Exchange Matters / August 10, 2021

Building a Culture of Youth Activism and Civic Engagement

Compiled by Madeline Black, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.

Civic engagement is a fundamental part of democracy, and an active and engaged youth population bolsters democratic values for future generations. We asked Global Ties Network members to share how exchange programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) advance youth engagement strategies, civic participation, and community activism with young leaders around the world.

IVLP participants meet with youth activists in Colorado and Wisconsin. Image provided by In-Jee Lee.

Colorado Springs World Affairs Council and International Institute of Wisconsin
Jamie Bequette, International Visitor Program Manager, Colorado Springs World Affairs Council and In-Jee Lee, International Programs Coordinator, International Institute of Wisconsin
IVLP: Youth Influencers
NPA: Meridian International Center

On December 18, 2020, International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants from Pakistan met for an IVLP discussion on “Youth Influencers.” The discussion aimed to explore goals, problem-solving skills, and social media strategies for empowering and engaging youth. The meeting was co-hosted by the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, the International Institute of Wisconsin, and Meridian International Center. The international visitors were joined by Julie Ramirez of Daily Dose 719 and Azalea Danes of Future Coalition, two activists who have made strides towards youth empowerment in their own communities. 

Julie shared her story of becoming a community leader and creating the docuseries, Daily Dose 719, a vlog about the inequities of the southeast region of Colorado Springs. Daily Dose 719 educates community members on various factors that have created disparities in the community, including access to education, food deserts, lack of jobs, the criminal justice system, health care, and others.  

Azalea, who has been involved in activism alongside youth activist Katie Eder and youth movement 50 Miles More, co-organized events in New York City as part of global climate strikes using traditional and social media attention. As part of her work as an activist, she has led the Fridays for Future movement, NYC Youth Climate Coalition, and TREEage. She currently works for Future Coalition, a national network of youth-led organizations and initiatives, centered on creating social change. 

The visitors learned about the work of the youth activists in climate change, economic inequity, voter registration, and social justice. Discussions focused on youth mobilization, raising awareness, and policy change for both national movements and local initiatives in U.S. communities. 

Even in a virtual setting, the group was full of passionate people who are striving to improve the prosperity of their own communities. From the speakers to the IVLP participants, everyone’s drive was inspiring. Whether these conversations are had in-person or online, it is important to continue to build connections and share and learn from each other – #ExchangeMatters!  

New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council
Svetlana Pizzati, Program Manager 
IVLP: Young Leaders RISE – Renew, Inspire, Serve, and Empower
NPA Partner: CRDF Global  

In December 2020, the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council had the pleasure of virtually hosting an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) group from the Middle East and North Africa for a project titled, “Young Leaders RISE – Renew, Inspire, Serve, and Empower.” Participating countries included Chad, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia.  

During their virtual time in New Orleans, the participants had the opportunity to meet with the representative of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) and two speakers from the League of Women Voters of New Orleans. Tina Langlois, a local business consultant, led a group discussion on LSBDC’s work fostering the growth of local entrepreneurs, as well as the organization’s strategies for working with and reaching traditionally underserved populations.  

Rosalind Cook and Jessie Nieblas, president and co-president of the League of Women Voters of New Orleans, engaged the group in a discussion about women’s political participation and training. This meeting provided an overview of a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The group was excited to learn about effective techniques for public discussion, how to advocate on specific policies, and discuss other important issues.  

The New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council was extremely excited to host this group as this project was among our first projects welcomed to New Orleans virtually in 2020. The IVLP projects such as Young Leaders RISE are particularly impactful and very important during the time of global isolation, as they help provide young leaders with the knowledge and tools to make an impact in their home countries. It was a real pleasure to give these IVLP participants a glimpse of New Orleans and connect them with the best professionals in our community. 

Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy                                                      
— Ahmad Zia Afzali, International Exchange Program Director
IVLP: Youth and Civic Engagement 
NPA: Meridian International Center 

In May 2021, the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy had the pleasure of partnering with Meridian International Center to virtually host the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project, “Youth and Civic Engagement. This Multi-Regional Project included 20 International Participants from more than 15 different countries from all around the world. 
These IVLP Participants had the opportunity to meet with Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, the Executive Director of VOTERISE, a Utahbased nonprofit organization committed to increasing voter registration and turnout among millennials and other underrepresented groups, to learn about effective strategies for mobilizing young voters, including the use of digital and social media tools. They also had a lively discussion about the VOTERISE 2020 Challenge Initiative and the organization’s efforts in mobilizing voters in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Hope, a proud Utah native, has dedicated her life to public service and community engagementShe is devoted to advocating for extensive voter education, supporting inclusive legislation and encouraging underrepresented groups to participate in politics.

In 2017, she moved to Washington, DC to work for the Third Congressional District of Utah on various legislative affairs and national policy, and in 2018, relocated to London to work for a British Member of Parliament, where she studied potential effects of Brexit while successfully developing and passing a constitutional amendment to increase government accountability.

Hope firmly believes that each vote has an impact, big and small, on every single individual, and her extensive experience in politics and government have given her the tools to spark youth engagement in civic life 
Utah has the United States youngest population with a median age of 31 with 30% of its population being below the age of 18. Because of this, Utah is always in search of new programs and initiatives to foster an engaged and civically active youth population. Organizations like VOTERISE are crucial in making sure that the rising generation is prepared and informed on the functions of civic life to ensure U.S. democracy continues to thrive.

The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy is proud of sharing Utah community’s efforts in youth and civic engagement with the world through international exchanges like the IVLP.