IEL’s Youth & Civic Engagement Listening Sessions

Our Purpose

The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) proposes to host listening sessions across the country to authentically listen to youth (ages 16-24) and engage in discussing and identifying barriers in civic engagement and community involvement. IEL will work with the youth in each underserved geographic community to create a field building infrastructure and co-design resources and trainings for youth, with youth and emerging leaders.

Our approach
Our viewpoint and approach to listening sessions provides a democratic and safe space for individuals to share what they think and feel among peers, which is particularly important for youth in underserved communities. These peers include youth with an array of identities that go beyond disability alone to include gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture and language, and socioeconomic status.

Listening Session Objectives

  • Create a safe space for youth with disabilities to share ideas for greater civic engagement, such as: voting, community organizing, outreach, legislative advocacy, protesting, public service, communicating with elected officials and engaging in local and national policy conversations
  • Identify common barriers to youth with disabilities in reaching their civic engagement goals
  • Discuss civic engagement activity barriers
  • Create a network of local youth with disabilities that will continue to meet and engage with each other and with IEL on topics of shared interest
  • Gather input to create a field-building strategy to engage youth with disabilities across the country in greater civic engagement
  • Encourage personal growth, empowerment, and knowledge about civic engagement in the local context
  • Identify policy ideas and topics that are most relevant to youth with disabilities
  • Our intention is not to take information from youth to inform others, but rather to offer resources to youth in our learning sessions and share their ideas and perspectives

Our Plan

IEL plans to use an action-oriented approach that combines listening to youth and engaging them in co-creating the results of the session.

  • Our approach will include listening/sharing/discovering protocols that will ensure that all participants have an opportunity to share what they think and know, to learn from other voices, and to exchange ideas with the group and facilitators.
  • We will build a shared authentic civic engagement agenda to ensure that disability inclusion based on each session’s feedback
  • We will compensate youth for their time, energy, and ideas as well as providing disability accommodations and transportation, if needed to ensure full participation
  • We will follow-up with youth to create a blueprint, toolkits, resources and digital engagement that listening session participants will co-design starting in 2020-2021.
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