On June 5th, 2019, Check Your Head brought youth together with a wide range of stakeholders in dialogue centered on the economic needs of youth. FYI: Future for Youth economic Integration was organized, planned, and facilitated by Check Your Head’s Youth Building a New Economy cohort and supported by the Social Planning Department of the City of Vancouver. We hope that the actions that were co-created with youth and stakeholders will act as a catalyst for youth leading the way in public engagement on issues of economic justice.
It started with a survey. In 2018 we launched a survey asking young people about the financial struggles they face, and the effects of financial uncertainty on their wellbeing. In just over three weeks, we received more than 700 responses, mostly from the Metro Vancouver area. The responses painted a picture of stress and the necessity of making hard choices to get by. The collection of so many lived experiences illustrated through quantitative and qualitative data formed a rich pool of information to draw from. Together with other sources the findings informed our submission to the BC’s Poverty Reduction Plan Consultation in early 2018. You can read more about our engagement in shaping the Plan here.
The Spring 2019 Youth Building a New Economy cohort took up the task of going deeper with the rich data collected through the survey as their action project. Prior to that, we spent several weeks learning about key economic issues from community leaders working on poverty reduction, the future of work, close-loop economy and others. Cohort members worked hard to go through survey data, analyze it, and put together recommendations based on their findings. With the data now more thoughtfully combed through, they organized a platform to share their work with those in positions of power – so that they could advocate for the change they want to see. The FYI event was created out of a desire to highlight the vital information from the youth who had contributed to the survey, spotlight the analysis of the cohort youth, and put them in the room with people who could actualize their asks.
Over 30 people came out to hear what the youth had to say. Elder Marr Dorvault from Gitxsan nation led a welcome to the territory. Attendees included folks from community organizations who work with youth (and wanted a better grasp on what the needs of the community are), to representatives from companies that hire youth, to a number of City of Vancouver staff working on different policy that affects youth. The minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson and Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson were also in attendance.
The event started with ‘science fair’ presentations by youth on each of the topics identified, and was followed by table discussions led by Check Your Head’s youth facilitators. Participants in the event self-selected which topics they wanted to discuss. Questions facilitators asked were:
- What are you doing about this topic right now?
- What are you planning to do about this topic?
- How can these solutions address youth needs specifically?
- When will solutions that serve youth be done?
- How will we know about them?
- Is there a way for youth to get involved in developing and implementing those solutions?
By the end of the table discussions, we recorded the actions that came out of each topic. The event closed with remarks from elected officials who thanked youth for the work undertaken and a call to keep holding them accountable.
FYI was a great opportunity to start a dialogue between youth and those in a position to enact change. I’ve learned that providing an accessible space to have these conversations is vital to the meaningful inclusion of youth at the table. Youth are consistently neglected in policy development – which means that the lived experience of a whole generation is often discarded. Work needs to be done to ensure that youth are represented and heard. I have had the privilege of seeing what a youth who feels empowered can do. And that is the way to real, tangible change.