On Tuesday, December 14, 2019, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) co-hosted the third annual State of the Field Conference on Youth Participation along with partners of the Collaborative for Advancing Youth Development (CAYD). These partners include Algorythym, Youth Inc., Partnership for Afterschool Education, the Youth Development Institute and The Public Science Project.
The conference centered around the goal of highlighting youth participation in and around New York City, specifically youth activism projects led by young people. With over 275 youth workers, experts in the field, and youth leaders in attendance, the conference allowed everyone present to evaluate and discuss the role that youth development organizations have regarding youth participation and to strive for youth-adult partnerships that are fully reciprocal, enabling youth voice to lead to adult action.
The overall theme of the conference can best be described by a quote from keynote panel speaker Abdullah Akl, youth ambassador of the United States for UNICEF, “Put in children before, during and after everything that you do, and there you will you get your solutions.”
After a framing of the day led by Dr. Sarah Zeller-Berkman, academic director of the CUNY SPS youth studies program, and an opening activity by young people from the Intergenerational Change Initiative at CUNY SPS, a full auditorium listened to a keynote address from Anucha Browne, UNICEF’s chief strategy and engagement officer. Browne spoke intentionally on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and how these rights should travel with every young person wherever they may go, recognized, and upheld. She also spoke about UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) and, along with Akl, explained its five goals as a framework that can exist for all youth work on a global scale.
Other highlights of the conference included an exhibition of the “Civic Ecosystem” featuring 16 organizations from around New York City and a Child-Friendly Cities Initiative assessment activity. There were seven learning sessions on topics such as critical participatory action research, youth community boards, youth councils, and youth activism, and a critical conversation session that allowed participants to analyze live data from the exhibition. The conference wrapped up with a listening session that allowed everyone to reflect on what they wish and wonder could happen next, as well as the action they will commit to in order to grow as allies with NYC youth.
Nicole Hamilton, director of school-based programs and partnership for Girls for Gender Equity (@ggenyc) and current M.A. in Youth Studies candidate at CUNY SPS, was one of the feedback presenters during the listening session. In addressing the importance of the data collected at the conference, Hamilton shared, “This is about creating equitable spaces for young people to participate in the democratic process of addressing issues of equity … We need to establish networks and pathways to connect youth to opportunities with and beyond our organizations.”
We look forward to taking all the feedback from this year and seeing how the CAYD 2020 State of the Field Conference can reach newer heights to enable the amazing work that young people are doing in NYC.