written by Anjum Sultana
Despite the challenging times we are living in, I am an eternal optimist. I believe strongly in the power of public policy as a tool to create positive change and advance a more fair, just and equitable society for all.
In this blog, I’ll highlight 6 ways young people can exercise civic leadership and engage in policy advocacy in Toronto and beyond!
Become a Global Shaper
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Global Shaper community is something I’d highlight first. As a rookie Global Shaper in the Toronto Hub, I’ve been impressed by the depth of experience and passion my fellow Shapers have in making a difference in Toronto. What’s amazing is that that there is a pan-Canadian community of Global Shapers in many hubs across the country – 8 in total.
Each hub is independently organized and has its own areas of focus. For example, in 2020, the Toronto Hub has several projects related to Climate Change, the Future of Work and Mentorship. Often the projects lend themselves to potential advocacy actions such as city council deputations, petitions and more. Stay tuned to our social media to learn about some exciting events we have planned including a special salon series on the Future of Work!
Engage in Online Communities of Practice
A helpful way to start to dip your toe in civic engagement is to get connected to online communities of practice that share opportunities, events, and resources related to advocacy and public policy.
Here are some that I find valuable:
- Emerging Leaders Network – CivicAction
- IMAGINE Canada’s Early Alert Newsletter
- Millennial Womxn in Policy
- Racial Health Equity Network
- PolicyJobsTO Newsletter by Springboard Policy
- Young Urbanists League
Join the Toronto Youth Cabinet
Established in 1998 by Toronto City Council, the Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC) is the official youth advisory body to the City of Toronto. For over the last 2 decades, TYC has been providing a platform for young people to participate in civic affairs and policy development. TYC membership is open to youth between the ages of 13 and 24 who live, work, or learn in the City of Toronto. There are so many opportunities to participate from applying for the Leadership Team to joining a range of working groups focused on municipal issues such as the Budget, Community Safety, Housing, Transit, Urban Health and more.
Participate in capacity building initiatives by local civic engagement organizations
There are so many different training sessions and leadership programs in Toronto that equip residents to become leaders in the city. They range from focusing on the practicalities of civic engagement to career exploration and personal development.
- Maytree Foundation: The Maytree Foundation regularly organizes lunch and learns on issues that matter to nonprofits through their 5 Good Ideas programming. Each session, an expert presents five concise ideas and explores with the audience how these ideas can be translated into action. The next one is on February 26th and is about building power for change.
- Muslim Youth Fellows: The leadership development program is focused on developing the next generation of Muslim public servants and political leaders. Along with capacity building sessions, Fellows are provided paid part-time internships in a Toronto City Councillor’s office.
- Progress Toronto: They are currently hosting a useful winter training series covering everything from how to do a deputation, to crafting your personal narrative to doing a deeper dive into the city budget process and intricacies of municipal politics.
Check out Ontario Council for International Cooperation’s Youth Policy-Makers Hub!
The Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC) recently launched a new intergenerational initiative to engage diverse youth from across Ontario in international cooperation policy processes. Areas of focus for the Youth Policy-Makers Hub include gender equality, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.
In the lead up to this hub, OCIC also hosted informative capacity building sessions for young people interested in breaking into policy spaces. Check out this helpful webinar and Learner’s Manual facilitated by Larissa Crawford of Future Ancestors Services. OCIC also has a Gender Equality Policy Hub.
Apply for a Young Diplomats of Canada Delegation
If you are interested in taking your knowledge at a city and community level and seeing that shape international policy, I encourage you to check out Young Diplomats of Canada. They are a national nonpartisan youth-led organization that enables young people to be in the centre of decision making in multilateral institutions and platforms such as the G7, G20, and the United Nations just to name a few. What is most rewarding about being on a delegation is the fascinating insights you gain from not only participating in interesting conferences but also engaging with fellow young people from around the world.
How do you want to make an impact?
These 6 initiatives just scratch the surface but hopefully, they provide you a starting point in your own journey towards engaging in policy advocacy. I often say that public policies are the invisible infrastructure that underpins and shapes our society. In order to have a fair and equitable society that works for all, we need to have everyone’s perspectives at the decision-making table.
There are so many ways to contribute! I want to hear about how you participate in civic engagement, share your perspectives and support your community. What have you found useful? Any initiatives or resources you’d like to suggest for people to check out? Comment below and let us know!
A proud Global Shaper from the Toronto Hub. By day, Anjum works as the National Director of Public Policy & Strategic Communications at YWCA Canada. By night, Anjum volunteers her time as a board member, advisor and mentor for several initiatives and organizations in Toronto such as Progress Toronto, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Ontario Council for International Cooperation and the Regent Park Community Health Centre.