Involving youth in multi-generational community engagement

Glendale multi-generational community engagement"Every young person can recall cringing as their elders embark on a “You kids have it so easy. Back in my day…” tale. And for many things, yes, perhaps life was more difficult; but this does not mean the youth do not continue to face their own unique set of challenges. Civic engagement is an area where many young people do not feel they belong and have trouble involving themselves. With the initiative of Project Cities, Arizona State University students and the City of Glendale worked to address this. The city recognized that there was a lack of civic engagement among youth ages 18 through 25, resulting in decisions being made without proper input from all members of the community. In order to better prepare the next generation of leaders, the City of Glendale wanted to find ways to better engage them within the community to support multi-generational problem-solving and collaboration. Two ASU classes collaborated with Project Cities to provide a fresh perspective on the issue, as well as new strategies and opportunities for the city to do this. The first of these classes was CPP 201: Community Impact Lab. This was provided to students in the Next Generation Service Corps, an ASU organization created to develop leaders capable of engaging in cross-sector collaboration to address pressing social issues. Taught by Laura Tan, manager of the Public Service Academy at ASU, and Katherine Clemens, director of youth entrepreneurship at Entrepreneurship + Innovation, the class connected a group of six students with the City of Glendale to employ design thinking in order to generate ideas for better engaging youth. Through extensive research and communication with the city, the students found that young people today are more informed and interested in civic engagement than ever before, but they are typically incapable of participating in decision-making meetings due to time constraints and scheduling. In order to better accommodate young adults, the group proposed the creation of a civic engagement committee for people ages 18 through 25 that focuses on community problems, social media outreach and collaboration. They also recommended that the City of Glendale update its official website to promote recent and upcoming events. The second class helping with this project was PAF 509: Public Affairs Capstone instructed by Malcolm Goggin, Professor of Practice with the Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions. This class was the culmination of work done by six public administration graduate students tasked with identifying excluded audiences in Glendale and finding ways to include them in city forums. Each of these students specialized in different topics relevant to the project, such as fostering community engagement via collaboration, bridging the digital divide, engaging younger generations, increasing employee engagement, and multi-generational community engagement. They arrived at a variety of suggestions for the city: develop a digital engagement platform, conduct internal employee engagement surveys, host periodic panel discussions, provide volunteer opportunities to residents, and conduct information campaigns to ensure residents are aware of city issues. The work done by these two classes helped the City of Glendale engage its residents in decision-making and future opportunities. The city was able to develop a plan of action from the proposals submitted by the students to apply the innovative and creative ideas in the future. Project Cities is a member of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network and is administered by ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the Sustainable Cities Network.