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Be The Change: Youth Civic Engagement event

Social Change

In 2015, Youthful Cities found that in regards to youth civic engagement,

It’s not that young people aren’t invested in their cities, and don’t have ideas and thoughts on how to improve them--on the contrary, [they] are filled to the brim with concern for communities and innovative suggestions. The problem is that [they] don’t always see tangible ways to get engaged. (Youthful Cities Annual Report 2015).

On May 10th, the Youth Advisory Council hosted a panel called, Be The Change, featuring a panel of community leaders and youth change makers:

  • Alyana Lalani: Youth Advisory Council Member, YWCA Metro Vancouver
  • Niki Sharma: Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of State for Child Care
  • Sonja Foley: Intergovernmental Relations & Strategic Partnerships Director, City of Vancouver
  • Veronika Bylicki: Co-Founder and Co-Director, CityHive

This event explored diverse perspectives on what civic engagement means and how young people can turn their passion into action. For our panelists, civic engagement is a combination of community based action, individual voices and systemic change,

"It's about having grassroots-level solutions and to also work within institutions to create change...a lot of civic engagement is also social: social isolation, community connectedness, how we relate to one another and our community – those are linked to civic engagement too.” –Veronika Bylicki

“Civic engagement is using your voice and strength to advance a topic or issue you care about.” –Sonja Foley

One of the main themes that reoccur during Youth Advisory Council discussions is that with the massive amounts of information available, young people often feel overwhelmed when trying to pick one social issue to advocate for or find networks to connect to. Our panel discussed ways to navigate these challenges and offered paths to enact tangible change:

"Social media is a way... to get involved in organizations. It's good to keep your eyes open for different events. There are also a lot of city-wide, national, and event international Facebook groups that post opportunities for youth." –Alyana

"System change is the most powerful thing you can do. Whether it's influencing politicians or getting involved in politics, doing things where you can change people's lives...is so critical" –Niki Sharma

So what are the next steps?

Following the panel discussion, the attendees had the opportunity to engage with each other and the speakers in an activity led by the YWCA Youth Advisory Council to come up with solutions for change. Here’s what the groups came up with:

  • Be curious and seek out mentorship opportunities from both adults and other youth.
  • Encourage friends to go to different events around the city.
  • Say YES to opportunities that excite you.
  • Seek out or even create your own spaces for peer programs where youth are educating youth.
  • Identify and research the issues that are relevant to your own community.
  • Create your own youth-friendly platform for other youth to learn and build knowledge.
  • Download news apps to keep updated with current issues.  

At the YWCA, we are committed to empowering young people to be change makers in their community. Here are some ways you can get involved: 

  • The Youth Advisory Council empowers youth to practice active digital citizenship and become advocates for social change. Applications are currently open! Click here for more information.
  • YWCA Youth Education Programs offer young people an opportunity to play a leading role in their personal development and the development of their communities.
  • The YWCA Mentorship Programs offer opportunities for girls and young women to connect with positive role models.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of Canada 150, Heritage Canada and Methanex.

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