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Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Importance of Involving Youth in Political Parties.

I just finished moderating a panel on how to engage youth in political parties at the Alberta Progressive Conservative Association AGM in Edmonton this afternoon. There was about 165 individuals in the room so the interest in the topic was encouraging.

The major themes I grasped coming out of the event that were generative enough to move forward were the need for mentoring, the adoption of technology, inclusiveness, and meaningful participation and building stronger and lasting relationships.

It became obvious that the most common way people get involved in the political process at the party level is because someone asked them and invited them. I expect this is true of all political parties. How utterly simple and obvious but yet we do not do it very well. People need to be asked to participate in civil society, including political parties, or so it seems. So we better start asking them.

The other interesting observation was the nature of youth involvement in a political party. It is about apprenticeship or it is about being fully active from day one, regardless of age and experience? The answers there seemed to be both but the determining factor ought to be the wishes of the individual and not some cultural party norm that ends up being a barrier to any real and meaningful participation.

Mentoring needs to work both ways too. Older more experienced party activitist can teach young people the ropes of how the political policy making processes works in our democracy. This needs to be taught at the grassroots level in practical term and be focused on political parties and also in government terms. We need people to become empowered and to see how they can make a difference using politics as a vehicle for change.

Equally as important is younger people teaching and mentoring more senior party members about the uses and advantages of technology, including building social relationship opportunities. The technophobia of so many older people has to be overcome. They have to be introduced to technology, taught how to use and become comfortable with applications like Facebook and even Blogs, so they come to see how it helps for political outreach, even on a personal basis.

The current state of wide spread indifference to down right cynicism over political parties and politics in general cannot be healthy for our democracy. We citizens have to take back the power of politics and put it into the hands of ordinary people who will hopefully choose to re-engage and who can see the value in doing so. It was a wonderful session to be involved with and I look forward to some actual follow up happening to get some of the suggestions we heard into practical action plans.

7 comments:

  1. I was certain you were a paid lobbyist for Tobacco Control for months, Ken. It was when you said this: "Citizens have to return to exercising their power in a democracy between elections. This is a good issue to renew ones responsibility of active citizenship in a representative democracy. This legislation needs to be introduced and passed now. It has been far too long in coming."

    that I just couldn't stand it anymore and had to confront you about it. If you had denied it I would have been forced to "expose" you. As I said on Werner's blog, your frank admission deserved some credit and earned you some respect. But...

    YOU are not "citizens". And you are doing it again, right here in this posting: "We citizens have to take back the power of politics and put it into the hands of ordinary people..."

    YOU are not "we citizens", nor are you "ordinary people". You are a consulting company, professional lobbyists. Your purpose is to manipulate politicians during and between elections so that they end up enacting the policies your elitist clients PAY YOU to get enacted. What you do is a subversion of the electoral process. You don't represent "the citizens" or "ordinary people" - you represent the interests of clients.

    You are the very thing that those of us who backed Stelmach from the beginning hoped to see barred from interfering with our elected reps. And when you have finished "evolving" Ed Stelmach from "steady" Eddy to your personal toady there will be no doubt left that there is no one in politics who cannot be bullied by lobbyists, and thousands more Albertans will give up on the electoral process for good.

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  2. Anonymous11:21 pm

    My "son" I was in favour of tobacco control long before I became involved in this initiative professionally.

    I do not represent citizens and never claimed to. I am a citizen and can speak as one and can have opinions and express them as a citizen.

    Just as you don't represent citizens but you are also one and therefore can speak as such in a free and democratic society.

    It is not that hard to understand that using one skills to achieve ones preferred social ends do not become diminished when one does it professionally as well as based on personal commitment.

    You are risking overplaying your hand as to having a personal sense of a superior morality now too.

    Afterall you are still essentially anonymous - even though I know who you are, most reader here will not.

    Remember also you are the only commentator who I have ever had to delete from this blog because you actually defamed someone on it.

    Enough said.

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  3. Anonymous12:29 pm

    I think Son of Gala raised solid concerns and you explained yourself quite well. However, your last 3 paragraphs attacking the credibilty of Son of Gala were not needed and does not shore up your arguments. The fact that Son of Gala is a quasi-anon does not detract from the validity of his arguments.

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  4. Anonymous9:20 am

    Couldn't Agree more on the importance of getting youth involved.

    Let's recap:

    PC Alberta owes PCYA/YAPCA (Young PC's) $9,000 - according to their website.

    PC Alberta has continuely shown their distane for youth

    So, lets talk about Youth involvement... the Party isn't about Mentorship, they are about control.

    Stop kidding yourself

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  5. Anonymous9:31 am

    The Klein era - like those of Getty and Lougheed - were all about control of the party...they did it by hand picking presidents and executive directors.

    I saw a president elected that was not hand picked and the search for a new Exec Dir being done within the party and not out of the Premier's office...as in the past.

    I think Stelmach will be better served by an independently thinking party membership...and it will be better for our party and for democracy too.

    Having a separate youth wing is another way to control things...starve them for cash and ignore their suggestions and marginalize their needs are 3 obvious ways of controlling.

    I think we can change all that and the forum I moderated on Saturday at the AGM was encouraging to me. I see it as a place to see it start the change.

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  6. First of all I have to admit that I have little patience for the posters such as the "Son of Gaia" and cringe a little when I see another comment. That's not because I disagree with their arguments, it's because I don't believe there is much credibility in sniping from the sidelines in a continually annonymous fashion - and it has been my experience that those who do are almost always negative focused in their points. It is tiring, but I guess a fact of the blogosphere. OK, end rant.

    Second, and most importantly - that was the best AGM I've been to in 7 years. The members feel empowered, both from Calgary and Edmonton and they are younger - that is great to see!

    That being said, I'm all for getting more youthful people involved in the party... but I am not sure that YAPCA is the way to do it. I think everyone should be a full and active member of the party, not relegated to some "youth wing" that turns out to be a handy substitute for the kids table. YAPCA hasn't worked for years now, hasn't fulfilled their obligations or duties, and no one has even noticed that they haven't done their jobs for that time (which is also why they haven't recieved their budget line). If no youth has noticed and no one is lining up to be a YAPCA member, yet they are already participating fully in our party like I saw this weekend, then I think it is time to let the youth wing mentality go the way of the women's auxilary!

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  7. Oh, I meant to say that I do object somewhat to the proclaiming of oneself (SOG) as a "supporter" of the Premier's (from the beginning even), seemingly to cloak or soften your attempts at detraction. Ken Chapman, paid lobbysit or not, as good at his job as he might be, is not going to evolve the Premier into his or anyones "Toady."

    If you actually knew the Premier you would know that already.

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