Chief Executive Officer at Generation Citizen
Scott is the Chief Executive Officer at Generation Citizen. He co-founded the organization at Brown University with fellow student Anna Ninan during their senior year. He has worked the last seven years to build up Generation Citizen’s programming and expand action civics throughout the country. This month, the CivXNow newsletter spoke with him about their work in the field engaging young people around the issues that they care about — and about the need for more diversity and a broader focus on equity in the field of civic education.
Below is a summary of the conversation:
Q: Can you go over in broad strokes what the focus Generation Citizen’s work is?
Warren: We’re all about educating young people to be active and engaged citizens through an approach we call action civics. We want them to identify a problem, then get to the root of the problem by taking real concrete actions. We have six offices across the country and are working with about 18,000 young people this year. We also advocate for the topic of civics broadly as well. We’re trying to figure out how civics becomes a “need to have” subject vs. a “nice to have” one.
Q: What are some of the student projects that best represent what Generation Citizen is trying to accomplish?
Warren: Students always want to tackle school lunch for obvious reasons. We had a class in New York that, instead of advocating solely for better food in their own school, looked beyond their four walls. Schools in New York also are graded by the health department, but they did not previously need to make that public. The students advocated to the state legislature to ensure that the grades were published in schools.
In California, we had multiple groups focused on youth homelessness. They advocated for the state to set up an office for youth homelessness, with a budget of $25 million specifically geared toward dealing with the problem. The measure was passed this year.
Q: Can you talk about your focus on equity and diversity?
Warren: Equity is something we need to figure out as a field: Should it be the primary goal of the work, or should it be one of a number of goals of the work? We need to deal with the ultimate mission of civics education. Is it about creating a more informed electorate or is it about addressing the societal challenges, mainly unprecedented inequality, at play right now?
Q: How important is diversity in the leadership of the civics education movement?
Warren: Civics can be a little white in its leadership. Diversifying is necessary in terms of ensuring that those of us in the field are thinking about the populations that we are working with and ensuring we represent those populations.
I appreciate how the coalition itself has been trying to think on this issue. We need to expand the conversation. Much more is left to be done.
Q: Where are your geographical areas of focus right now and how do they present different challenges?
Warren: We now have offices in San Francisco, New York City, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Central Texas, and Rhode Island. There are places that we work that are more left-leaning, and some that are more conservative. Oklahoma and Texas have a lot of the same challenges, but if you’re looking at things from a policy perspective, every location is going to look different.
Q: Generation Citizen now has two full-time policy positions. How did you come to the decision to add those positions and why?
Warren: We were very much program focused, to begin with. Adding policy to our work was a recent shift in terms of addressing the increasing demand while also continuing with our programming. We recognized that one of the challenges is that schools don’t have the time or capacity to work on policy. So in order to make that happen in a different way, we decided to take a more holistic approach.
We have two policy people doing work nationally and in all of our locations. Among other projects, they are working on an initiative to lower the voting age to 16, with the theory being that if 16- and 17 -year-olds can vote in local elections, then schools will be likely to teach civics and young people will more likely stay civically involved long term.
In terms of recognizing the opportunity that exists right now, there are a lot of folks talking about civics, and there is a need to provide a more comprehensive solution to it.
Adding policy work to our agenda is a natural evolution. A lot of nonprofits do it. Once you start a program and get it going, advocacy and policy work become a different way to scale impact.
Share some insights from Scott on social media:
“There are a lot of folks talking about civics, and there is a need to provide a more comprehensive solution to it. Adding policy work to our agenda is a natural evolution.” @ScottLWarren, @gencitizen #CivXNow
“We need to deal with the ultimate mission of civics education. Is it about creating a more informed electorate or is it about addressing the societal challenges, mainly unprecedented inequality, at play right now?” @ScottLWarren, @gencitizen #CivXNow
“I appreciate how the coalition itself has been trying to figure out the extent to which equity is front and center. Much more is left to be done..” @ScottLWarren, @gencitizen #CivXNow
— — — — —
Post originally from Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 CivXNow Coalition Newsletter.