Citizens Union is working to prepare the next generation of New Yorkers to understand how the levers of government work, develop the skills for democratic participation, and receive opportunities to engage in meaningful civic experience through our Youth Civic Engagement and Education Project.
As the site of some of the largest and most influential social movements in the United States, New York City has a proud past – and present – of civic engagement. But it has also been suffering from embarrassingly low rates of formal political participation. Promoting real and sustained civic engagement is not only about learning how laws are made in Congress. Research shows that it requires providing opportunities for people, from a young age, to gain civic skills, civic knowledge, and practical experience.
Through research, advocacy, and collaboration with other actors in the civics field, we are working to create a more well-informed and collaborative landscape of civic learning in New York City, and uncovering what methodologies work best to enhance youth participation in civic life. Practitioners working on youth engagement outside of schools often struggle to gauge the effectiveness of their programs. Citizens Union is studying how to asses and measure impact in the field, in order to provide a common language on youth outcomes, and the metrics to evaluate them, which organizations can use to plan their programming. Within schools, educators and administrators around the nation are developing innovative ways to provide students with high-quality civic learning. In New York City, the Department of Education has launched Civics for All, a city initiative that incorporates project-based, interactive civics curricula in classrooms. Citizen Union is studying how American cities design and implement new programs in civic education, and how those policies are practiced in schools across urban America. We plan to release our findings in a report later in 2020 and hold a series of events to publicize our results. Stay tuned!
We also will be working with our coalition partners in to create youth-focused education and engagement materials ahead of the 2021 Municipal Elections. The 2021 Elections will be extremely significant for New York City for a number of reasons: it will mark the biggest turnover in city government in a generation and it will be the first to use recently passed Ranked Choice Voting. We also expect young voters to play a key role in 2021 – with the introduction of preregistration of 16 and 17 year-olds and the anticipated passage of Automatic Voter Registration – the 18-24 age group is expected to increase significantly among registered voters ahead of the 2021 elections. For all these reasons, we want youth and all New Yorkers to be well prepared to vote.
Youth civic engagement is on the rise in recent years, but young New Yorkers still face significant barriers to voting. Citizens Union supports making changes to the state election law that would make it easier for students and youth across New York to vote. We are co-chairing the Let NY Vote youth working group on voter reform, which works with high school and college students to advocate for policy and legislative changes, like mandating polling sites on college campuses.