Blog: Youth political engagement
Published: 15 Aug 2018
A lot of young people are engaged in political issues in the UK – but they’re not taking part in traditional ways, such as voting. Through my involvement in campaigns, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand how we can translate people’s passion for issues into formal political participation and social action.
In 2016, I went to the USA and Hong Kong to see what approaches are used out there to achieve this.
I was in America just before the Presidential election. The political conversation was massive and it was everywhere – in Starbucks, in banks, on TV and YouTube. I’ve never seen a bank promote voter registration – but I saw it in America.
In Hong Kong I met with co-founders of the Umbrella Movement, which emerged during protests for freer elections. They were truly fighting for democracy and it gave me a deeper sense of what it means to be committed to a cause.
A key lesson from my Fellowship trip was that you have to engage young people through platforms they’re already on and bring the conversation to them. That means social media has more of a role to play in political engagement. Campaigns like Black Lives Matter were so influential because they used social media as well as community organising.
Below: Kenny at a National Voter Registration Day rally in Chicago
In the USA I saw amazing examples of how local governments are engaging with people. For instance, in New York, the City Council practices participatory budgeting. Members of the community are allowed to directly decide how to spend a certain amount of the public budget. They can come up with ideas to fund within a $1m public budget.
Back in the UK, the 2017 general election gave me the opportunity to work on a non-party voter registration campaign with Bite The Ballot and utilise lessons from my travels. The Fellowship has given me high profile opportunities to speak about youth political engagement, for example at events in Parliament and at the One Young World global conference.
The Fellowship was an amazing opportunity to develop my expertise and dive deep into something I’m passionate about.
This article was first published in our 2018 newsletter. Read it here