Activities: design research, process mapping, prototyping, workshop design, facilitation, storytelling

Team: Manolo Ampudia

Partners: New York City Department of Education; Young Adult Borough Center

How can systems thinking help young people relate local policymaking to issues that affect their voting district?

For our Master's Thesis, Manolo Ampudia and I spent a year researching both the internal and external barriers that keep young Brooklyn students away from New York City elections.

Through in-depth design research and prototyping, we began to understand that these young adults did not relate policy decisions to issues that affected themselves and personal networks, and therefore couldn’t be inspired or instructed into voting.

Interested in finding ways to fill this gap, we partnered with the Young Adult Borough Center and designed a series of workshops to test a new approach to teaching civic engagement. Instead of talking about elections, politics, and candidates, we wanted to change the conversation and help these students identify shared values between themselves and their decision makers.

These workshops influenced the design of You Are Here: an inside out approach to civic engagement. It has been designed as modular framework rather than an extensive curriculum and fits into into any youth development program. Through discussion, debate, and reflection students are able to map their own personal experiences to local government decisions and begin to build bridges from disconnection and apathy towards sustained and informed participation.

From Disconnection to Participation. You Are Here teaches participation by helping NYC students relate their everyday experiences to policy decisions made by their city council representative.

Prototyping to Learn. Finding blank faces as soon as we mentioned policy-making, we decided to change the conversation. We took a range of issues up to Bronx Community College and talked to students about what they cared about.

Understanding the Solution Space. To uncover current system gaps and identify key leverage points we designed a User Journey Map that mapped emotions, discussed in user interviews, to the key milestones of civic education.

Designing and Testing an Approach. Through a series of workshops and activities (pictured below), we designed an approach to civic engagement that follows a three step framework.