Let’s say you walked up to a random teenager on the street and asked them to effectively voice their concerns about global affairs. Once they get over their shock at being asked such a deep question by a complete stranger, they will probably respond in one of two ways: “what do you mean?” and/or “how can I do that?” Essentially, while young people may be concerned about what’s happening in the world around them, they often don’t realize that their opinions are worth expressing and that there are many ways to express these opinions. Here are three international organizations that would be all too glad to take you in and make sure that your civic voice, be it about political, social, or economic concerns, is not only heard, but disseminated and appreciated as well.
Photo: Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Bridge the Divide
Founded by Clara Nevins and Joseph Touma in 2016, Bridge the Divide is an international nonprofit organization that was created for the main purpose of facilitating political, social and economic discourse among youth ambassadors all over the world. Bridge the Divides has over 100 ambassadors from over twenty different countries and hundreds of posts on its discussions forums. As an ambassador myself, I can personally attest to the fact that this organization is meant for young people of all ages to add their own input to each others' viewpoints on various issues, ranging from International Politics to Abortion Rights. If you become an ambassador and participate even in a single discussion, I guarantee that you will learn something new.
Founded by social entrepreneur and Bill Clinton's policy advisor Eric Liu, Citizen University is a national organization and platform that helps Americans become more civically engaged. To explain, through programs like learning summits and weekly civic seminars, Citizen University teaches people how to influence their communities. Participants are taught many skills, including writing rousing literature reflective of American history and culture and advocating for social justice initiatives through rallies and protests, in order become adept in the practice of positively changing American society . Specifically, Citizen U's Youth Power Project focuses these programs on high sophomores and juniors, with the aim of drafting a youth power curriculum that will help every American young person become as civically engaged as possible. I was a member of the 2017-2018 Youth Collaboratory for the Power Project, and many of the skills that I learned during it, from community organizing to civic journalism, remain strong with me today.
This last organization is particularly special for me because, inspired by Bridge the Divide and Citizen University, I became one of its founding members last year. Ground ONE (Organize, Network, Engage) is an international platform that helps youth learn about what it means to be an activist. Our blog is populated with writers all authoring insightful articles about global issues like poverty and mental health awareness. Ground ONE also has a Program Development Division which builds toolkits that help teach useful skills, like lobbying and using effective political rhetoric. Anybody interested in activism and civic engagement is welcome to post on our public forums about what issues they are passionate about that the social initiatives they support to address them.
Many students often wonder what it takes to make this voices heard. There is never a single, correct way and what the organizations mentioned above are certainly not the only paths to civic success. However, becoming involved with Bridge the Divide, Citizen University, and Ground ONE are excellent starts for anyone who wishes to express his/her opinions about the national and international events and affairs that are most important to him/her.
Tuhin Chakraborty is an 18 year old freshman at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He is considering studying History and Political Science there. His favorite book is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Tuhin believes that success is gaining the respect of everyone who knows you. He steps up for Civic Engagement: getting young people involved in politics and community action.