Youth Voice ….. Canada Style

I landed! Oh wait I have been here a few days now, but now these posts are starting to focus on the meetings and interviews which take place when I am in Canada. The meetings in Toronto are changing slightly in direction away from just general civil society engagement in policy making but more focused on youth engagement in politics and and how is it best to do it by looking at a range of examples here in Toronto and Ottawa. 

Two lessons (but they are probably not even lessons) from my flight from NYC to Toronto, the first is its always good to arrive early at an airport because you may be able to get on an earlier flight if there is multiple of them that day with space on. The second is join the airlines loyalty or frequent flyers programme even if you don’t fly often as I am not sure if that was the thing which got me on an earlier flight! With that thought I arrived in Toronto which gave a shock to my system as it was raining, not just raining but an actual thunderstorm! 

However, the organisation which this post will focus on and everyone should check out their work is The Student Commission. The Student Commisison describe their mission as:

The Students Commission was founded in 1991 with a mission to help young people put their ideas for improving themselves, their communities and their world into action. In the year 2000, The Students Commission became the lead of The Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, which networks academics, youth organizations and young people together to provide research and training to improve youth programs and youth engagement in Canada. An independent, charitable, non-governmental organization, The Students Commission is active across Canada, supporting young people to participate in the activities of local, provincial, national and international organizations and governments.

What was one of the many interesting things which I learnt from my visit their was how they build their work around what they call the ‘four pillars’. 

The Students Commission operates on four pillars: Respect, Listen, Understand and Communicate™. These are our core values and our core process.

What was interesting to note about this was once I went into more depth about this the way how they had a connection to the National Participation Standards in Wales up until recently when they were changed or modernised. Which even went further to a position where there is a knowledge in some sectors about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but in practice so far young people have not seemed to have known about them, so there is a hope that what they represents is shown over in the pillars. 

However there was a number of interesting programmes which they were involved with such as their Young Decision Makers Group which is designed to make sure that youth voice is heard by decision makers whether they are in government or in other organisations which involve young people. What was important to note is their method of working as in is very much based in evidence but not that collected by adults but that run by young people. 

YDM is also a model used to make impactful decisions; it focuses on studying an issue, discussing an issue, making decisions, informing policy makers, and taking action.

What was empowering about this project was that because of The Student Commission following the principle of youth leading youth engagement they employ youth facilitators to run the sessions and create content which I think is really important in allowing young people o be able to devlop other transferable skills and it also shows that adults trust young people to do it. 

One other area where I think that researchers and those interested in evaluation techniques could look at is their Sharing the Stories platform! Well they sell it as a service to organisations it was really interesting to see some evaluative models used often by UK organisations, it was also interesting to see new ones which look at both youth engagement in a programme but also adult engagement and learning! 

Some really interesting ideas were raised and points which deserve more exploring during this trip and on my return to the UK. Until the next one here is my view from where I am staying when the weather cleared up!

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