Civic Engagement through Community Problem Solving

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Civic Engagement through Community Problem Solving Abstract As young people’s civic and political participation continues to decline, a number of organizations are working to reverse the decline by increasing opportunities for youth to participate. Communities around the country are taking steps to engage young people through a variety of methods that allow youth to actually participate in policy development and take action on local issues. The effectiveness of such community programs on long-term civic engagement is not well documented, however. This paper presents preliminary research about the effectiveness of one community participation program, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Youth Advisory Council. Quantitative and anecdotal evidence, while not conclusive, suggest this community problem solving approach may encourage its participants to engage in other civic and political activities. The paper also discusses the benefits that organizations and communities receive when young people participate in this way, and provides recommendations for developing a similar youth participation program. Civic Engagement through Community Problem Solving Hilarie Hicks Robison, Southern Nevada Water Authority Introduction The recent decline in young people’s participation in political and civic activities has resulted in a revival within the field of civic education. Formal education institutions are not the only ones concerned about youth engagement, however. A number of community agencies and nonprofits are active at the local level throughout the country. They are working to engage young people through a variety of methods, few of which have been researched to determine their effectiveness. One such community e... ... middle of paper ... ...cts are unknown. Preliminary data indicates the Youth Advisory Council model, one example of the community problem-solving approach, may be a promising avenue for engaging young people. Additional longitudinal research in coming years will be crucial in developing more definitive conclusions. Anecdotally, many students find great value in the program, indicating it develops leadership skills and provides motivation for further community participation. The participants are not the only beneficiaries, however. Through thorough planning and thoughtful implementation, the sponsoring agency and broader community gain significantly from such a process. Involving young people in addressing community problems at the local level can infuse new life into agencies and communities, while helping to prepare young people to become active, engaged citizens in our democracy.

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