergenerational Change Initiative, Generation Citizen, Mikva Challenge, and NYCLU’s Teen Activist Project, key members of youth-focused city government agencies such as the NYC Department of Education, the Department of Youth & Community Development’s, Mayor’s Office, NYC Votes, and the Civic Engagement Commission, researchers and evaluators, and funders to form a Civic Engagement and Participation Coalition.
A steering committee is refining and leading different facets of the Coalition’s work, such as planning for a landscape analysis and the digital hub. This group is considering how public and private funding can strengthen civic opportunities for young New Yorkers, with an emphasis on underserved communities.
The Digital Civic Hub
In NYC, we are fortunate to benefit from an abundance of civic resources. But we lack an infrastructure that makes civic opportunities known and navigable for young people, their families, and their schools and teachers in a systematic way. As such, many young people have very limited, if any, civic opportunities, which runs the risk of resulting in a generation of civically isolated young people.
The Digital Civic Hub will share, for the first time in New York City, a one-stop clearinghouse of civic programming, opportunities, and resources, and an updatable calendar of civic events and opportunities. This hub will activate a broad range of young people in New York City, with a particular emphasis on those from historically marginalized communities, by helping them, their families, and their teachers identify and engage with high-quality civic opportunities that align with their interests.
Importantly, this Hub will work to credentialize civic learning to ensure young people receive recognition for what they’ve achieved and sets them on a trajectory for lifelong civic learning and participation. Alongside researchers from Harvard’s Democratic Knowledge Project, Coalition members will identify the civic competencies their programs are developing and their process for assessing these skills. They will then map these competencies and the work of existing organizations to the requirements of the NYS Seal of Civic Readiness and to the national standards for democracy education found in the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap. This will allow schools and community organizations to work together more effectively and graduate more students with the Seal of Civic Readiness.
At the heart of this work is equipping New York’s young people to be informed and engaged civic actors.
For more information, contact Sanda Balaban at [email protected]