City hatches plan to get youth involved in decision-making

He's only 18 years old, but Solomon Lindsay is already learning the ins and outs of the City of Victoria.

He’s only 18 years old, but Solomon Lindsay is already learning the ins and outs of the City of Victoria.

A first year computer engineering student at Camosun College, Lindsay always had an interest in architecture. So a few years ago he attended a city seminar on building microhomes, where he met the people spearheading the project, along with city councillors, fueling his interest in what the city does and how to get involved.

Now Lindsay is proud to say he’s part of a team of 10 youth between the ages of 12 and 25 who crafted a three-year youth strategy that was recently adopted by city council. The strategy is designed to get more youth involved in local government — something Lindsay said can be intimidating for many.

“Once you get involved you realize everybody at the city is trying to do their best and when you put a face to that big organization you see there’s a lot of opportunity for interactions,” said Lindsay, who follows council closely, particularly when it comes to housing issues.

“I think (the key for getting more youth involved) is just finding something that’s interesting to them.”

According to the city, youth aged 12 to 24 make up more than 15 per cent of Victoria’s population, yet they’re underrepresented when it comes to the city’s planning process. So in April 2016, a youth team was formed to develop a roadmap on how to get more youth involved and connect with the generations of the future.

Over the course of seven months, the team surveyed hundreds of youth, bounced ideas off educators, youth workers and community members, and workshopped for hours to build a plan.

From that process, more than a dozen ways for the city to involve youth in their municipal government were identified, including the development of a leaning tool (in partnership with the school district) so children and youth are learning about the city in classrooms, opening a youth hub as a safe space for youth to hang out and find out about programs and services, and getting more youth working at the city through mentorship and co-op programs.

“It’s really important to get youth involved in planning the future of the city,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who worked with youths to create the strategy. “We are making decisions today that will shape the community for a long time to come. Youth deserve to have a say in what their city will look like.”

Lindsay believes it’s through tangible physical interactions that the city will get the most input from youth, such as the co-op program, which is something many on the team have been interested in for a while.

He’s not certain whether he’ll take a stab as a city councillor some day, but the experience of being on the youth team has left him with a better understanding of how the city operates and the process of building a strategy.

“There’s so much to be learned from the city — not just academic things like this is what the city does, but really practical skills like how to deal with people and work in a very unique group environment and of course networking,” said Lindsay, noting youth are often passionate and have a lot of creative ideas, offering a unique perspective to the city.

“As long as you’re comfortable with meeting people and being in some very new situations, I think mostly anybody can get involved in the city. It’s just there’s definitely a lot of patience required and a lot of willing to do something new.”