Youth Engagement Strategy: “30+U” Ambassadors
Representation is an important issue for youth: they are much more likely to participate in a process if they see other youth in positions of influence (such as at the front of the room or leading a process) since it is an indication that their perspective is valued and will be heard. Since representation can only be authentically reflected by people 30 and under, City Planning needs to work with youth ambassadors in that demographic. These ambassadors should have formal roles within, or relationships to, the City Planning Division; roles that are paid either financially or in credit. These 30-and-Unders (or “30+U”) could act as advisors to City Planning, ensuring that youth are being adequately engaged throughout a process. They could also play a more active on-the-ground role, working with staff and consultants to actively engage youth. The Actions in the 30+U Focus Area reflect these three roles.
The Toronto Planning Review Panel is a new engagement initiative intended to capture the diverse voices of Toronto’s residents. 28 Panelists are appointed to two-year terms, and are selected through a Civic Lottery process. To ensure that youth voices are adequately represented on the panel, there should be two youth representatives for every District, for a total of 8 youth panelists. While this is slightly more than is justified by the size of the youth population in Toronto, it will ensure an equitable distribution of representation across the Districts.
The “30+U” Engagement Specialist internship(s) would be a for-credit internship within City Planning that allows students to earn credit while working with City Planning to implement these Actions or other youth engagement activities. Potential tasks could include developing a citywide Youth Roster to identify youth groups that should be included as part of Stakeholder Advisory Groups (Action 12) and developing a list of media in which to advertise engagement opportunities (Action 7).
Future City Planning Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with an engagement component should specify a requirement for a 30+U Ambassador on consultant teams to help design, execute and document engagement activities. This will allow 30+U Ambassadors to be paid through consultant budgets. These paid Ambassadors could be individuals proposed by Consultant Teams, “30+U” Engagement Specialist(s), or they could be drawn from a citywide Youth Roster established by City Planning.