News / News + Updates

Digital Media Redefines Youth Activism

  • Kiara Hardin

With the growing concern on how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to shape youth development and the 2020 Presidential Elections, CLX’s Youth Digital Media Activism (YDMA) initiative reignites at the perfect time.

In 2018, CLX invited our Community members and Chicago youth organizing groups to collaborate to redefine the notion of youth civic engagement through digital media. This work was generously supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Studies have shown declining trust in the ability of government institutions and elected officials to address issues, especially among youth. However, this does not mean that young people are civically disengaged. Instead, young people are utilizing digital media and technology tools to create a broader definition of civics than the commonly held perspective that civic engagement is confined primarily to electoral politics.

Three projects funded through the initial round of YDMA grantmaking were found to underscore the importance of digital media tools and technologies to youths’ participation in civic life, according to an evaluation conducted by Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago.

In early April, CLX awarded responsive project-based grants supporting three more YDMA projects. These partnerships bring together youth media creators and youth organizers to leverage and exchange their expertise to address issues within their community.

  • In partnership with Chicago Votes, Urban Gateways will use YDMA funds to continue their 2018 project which allows young people to explore sharing civic and digital media knowledge by creating a compelling video narrative that raises awareness around the voting rights efforts within the Cook County Jail.
  • Yollocalli Arts Reach, at the National Museum of Mexican Art, will create a two-component project with Public Media Institute (PMI), a community-based art and culture organization, in which 15 youth will build a portfolio of work focused on civic engagement. Youth will also be hired to develop audio segments about the 2020 census and the upcoming elections to be aired on Lumpen Radio and to be posted on Lumpen Radio online.
  • Community TV Network will partner with the University of Illinois at Chicago Freshwater Lab and the Shedd Aquarium to engage high-school youth in a 20-week exploration of pressing threats to the Great Lake Basin and Strategies to address them. Participants will use digital media production for water advocacy.

In addition to these projects, organizations participating in this version of YDMA will pilot a CLX Community of Practice (CoP) -- a cohort that shares an area of inquiry and engages in collective learning about that issue as it relates to their work. The YDMA-CoP will focus on enhancing organizational capacity to complete grant-related projects while gathering and distributing resources pertaining to youth media activism.

The CoP will use digital platforms like Participate and Slack in case of further social distancing extensions. Participate designs Communities of Practice to engage learners around a shared purpose. These communities are hosted on the platform and provide opportunities for learners to interact in professional development through personalized pathways.

CLX aims to inspire innovation and hope during this uncertain time. We are constantly thinking of ways to activate and support our community. We are excited that we are able to continue moving forward in our work to serve educators, youth, and their families.