What a revelation – Apathy Boring. I had a wonderfully inspiring conversation with a young leader amongst us. Caro Loutfi is one of the inspiring leaders and executive director at “Apathy is Boring”. The group is committed to getting youth involved in their community. One of the fundamental mandates is to get the vote out.

Voter Turn Out “the numbers”

I was struck by how apathetic we have become as Canadians when you look at the voting statistics at the federal level the past few elections. From Confedertation in 1867 at 73.1% voter turn out, to an all time high in 1958 at 79.4% to 61.1% in May of 2011. Sadly amazing is the 18-24 year old voter turn out in 2011 at 38.8%. The 25-34 age group is a little better, but still disappointing at 45.1%.

I was further informed by Caro that a disappointing reality is that if we don’t get youth to vote that “first time”, we may never see them vote again. We need to let them know that apathy is boring. We need to engage our youth in exercising their democratic right. More importantly, it is not just about the ballot box – it is about getting active, taking on making a difference, motivating their age group to get involved in shaping public policy and community.

Community Loses

Caro also pointed out to me that this voting apathy also transfers to apathy in our communities. In fact youth are volunteering less than other generations. Volunteerism is considered very active in Canada. This could be a troubling decline in community engagement for future generations, if we let this trend continue. One of the factors is that youth are not being asked to volunteer, and therefore are not engaging. Let’s help turn that around by asking more youth to get involved in community projects.

Posssible Solutions

After speaking with Caro my mind turned to possible solutions. I was left with two fundamental questions. How can we convince our Canadian youth that it is important to “vote”?  How can we improve our levels of engagement and encourage more youth to volunteer in their community?

Encouraging Youth To “Get Involved”

A solution, and there are likely hundreds if not thousands, is to encourage youth to come together in a movement of involvement in the political process in Canada. If people in general, not just youth, feel that they are getting value for their participation – they will likely continue to stay involved. I truly believe that our governments have become more distant. It is harder to get a return phone call, they are swamped with email requests, politics sometimes replaces pure community needs. However, one of the most engaging ways of reaching an elected official continues to be through their constituency office. This is also the most practical and locally relevant place for youth to engage. If they want to a difference in their community, tackle an issue in their home town or neighbourhood – the local elected official’s office, whether town or city councillor, provincial member or federal member is a great place to visit. Chat with the staff or volunteer and see how there might be an opportunity to become active.

Through these local constituency offices youth will quickly find that the often perceived cold, confusing and nonsensical political environment is not the whole picture. There are warm hearted, hard working staff and volunteers at the foundation of our political system. These people have chosen to get involved and welcome new folks to the fold.

I would say that the “rule” for elected officials is to post their “constituency office” contact information. Seek out a local member or elected official and give them a call. The current Federal Members of Parliament can be found right here. Their constituency office information is easily accessed. With an upcoming federal election there will be ample opportunity to get involved.

Network

I would also challenge youth to take action on something that they feel strongly about. This could be strongly in favour of something, an issue, a cause or a belief. Similarly, this could be strongly in opposition to something. Rather than feeling like you are simply a lost voice in the gusts of a hurricane, step into the conversation. Follow someone who’s beliefs you admire. If you like what they are saying – reach out to them. They would likely cherish hearing from you. Join a group in LinkedIN on a matter of importance to you. Follow an issue or movement on Twitter and engage in that conversation. Search a topic out on Facebook and like it. If you have a leaning towards a political philosophy – pick a  party and get involved…so much to learn as we head to the October election date.

Leaders of Tomorrow

Our youth are our leaders of tomorrow. We must convince them that apathy is boring so that they will step up, step in, get involved, become active and help keep our communities and activity in our political systems strong. With social networking allowing us to be socially active, and giving us the ability to have “voice” on issues – there are no excuses for anyone being apathetic in today’s society. We need to openly engaged, involve and respect our youth and their opinions. Let’s do a better job at getting them involved in all that we offer as a community.

Apathy Boring

I applaud Caro and her team at Apathy is Boring for all that they are doing to get youth involved. Let’s also ensure that the rest of us stay involved as well. Let’s not let the system drive us to becoming less involved. Let’s be active in the system and make it be robust and full of engaged citizens coast to coast to coast. Speak up, be heard, stay involved.  @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork