MAR 05 | Eastern Hub: Community Showcase Event

On Saturday March 5th 2016, the YouthREX Eastern Hub hosted an event to showcase some of the work that the youth in the NOISE Program have been working on. At this event, there were several local politicians, social work faculty from Carleton University, members of various local youth organizations, family, and friends. More than half of the attendees were under the age of 25 – a resounding statement of the power that young people have in their community.

The event started with the YouthREX team speaking on what our organization does and how we hope that this work will positively impact in their community. To engage with the audience, we facilitated a World Café activity to open up a discussion regarding youth engagement in the community and what we can do to make sure that youth voice is heard.

Following this, we presented a video that we created using a Superhero theme that showcased some of the reasons why our participants in the Ottawa NOISE Program are ‘Youth Heroes’.

The youth participating in the Ottawa NOISE Program had the opportunity to speak about the unique projects that they have been researching and will be implementing within the next few weeks in their communities. The three topics that these youth were focusing on were poverty, young drivers’ education, and accessible after school programming.

The group of youth who are focusing their research on poverty in their community came up with the idea to try and make prescription glasses more accessible to people living in poverty. Young people described how this initiative will involve fundraising and gaining support from the community to help fund this project. It will also involve gaining support from optometrists who will conduct eye tests, as well as social workers who will help coordinate these services to those in need.

World Café

Here is some of the great responses that we generated with participants of the event during this knowledge mobilization activity:

ROUND 1

  • Who are you?
  • Who were you at your 15-18 (or under 25) year old self?
  • How did/do you get involved in your community as a young person?
  • Was/is your voice heard in the community?

From the responses during this round we learned that there was a diverse group of people who attended. It was great to have such a diverse group to begin these discussions about including youth within organizations and their communities.

ROUND 2

  • What attracted you to this event? What spoke to you from the presentation today and why did it resonate with you?
  • Please share any experience you have with research and/or evaluation in your work with youth.

During this round, a common response made regarding what brought them to this event was their interest in some of the ways that youth can become more involved in or continue being involved in their communities.  Although the people who attended this event were from many different organizations and had a range of interests, they all wanted to learn more about how to further promote youth civic engagement and what this can accomplish.

ROUND 3

  • How can we develop a culture of meaningful research and evaluation that is relevant to our context(s) and community?
  • What are the key considerations (challenges/opportunities in doing research and evaluation with youth?
  • What can we do to make sure youth voice is heard in your organization or community?

Some of the challenges that participants discussed regarding involving youth in research and/or evaluation included lack of transportation in order for youth to participate, linguistic and cultural barriers, their busy schedules, and overall discomfort working in research settings. Participants also identified benefits of involving youth in research and/or evaluation including that it provided an opportunity to address issues in the community that matter to youth, that communities can further utilizing social media to engage youth, and that involving youth encourages new outlooks in problem solving.

 The Inspiration- Answering “Why”

This event provided our team the opportunity to collaborate with youth, local politicians, youth organizations, and other various community members to discuss some of the youth initiatives that are happening within the community as well as some of the areas where youth civic engagement could be fostered.

This event was organized in partnership with YOUth Heroes, an organization that was established by university students in Ottawa that aims to improve opportunities for at-risk youth and eliminate the cycle of poverty. YOUth Heroes works with all levels of government to provide leadership/ educational programming and are establishing a Superhero Week and Superhero School to highlight all heroes in our communities. To promote their upcoming Superhero Week, YOUth Heroes invited several local politicians and community leaders to come speak at this event.

Deputy Mayor Mark Taylor from the Bay ward in Ottawa was at the event and spoke about the importance of including youth in community development.  Christian Robillard, Executive Director of the Student Philanthropy Council at Carleton University, and Jackie Miller, Director of Community Initiatives, Strategies for United Way Ottawa were also attendees of the event and spoke to the group about their experiences working in the community. It was wonderful to have such excellent role models at our event to speak to the youth about some of the projects that they are involved in and give them inspiration regarding other ways they can become more involved in their communities.  Having community dignitaries attend the event to hear young people talk about their research projects provided a wonderful opportunity for the young people to be heard by local decision makers. It also provided the opportunity for these young people to be seen as dignitaries in their own community.

Each of these community leaders spoke at the event about the value of youth civic engagement. With the extensive amount of work that people put into these organizations and initiatives that promote community development and positive impacts on the lives of others, it is important to remember what it is that inspires them. Each of these speakers noted on “why” organizations like YouthREX do what they do. It can seem overwhelming the amount of time and efforts that go in to these initiatives but at the end of the day it is youth empowerment, civic engagement, and community development that inspires these grassroots organizations to continue making such positive impacts.

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