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This is a call for short proposals from young people (ages 14 to 24) interested in creating a blog post, video, or presentation for the CIRCLE website. We are inviting proposals from diverse young people from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and locations in the U.S. about how schools, communities, and organizations can more substantially and more equitably support youth participation in elections. We are particularly interested in amplifying the experiences and vision of young people who are under 20 years of age, young people of color, and those from communities where they perceive little support and access to voting and elections. The short proposals are due by June 15, 2021. Young people whose proposals are selected will receive a small honorarium when they complete the final product.

Not familiar with CIRCLE? We're the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a research center based at Tufts University in Boston. CIRCLE studies and tries to expand opportunities for a wider diversity of young people to meaningfully participate in civic life in the United States.

We define “civic engagement” as the wide range of actions and behaviors that improve communities and help solve problems that affect more than one person or household. We think of political engagement as a form of civic engagement, related to voting, elections, law-making, and government in particular. Read more about our thinking here.

The Topic: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. That was an important step in broadening the electorate and empowering young people to participate in democracy. But, five decades later, the promise of the 26th Amendment remains partially unfulfilled. Opportunities and information about elections are often inequitably distributed, and the youngest eligible voters tend to cast ballots at lower rates than the rest of the electorate, and even than their slightly older peers. We estimate that, in 2020, 50% of youth under 30 voted, but among youth ages 18-19 the turnout rate was 46%. As long as the youngest Americans vote at lower rates, they remain underrepresented in political life, and inequalities today can lead to sustained inequality for decades to come.

About the Series

CIRCLE deeply values young people’s views and experiences, and we believe they have crucial expertise to share about the issues that affect their own civic participation. We see this initiative as a way to amplify the voices of our younger peers in the civic engagement world, to increase knowledge across the field, and to promote new connections and conversations among people involved with research, policy, and practice. In 2020, we published a youth expertise series on how communities can increase, diversify, and sustain youth civic and political engagement.

Proposals may be submitted by individuals or may be collaborations between multiple young people, or between youth (ages 14-24) and older adults. Regardless, content must be driven by young people. Proposals should be a short description of what ideas a full (written or multimedia) post would cover. The proposal can take different forms: text, slides, video, etc. The proposal should be no longer than a half page of text (around 200-250 words), a single graphic, 5-6 slides, or a video that is less than 2 minutes long. Please note: we are not looking for program model explanations. 

Proposals may address one or more of the questions below, or others of your choosing: 

  • What are young people’s Initial experiences with elections? How are young people’s (especially those who are about to turn 18 and be eligible to cast their first ballot) views and experiences with elections and politics different from those of slightly older people? What are some of the barriers and challenges that come with being a newly eligible voter, and how can communities address them?
  • What’s your vision for making elections accessible and meaningful to all youth? There is incredible diversity among young people, and reaching youth with different experiences, views, or identities can require different approaches. How does support for young people to become active voters look different for youth of color, youth across a wide range of political views and ideologies, young people with disabilities, rural youth, or other groups?
  • What role should schools play in reaching a wide range of youth? Is your school preparing students to be ready and motivated to vote when they turn 18? What kind of civic education and other in-school experiences do youth in this age group want in order to become informed and engaged voters?
  • How can basic election information be more accessible? CIRCLE’s research regularly shows considerable differences in young people’s access to basic information about elections, including and about voting laws and processes. Who can and should play a role in making this basic information more accessible and more equitable? What role can/should news media play?
  • How can youth participate in elections before they turn 18? Elections aren’t just about voting, and there are many ways to engage in the process and the issues. What can youth who haven’t reached voting age contribute to elections, and what kind of support, preparation, and encouragement do they need to do so?
  • What role does participatory media play in building electoral engagement? Young people ages 18-20 engage with issues and elections on different platforms (e.g., TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram) than older adults, and some of these platforms are specifically geared toward creating media like images and videos. How can creating content on social media prepare young people to vote in their first elections?

CIRCLE staff and summer fellows will assess proposals based on how well a proposal addresses some or all the following criteria:

  • Reflection on what has/has not worked and why
  • Strength of argument, including personal observations and examples (we are NOT looking for program/model profiles)
  • Potential for influence on future policy and practice 
  • Representation from different parts of the country and from young people representing diverse communities and identities
  • Impact on increasing equity in the civic and political opportunities available to youth across diverse backgrounds

Selected submitters will be asked for a full post/product (750-1000) words if written and no more than 5 minutes if a video). Our staff will review and provide feedback, if applicable, and work with the submitters to publish the blog post, video, or presentation in late summer. Young people whose proposals are selected will receive a small honorarium when they complete the final product.

To submit, find the link at the top right of this page. Reach out to abby.kiesa@tufts.edu if you have questions.