Civic Innovation SummerCivic Innovation Summer 2013 is an experimental summer jobs program for teens focused oncivics, media, and technology. The teens will be trained to be Change-makers empowered touse the latest digital tools to organize themselves, amplify their voice, and take positive civicaction. The program will be implemented by three Chicago organizations, with support from theCity of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services:● Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicagothrough technology● Mikva Challenge, which develops the next generation of civic leaders, activists, andpolicy-makers● Free Spirit Media, which provides education, access, and opportunity in mediaproductionOpportunityThere is a large amount of innovation in Chicago in the technology, civics, and media fields. Theopportunity is to share that innovation with youth and send them on durable pathways that leadto skills, jobs, and entrepreneurship. Here are some of the building blocks of that innovation:● Chicago is in the middle of a period of high growth and experimentation in thetechnology industry. Mayor Rahm Emanuel sees technology having a central role ineconomic development, convening the ChicagoNEXT Council on Innovation andTechnology and Technology Industry Diversity Council.● Chicago has established itself as a center for open government data, and the Cityregularly rolls out new civic innovations like Open311 and Adopt A Sidewalk.● Chicago continues to be a center of innovation in journalism, with local media projectslike EveryBlock, the Chicago Tribune news apps team, the Mozilla Open News project,and the Chicago Community Trust’s Civic Innovation in Chicago project at the center ofhigh activity.In order to stay competitive and keep innovating in these fields, Chicago needs to develop ahighly-qualified labor pool in each of these areas, and keep the lines of creativity open amongthe three. Developing this pipeline is in its infancy and requires multiple on-ramps, starting inmiddle school.
Mikva Challenge and Free Spirit Media, the two key program delivery partners for this proposal,have years of experience engaging with and training youth in civics and media. Here are somekey insights:● Many Chicago youth are struggling to thrive while living in communities that face multiplestress factors and developmental barriers with few resources and supports. Thenumerous obstacles in their lives and communities include violence, lack of jobs, low-performing schools, poor health outcomes, and lack of recreational opportunities.● Digital media is a key tool to build and expand young people’s civic and professionalcapacity, but youth in under-resourced schools and neighborhoods don’t always haveaccess to the tools to become digital activists.● Chicago youth have an aptitude and appetite for learning digital media. They know theirvoices matter and are important in informing and improving their world.● Chicago youth have expertise and knowledge about what is happening in theircommunities and which solutions would best impact their lives. They are rarely broughtinto the civic dialogue on these issues and their ideas and energy are wasted when wedo not involve them.In the context of this deep aptitude and expertise, many youth lack access to and anunderstanding of how powerful technology can be. They need exposure to how they can usetechnology to impact their lives, their community, and their world.The Civic Innovation Summer provides several entrance ramps on the digital media pathway.We will do this through three main mechanisms:● Youth experience a summer of discovery and creativity— exploring, discovering, andhighlighting what’s going on in their community/city, youth will produce unique contentusing technology and real world experiences for documentation and advocacy activities.● Connecting the summer experience into the school year through continuedengagement.● Youth are inspired to take action for themselves and their community through this uniqueprogram approach. As a result of this experience, youth can jump on and stay on thetechnology pathway, as they learn how to use and are motivated by technology as atool to implement real change.We think the Civic Innovation Summer can be the start of something great for the City ofChicago. This summer program is unique— youth will learn more about their community andtheir city, they will produce content using technology and real world experiences, and they willrealize the power of technology and media for social change. They will learn about theimportance of an open internet and gain skill skills that will allow them to be successful in schooland at work. Their learning will be documented and acknowledged through a badge system tiedto the City’s infrastructure.