YM: Building Political Agency for the Long Term through Youth Media Networks

For decades, the thirteen youth media organizations that make up the Chicago Youth Voices Network (CYVN) have worked at the forefront of developing media production processes that engage youth in self-representation. CYVN coalition members understand the power of positioning youth as community agents with stories to tell and messages to deliver, while using digital authorship tools to disseminate these narratives to public audiences. Through community-centered, interest driven and project based learning opportunities, youth media participants develop a sense of self, place and agency essential to building cultural and civic identities that drive political participation and action. 

CYVN youth media groups have historically focused on constructivist learning experiences differentiated by production processes that center on relevant, interest driven themes and genres of communication (e.g. hip-hop, remix, poetry slams).  In the process, youth are encouraged to understand their own personal experiences and perspectives as repositories of knowledge, and the production process as a vehicle for building new knowledge and social connections. Often the result is that youth become deeply engaged in processing their understanding of the complex interconnections between personal and community conflicts, as well as the inequities created by race, class, culture, poverty, gender, sexuality and immigration status.
After decades of operation, youth media organizations have graduated thousands of youth from their programs. The “alumni” from nine of these CYVN member organizations are currently participating in a study on the long-term outcomes of youth media programs, being undertaken by the Social IMPACT Research Center and supported by the McCormick Foundation. This study aims to better understand what skills, attitudes and behaviors imparted in youth media programs “stick” into adulthood, especially pertaining to habits of civic engagement, political participation, digital and creative content production and critical media/news analysis.

We propose a panel, facilitated by moderator Kim Richards, and comprised of three alumni of CYVN youth media programs and participants in this study, to interrogate how model youth media programs, practices and pedagogies have served to shape their political agency and identities. These alumni include both pre and post digital natives, aged between 18-32, all of whom began attending out-of-school youth media programs as teens.
The youth panel will be joined by Amy Terpstra from Social IMPACT Research Center who will present initial findings from their study. The youth panel will not only react to their findings, but also discuss their involvement as leaders in NUF-Said 2.0, a new online digital delivery platform being launched by CYVN that shares young people’s perspectives on a range of social issues with Chicago’s youth advocates, civic leaders, policymakers, media outlets and general public.

NUF-Said 2.0 broadens the community centered production model to embrace a more digitally networked and citywide community of practice that connects youth across institutional, geographical and territorial divides. The panel invites conversations with the audience on how new social media networks and technological contexts can not only be used to mobilize new generations of youth but to penetrate the walls of power so their messages can be fully heard. 

Mindy Faber
Jeff McCarter
Manwah Lee
Paris Brown
Martin Macias
E'lisa Davidson
Amy Terpstra
Kim Richards