By: Elizabeth Wilson and Caitlin Kitson
Engaging in causes often becomes a question of “when?” and “how?” And in quarantine, the answers have only become complicated. In the past year, life has been similar to resting your hand above water just to acknowledge its ripple amidst the lull in routine. This isolation can shroud the opportunities for community organizing. Yet, we both discovered that participating in organizations can provide young people with strength and community throughout tumultuous times.
In spring 2020, as COVID-19 raged across the United States, I received an email advertising an opportunity to volunteer for The Institute for Civic Organizing (TICO). With the interrupted school year winding down and a public policy course under my belt from the previous summer, I applied and joined TICO as it aligned perfectly with my interests.
Entering an environment of mostly college students was intimidating, but everyone at TICO welcomed me with open arms as I started work as the Internal Development Director. In this position, I have learned how to onboard volunteers, improve organizational methods, and engage with our community through social media, newsletters, and blog posts.
By joining TICO during a time of great uncertainty, I regained a sense of purpose in my daily life and fostered growth for my professional and personal development. Through my continued work at TICO, I discard the feeling of helplessness, collaborate with peers to break down monumental problems, and garner hope for a better future.
Last summer gave me new passions in the world of writing. Through a journalism internship, I registered a purpose to learn and engage with the subject, and sought out further opportunities.
An article I wrote covering SNAPCON, a conference hosted by TICO, caught the eye of Hannah Zimmerman, who recruited me for a journalistic position at TICO. Over the past ten months, I’ve had the chance to broaden my work tools in organizational settings of planning, writing, editing, and collaborating with people across the United States.
As one of the youngest members amongst accomplished college students, intimidation was quick to present itself. Yet, over time, I grasped the sentiment of civic organizing which TICO exists on: accessibility and education. My involvement embodies this principle; there is an ocean of meaning and growth awaiting me in the work that I complete. Even in my youth, I can be involved in something bigger than myself.
SDGs and TICO:
Both of us attended the 2021 UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit, where widespread partnership prompted each conversation. Here, speakers thematically amplified the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their potential: “SDGS are a map [and] anyone that is in the spirit of solidarity can use [them]. [They are] a map to connect others and connect across the world,” said Jimena Leiva Roesch, the Head of the International Peace Institute.
In this age of unprecedented access to information, organizations across the world are taking action against pressing issues, like the ones highlighted in the SDGs. TICO is one of these organizations. In their own words, TICO is “reimagining how people and public institutions in the United States interact.” By creating academic civic organizing products, TICO hopes to provide constituents with the tools they need to better understand the world of American politics. In turn, this opportunity for critical education leaves communities ready to advocate and inspire change. In the following sections, we break down the two SDGs that TICO’s work is connected to.
Goal 4 of the SDGs is Quality Education. By working towards this goal, the UN hopes to, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Education is an integral part of TICO’s mission, as they work to provide academic products in order to educate the public on civic organizing, digital organizing, and how to get involved in local government.
TICO is also committed to accessibility in its academic products. TICO’s programs have been tailored to fit all classroom environments, whether in an online classroom, a community center, a high school, or a four-year university.
Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions:
Goal 16 of the SDGs is Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, which aims to, “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” This goal is inextricably linked to TICO’s work. This is evident throughout TICO’s three programs, but specifically the Local Government Revitalization (LGR) program.
LGR aims to connect constituents with the government entities that most impact their lives: local governments. LGR has two developmental aspects contrived, including software to connect different communities so that they can share thoughts on their changing governments, and a training program that would prepare individuals who plan to run for public office.
Through collaborative efforts and youth-driven advocacy, organizations – small and large – highlight issues that often go unnoticed and provoke institutional change.
Such an initiative is reflected in the UN and affiliated groups dedicated to sparking global change. Worldwide, there is an impending urgency to address ongoing problems and sustain a world for generations to come. By drawing on our diverse perspectives and experiences, young people discard the narrow notion that some problems are too harrowing to tackle. While striving to be better advocates, we must conjoin efforts to adapt to any challenge we face. We cannot stand idly by as our world leaders project passivity. We must collectively establish a better future.