I have been recently asked about how to effectively involve youth and young people in local government. A good question because it’s often a challenge just to get adult voters involved!
If elected, I will consider involving more Oak Bay youth with our municipal government, especially when we have in Oak Bay the perfect setting for engaging youth — the Oak Bay Rec Centre and new and exciting partnership opportunities through the proposed Oak Bay High School neighbourhood learning centre.
At last year’s UBCM Conference, I attended a workshop on Youth Engagement and listened to Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and others talk about their strategies for engaging youth in municipal government and related activities. Later that year, North Saanich Council, with the help of senior municipal staff, implemented a youth strategy, something that I had wanted to see happen for years.
But when you grow new ideas, you first need to prepare the soil before planting the seed and, remember, not every young person wants to be a leader:
- Make sure that there is political commitment among Council colleagues to doing something new and challenging.
- Explore opportunities to create healthy public policy that will encourage youth-related initiatives.
- Develop partnerships with other youth-centered organizations such as schools and recreation centres.
- Embrace diversity and create some space for new thinking that includes youth involvement.
Another important factor is to bring youth in at the beginning and make them part of the creation process. Foster collaboration by involving them in program development. This will build capacity and opportunities for shared learning — involve youth early, start with recognizing their strengths, value their diversity and learn with them by doing.
I will write again in more detail about youth engagement/involvement and provide more ideas for youth in local government. Watch for Part Two.