Check Your Head: the Youth Global Education Network
Check Your Head (CYH) is a youth-driven not-for-profit organization. We provide education, resources, training and support for youth to live as engaged, independent and active citizens within our local and global communities. Our main activities include workshops, training, supporting youth-led actions, and engaging youth volunteers.
Check Your Head was founded in 1999. Today, we are located at 2455 Fraser Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, on the stolen homelands of xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples. We are committed to being in solidarity with Indigenous Sovereignties on their own terms.
Youth are leading and active in social, economic and environmental justice movements.
Our mission is to educate, activate, and empower young people to engage in social, environmental and economic justice movements and to create a more equitable, democratic and sustainable future.
OUR VALUE FRAMEWORK
We strive to learn and grow through our work, approaching our youth engagement and education through an Anti-Oppression framework. We facilitate the examination of institutional structures and cultural narratives that reinforce and maintain power imbalances at all levels. We aim to take an intersectional approach to our work, examining how power impacts and intersects with race, abilities, gender, sexuality, class, citizenship status, and ongoing colonialism in our lived experiences, relationships, communities, environments and societies.
We recognize that ‘Anti-Oppression’ is a broad framework that is inclusive of many different perspectives, values, and principles. We are committed to working in solidarity and allyship with individuals, organizations, and communities striving for environmental, social, and economic justice.
We thank our partners and allies (listed below), for allowing us to use their wisdom and helping us define these principles in relation to our work.
- Accessible: We strive to be accessible in our work by meeting the access needs of community members, removing or reducing barriers to services and opportunities, and promoting equity, dignity, and respect. (1)
- Intersectional: We strive to be intentional in understanding and highlighting that inequities are never the result of single, distinct factors. Rather, they result from the intersections of different social locations, power relations and experiences. (2)
- Peer-Based: We work to create groups where leadership is a shared responsibility and all members are valued equally. Group members are the decision-makers and they work together to provide direction. (3)
- Youth-Driven: We work to build opportunities, programs, initiatives where youth lead planning, decision-making, facilitation, reflection, and evaluation on issues that matter to them, using actions and methods of their choice. (4)
- Action-Oriented: We are committed to bridging knowledge with consistent and conscious actions that work towards systemic change. (5)
- Popular Education-Based: We strive to facilitate learning opportunities where youth educate one another, acknowledge power and hierarchy, and organize together for social change. (6)
1. Adapted from SPARC BC’s “Making Space for Everyone” / 2. Adapted from The Institute for Intersectionality Research & Policy, SFU “Intersectionality 101” / 3. Adapted from Peernet BC “About Us” 4. Adapted from the Freechild Project “Youth Action Project “/ 5. Adapted from The Centre for Story Based Strategy “Anti-Oppression Principles” / 6. Adapted from the Girls Action Foundation “What is Popular Education”
The Story of CHECK YOUR HEAD
Way back in 1998, two of Check Your Head’s future founders, Kevin Millsip and Lyndsay Poaps, were going to a lot of meetings to learn about something called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, or MAI. (In essence, the MAI was part of the larger trend of agreements that serve to promote the interests of large corporations over the well-being of people and the planet.) Being the only two folks under the age of 30 at most of these meetings, Kevin and Lyndsay began to talk about the need to organize an event for young people about the MAI. They brought together a bunch of their friends (Lili, Mia, Emily, Matt, Sabina, Lauren and Clayton) – almost all of whom were still in high school at that point), and together they began organizing what would become the original Check Your Head conference.
The conference, held March 5-7, 1999, was a big success. 150 young people from BC, Alberta and Washington State gathered to learn and share, while many amazing local activists and experts came to give workshops on issues like global trade, global warming, facilitation, trade unions and so much more. Needless to say, the cradle was rocked. Once the event was done and everyone had caught up on sleep for a few days, thoughts turned to the question: what next?
While the application came together for some money to make Check more than a one time thing, the conference crew was taking the amazing activities that were created for the conference and turning them into workshops on globalization and global trade that could be taken into high schools. To this day, our educational philosophy remains grounded in the belief that young people actually do know a fair bit about the world around them, and that when given the chance – with well-facilitated discussion and fun activities – the learning can be rich and powerful.
That fall we did our first workshops in schools, and the magic built from there. The media took notice of our work, which brought us more requests for workshops and more amazing people coming through the door, and we developed a couple of other participatory and engaging workshops. The phone was ringing off the hook with requests for us to come into classes and talk with high school students about these issues that have such a strong impact on our lives!