Voter turnout for Vancouver municipal elections may have increased in recent years, but citizen participation is still not where it should be, particularly with the millennial population. That fact led to this year’s 30Network focus choice: civic engagement.
CityHive has partnered with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) for the second time for its 30Network Innovation Lab. After receiving more than 60 applicants, CityHive selected 30 to take part in a series of pop-up think-and-do discussions. The selected are urban influencers under the age of 30 in Metro Vancouver. Last year’s 30Network focused on housing and affordability, and resulted in six projects that are currently in various stages of production.
Giving the opportunity to shape a city
The B.C. municipal elections are happening this year, and CityHive – a Vancouver-based organization focused on youth involvement – felt this is an opportune year to get young people involved in shaping the city.
“We’re not selecting 30 science experts or 30 people that are necessarily addressing the direct issues themselves,” says CityHive organizer Veronika Bylicki. “But we have 30 people who are from all different sectors – students, Indigenous youth, all different backgrounds of young people – to really try and drive home unique projects that address the issue.”
Youth are often an untapped resource with skills and experiences useful in solving urban challenges. The DVBIA is sponsoring 30Network, and president Charles Gauthier recalls the opportunities he had growing up in Winnipeg, being engaged in politics and civic endeavours.Charles Gauthier, president and CEO, DVBIA
“I was given opportunities by elders to work alongside them and be a part of the discussion and be at the table – having them listen to what I had to say,” says Gauthier. “Even though this is an organization approach, I strongly believe in it. It’s about supporting the things that helped me in my career and in my life.”
Implementing a plan for Vancouver
In creating the 30Network, CityHive searched for important partnerships with big players that are really impacting the way that Vancouver is right now, while also influencing the vision of what Vancouver can be and will be, says Bylicki. The DVBIA was the right fit.
Gauthier spoke at last year’s 30Network, and says that the DVBIA is thrilled to offer both financial and hands-on support to the program.
“30Network really aligns well with our organization’s five-year strategic plan to get more young people engaged in the conversation about issues that are important in the city,” says Gauthier.
Youth perspective and setting up the future
Youth can offer a different perspective in terms of forms of engagement. The City of Vancouver has been using an engagement strategy that dates back to the ’90s, says Bylicki. There needs to be a revamping of its structure. Youth are also adept at technology as a form of engagement, which organizers are expecting to come into play during the 30Network sessions.
“There’s a real sense of urgency that young people bring,” says Bylicki. “And I think that comes from them being really set up with different issues, whether it’s climate change, affordability or the opioid crisis.”
Youth have a strongly interdisciplinary way of thinking, says Bylicki. Thinking outside of the system is an important part of addressing complex, systemic issues like civic engagement.
The older baby boomers are retiring, opening up the need for succession action.
“They’re going to be a major demographic in the years to come, making up 75% of the workforce in the year 2025,” says Gauthier. “Those are critical numbers. That gives us seven years to engage and make sure we have that leadership.”
Sessions will be held on select dates between March and May. For more information on 30Network, visit www.cityhive.ca/30network.