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Building a Youth Master Plan

By: Mikayla Ferg, Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board 

My year at the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board is focused on building a Youth Master Plan that aims to mobilize an agenda on the behalf of youth in Minneapolis between four public jurisdictions—the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minneapolis Public Schools, and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Over the past two months, I have been coordinating a series of 13 youth-led meetings in each City Council ward in Minneapolis to develop the recommendations that will ultimately go into the Youth Master Plan. The youth ward meetings provide youth with an opportunity to show up and speak about issues that matter to them in front of their local elected officials and model what authentic youth voice in decision making processes looks like.

Though the youth ward meetings are one of the most exciting parts of the Youth Master Plan project, they have also proved to be one of the most challenging parts as well. Planning largely involved reaching out to City Council Members’ offices and reserving space at youth-friendly locations in each City Council ward. Though not the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done, incessantly calling about scheduling and space reservations soon overtook my life.

Once we started holding the youth ward meetings in mid-March, I thought I was in the clear and that all my planning would come to fruition and everything would come together perfectly. I was wrong. Getting young people in the door at the ward meetings proved to be much more difficult than anyone originally thought, which forced me to rethink the structure and modality of the meetings to encourage greater youth participation. Ultimately, we came up with ways to engage youth in the process of developing recommendations in addition to the already scheduled ward meetings; I showed up at a few youth events to ask for short feedback, and I tapped into our partnerships with youth organizations to collaborate more closely with communities we felt were underrepresented in the process. In short, we figured it out and made it work.

I didn’t make it work alone, though. Collaborative work has been a hallmark of the youth ward meeting process, both in setting up and executing the meetings. Though frustrating when people weren’t responding as quickly or with as much information as I wanted them to, collaboration proved to be hugely beneficial when rethinking how to restructure and supplement the ward meetings using the insights and suggestions from YCB staff and elected officials.

Though they got off to a rocky start, the ward meetings have been a valuable way to connect with youth that the YCB doesn’t usually connect with and incorporate their voices and ideas into our decision-making processes. The young people at each meeting have been passionate and articulate about their experiences in Minneapolis and possible directions for change. This hasn’t come as a surprise for me, but it has been a good reminder of the power, knowledge, and desire for change that youth carry with them that is often excluded from formal decision making.

From Voices from the Field, Spring 2019 

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