VOICES OF CIVIC CHAMPIONS : Bridging the gap between Communities and Policies

"Engaging Local Governments In Youth Development Through A Holistic, Iterative Approach To Policy Formulation And Execution, National Governments Can Help Promote Youth Civic Engagement Through A Cohesive Strategy That Invests In Young People As Catalysts For Sustainable Growth."

How can we best encourage active citizenship? What does it take to build or rebuild a stronger sense of community on citizens’ rights in our local area? These questions continue to capture people’s imagination in Pakistan and beyond. We see this reflected in the popular narrative of ‘loss of community’, that tells us “things just ain’t like they used to be when we all used to look out for each other, when you knew your neighbors”. We see it on the policy stage in the continued commitment to localism. We also see it around the election process in the concern about perceived citizen apathy and disillusionment with the political system.

Voices of civic Champions is an Initiative that supports the preparation for-and practice of-youth participation in governance roles (in programs, organizations, and communities). The initiative targets both youth and adults, supporting each in developing the skills and knowledge needed to be effective in youth in governance.

Voices of Civic Champions invites young people to participate in the democratic process through meaningful roles in public policy, planning, and decision-making-which can lead to improved outcomes for youth and the community. It also thrives in a climate of reciprocity and respect where young people, in partnership with adults, are prepared and supported to tackle relevant issues and effect change. Mentors with different civic participatory backgrounds teach them how to get involved in a meaningful way.

Civic Champions stand out as advocates for human rights, active citizenship, and holding the government accountable. Every Civic Champion is an agent of change to bring their local issues into the limelight.

The initiative is focused on a multi-strategy multiple “pathway” approach that builds toward both program and system change. An underlying assumption is that youth in governance is not a new programme, it’s a new way of doing programs. It’s a youth development approach that can be integrated into any other program or activity, not only those focused on citizenship and leadership.

The overall goal of the program is “The authentic and meaningful engagement of young people in programs, organizations, and communities, where they have or share voice, influence, and decision making authority.”

Civic Champions being a part of the program are to perform community action projects within their communities, be part of exchange visits nationally and build up liaison with local and provincial authorities.

The changemakers at community level are equipped with the skills of Project planning,community photography,Street Theatre and Dialogue stratgeies. The civic champions are ready to apply their knolwdge around the country to ensure Religious Peace and Tolerance, Maternal Health,Conflict Resolution and volunteering for community.

How Do We Motivate Youth To Want To Participate?

Basically, youth motivate themselves and other youth. The role of adults is to set the stage for that motivation to happen. It is important to engage youth in topics that interest and excite them and to frame issues in a way that is concrete and relates to their world. Some of the best support for youth participation can come from teachers, youth workers, coaches, other adult allies and parents. Many times these trusted adults can inspire youth participation in an event just by the way they describe it. Other ideas that can get youth in the door include food, door prizes for open meetings and extra school credit for committee work. Leaders seeking to engage youth can also make sure it will be worth their while when they get there. Youth are frustrated with traditional approaches. They need more dialogue and action than is afforded them within the school day. Their civic engagement experience needs to tap into their energy and innate interest in being of service. Another major reason of active and motivated youth is to have an easy approach to address to community. Holding rights awareness sessions within one house yard, talking to youth in a playground and adults in the fields risen the credibility and belonging of the civic champions within their communities.

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The Four Pathways To Youth Engagement Involvement:

  1. Volunteering: Youth actively participate in volunteer opportunities and meetings initiated by adults, and have input on the strategies and day-to-day operations, or take on projects within ongoing city initiatives.
  2. Consultation: Adult officials create intentional settings, such as advisory groups, in which youth give input and advice.
  3. Representation: Selected youth gain the opportunity to participate in ongoing municipal work on behalf of their peers, with the ability to help set the agenda and vote on a government-sponsored activity.
  4. Shared leadership: Youth share positions of authority with adults as colleagues and share accountability for the goals and outcomes of the activity.

What Impact Have They Made So Far?

Our Civic Champions also initiated a “Connecting Volunteers” campaign, which provided a platform for community-based activists and concerned citizens to voice their initiatives. By capturing their efforts and sharing it through a blog and social media, they shared the efforts citizens are making to ensure accountability and citizenship at the micro level.

“The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.”

Laureate which originally means to crown with a wreath of evergreen leaves, is a social enterprise that strives for a peaceful society with gender equality human rights and access to development. It envisages socio-economic empowerment of marginalized groups, particularly young women, peasants and minorities. It was established by a group of young activists in 2008.

We continue to be the premier youth organization working to enhance the contribution of youth in the development processes. We are duly committed to redefining the role of the youth in leadership and governance; and in mainstreaming the youth agenda.

Our foremost effort is to bring back the concept of volunteering as a spirit among youth. And to fulfill this outcome we have been organizing capacity building sessions, Volunteer management system development within all volunteer focused organizations in order to sustain the cause based volunteering rather the growing trends of activity based engagement with no fruitful outcomes.