A recent survey by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) found “83 percent [of youth ages 18-24] say they believe young people have the power to change the country.”
That’s exactly what we want young people in Camp Fire to discover, practice, and believe: Their contributions and leadership matter to their communities, our country, and the wider world NOW – not just in the future.
Civic engagement is one of the long-term benefits we’re working toward on the Camp Fire Journey. We create powerful youth experiences that build essential skills and mindsets, and, over time, those lead to benefits like a lifelong love of nature, health and wellbeing, academic success, job and career readiness, and civic engagement.
When we talk about “civic engagement,” what exactly do we mean?
Let’s go with UNICEF’s definition: “Individual or collective actions in which people participate to improve the well-being of communities or society in general.” In other words, at Camp Fire, we’re helping teach youth to be active citizens who work together for the greater good.
Right now, the spotlight of civic engagement is on voting, but young people don’t have to wait until they’re 18 to be engaged citizens. Youth civic engagement can take all kinds of forms and happen online, in real life, or a combination of the two.
14 ways youth can take action:
Volunteering for a cause you care about: Use “good for kids/teens” filters on sites like VolunteerMatch or PowerOf to find give-back opportunities near you.
Identifying and meeting community needs: Join Camp Fire Teens in Action to start serving your community.
Participating in student government at your school: Need some ideas? Search the National Student Council’s database of student service projects taking place all over the country.
Serving on nonprofit or community leadership boards: Apply to serve on the National Camp Fire Youth Advisory Cabinet
Raising awareness of community needs and issues, digitally or through other collective actions: Get inspired (and educated!) with these world-changing youth-led campaign examples from Plan International. (Some content may not be appropriate for younger children.)
Making art, music, theater and other forms of community expression: Get started with these tips from Berklee Online on how to write a protest song
Calling or writing elected officials and people in positions of power: Find out how to contact your representatives, from the president all the way down to city council members (plus detailed info on their work and who contributes to their campaigns!), using Common Cause’s search tool.
Starting (or supporting) a social entrepreneurship venture that gives a portion of its proceeds to a good cause: Read about Camp Fire member Ella Matlock’s Be The Change Coloring Co., which gives back to nonprofits while educating kids about important issues.
Look for teen-led social enterprises when you’re buying cause-message products, like these simple but elegant signs from A Higher Promise. Two KC-based young women started this company to give their neighbors a way to show their support, fund their educations, start a community foundation and honor their older brother’s memory.
Taking part in protests and other nonviolent actions: Teen Vogue has some great resources on how to safely protest.
Caring for our natural environment: Want to find a youth-led eco-movement? Look no further than these nine teen activists and their planet-saving organizations.
Learning and practicing leadership: Camp Fire offers leadership opportunities for all ages, for all kids. Contact us to find out more!
- Organizing and persuading others to act, either through social media or in-person social networks
- Go from envisioning the change you want to sustaining a movement with this detailed Youth Activist Toolkit from Advocates for Youth.
- Take part in movements’ social campaigns, like the World Food Programme’s Zero Hunger Champion campaign, to introduce your networks to important their issues and efforts.
- Donating to nonprofits and causes, either directly, or through innovative donation efforts.
- Donate by playing games with Freerice, the (Nobel Peace Prize winning) World Food Programme’s free online trivia game, whose 600,000 monthly users have raised $1.39 million for the hungry since 2010.