January 18, 2015

Youth Advocacy and Action

Eagle House Youth Centre, Knowle West, Bristol, UK

Recently the federal government distributed a Call for Proposals for Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) projects. A group of us locally has been considering how we might participate. Aside from the enormous amount of work involved in submitting a federal grant, and the long-shot nature of such an effort, another aspect has been giving me pause: the focus on what the grant labels “disconnected youth.” This labeling seems to be the wrong way ’round. It is our schools and many other institutions which are disconnected from youth; the youth themselves already have left the institutions behind that are not serving them. Trying to remain brief and positive, I wrote the following manifesto.

Champaign-Urbana Coalition for Youth Advocacy and Action (Y2A)
NOT another organization! | NOT another youth program!

We want all youth to thrive.
We want to put youth at the center of our community.
We are the leaders we have been waiting for.
This work is urgent because our youth cannot and should not wait.
We want to welcome youth into communities of learning.
We learn in relationships. We learn through connecting.
We want to create settings where less experienced learners work alongside others.
We learn when immersed deeply in specific problems.
Given opportunities and time to practice, we all gain mastery and motivation.
Mastery deepens connections—to each other, to life roles, to knowledge.
We aim to treat young people as capable and responsible.
Yet, we do not want to put youth into situations for which they are not prepared.
We want to do real work, which is really hard work.
This work requires that we take care of each other.
We want to challenge each other to tackle problems that are complex.
Individual experiences, influences, and ways of becoming are also complex:
Truth is not the same for everyone.
We require a wide variety of skills and approaches for our endeavors.
We aim to focus on concrete, collective tasks and not on egos.
A range of feelings is part of any effort, and we must attend to and manage emotions.
We must celebrate short-term goals and accomplishments, while thinking big.
Our work will be assessed together; reflection and feedback will inform next steps.
We are part of, but bigger than, our local communities.
We want to risk justice. This requires patience and endurance.
Youth are connected: to their passions, bodies, friends and loved ones.
Adults must connect to youth.

Background sources for this statement:

Boggs, G.E. The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
FemTechNet Manifesto, 2014.
Halpern, R., Heckman, P., & Larson, R. “Realizing the Potential of Learning in Middle Adolescence.” The Sally and Dick Roberts Coyote Foundation, 2013.
Knowle West Media Centre (Bristol, UK).

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