DEMOCRACY DOESN’T PAUSE

Generation Citizen’s response to the current moment

The rise of the COVID-19 global pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty and disruption for our communities, school partners, teachers, and young people. This crisis will be especially acute for vulnerable and historically underrepresented populations. For the 72% of GC students who receive free or reduced-price lunch, the effects of COVID-19 are immediate and disproportionate. 

This moment demonstrates the critical need for responsive government and civics education in building system-wide capacity to respond to the needs of our communities — during times of crisis and every day. Whiter and wealthier school districts already have greater access to effective civic learning opportunities. As civic engagement and our democracy are disrupted, not only will educational disparities increase, but marginalized communities and young people will also face increased barriers to engagement at a time when their voices are more vital than ever. 

In response to these new needs and to ensure democracy doesn’t pause, we’re focusing on three critical objectives: providing resources, facilitating connections, and sustaining engagement.

Providing Resources

We’re creating and widely distributing civics education resources for educators and caretakers to engage young people and sustain high quality Action Civics education during distance learning. We’re also pursuing a collaborative approach to jointly share resources with partner organizations across the country. This includes:

Free Lesson Plans for Teachers, Students, Families, & Caregivers

Download our brand new virtual lessons that are tailored to the current moment, equipping teachers, caregivers, and families to facilitate Action Civics activities at home. Share your experiences with the lessons using #democracydoesntpause on social media.

Lobby a Legislator

Learn how to identify elected representatives and help students contact them about an issue they care about.

Young Changemakers

Learn how to amplify students’ civic power to create change in our communities.

Talking About Cens-US

Learn how to engage students in the 2020 Census in a culturally responsive way.

Our Community’s Assets

Learn how to engage students in analyzing their communities’ responses to COVID-19.

Countering COVID: How is your City Responding?

Help students develop empathy, in addition to critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and put them to use.

What is an Ordinance?

Learn how to help students understand and create their own ordinances.

Write an Op-Ed

Guide students through selecting an issue, writing their perspective, and pitching an op-ed.

Remove Barriers to Voting

Students will dive deep into the history of voting rights in the U.S. and think about why voting matters to them and how we can all work together to remove barriers to civic participation.

Support for Partner Teachers

The cornerstone of our work has always been the active, personalized support we provide our partner teachers. While we all contend with rapid changes, we’re deepening our work with individual teachers and expanding our use of technology to meet emerging needs by:

— Remotely supporting teachers as they adopt Google Classroom

— Coordinating video calls for students to interact with guest speakers from their communities

— Sharing relevant resources from their local communities

— Providing frequent structured check-ins with teachers.

Facilitating Connections

Opportunities for authentic connection are needed more than ever. We’re getting creative and building space to stay in touch with students, educators, parents and caregivers, policymakers, and more by:

Virtual Civics Days & Civic Gatherings

At the end of each semester, students from different schools and communities come together at Civics Days to present their Action Civics projects, celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on their learnings. GC will facilitate virtual versions of these events that people across the country can attend and where young people can continue to lead with their voices, passion, and expertise in the pursuit of deepened confidence in their civic power.

California Virtual Civics Day: Thursday, May 28 at 2 pm PDT. Click here to submit questions for the event ahead of time (y preguntas enspañolas aqui) or simply head over to to Generation Citizen’s Facebook page at event time to join the livestream.

Civics Con: Friday, May 29. Sign up here.

Massachusetts Virtual Civics Day: Thursday, June 4 at 3:30 pm EDT. Sign up here.

National Community Summit: Thursday, June 11 at 7 pm EDT. Sign up here. 

Platforms for Youth Storytelling

One of the most inspiring aspects of this difficult time is the way communities have rallied around a shared desire to help those most impacted by the crisis. However, especially with schools closed, the perspectives of young people are strikingly underrepresented. As the context of this crisis rapidly evolves, it’s critical that we amplify the experiences of our youth. We’re doing so by sharing and organizing the following opportunities: 

GC Student Leadership Board’s youth-led podcast, Students Uncensored, which shines a light on ways young people are leading positive change in their communities. 

A multimedia storytelling contest for youth around the country led by our Vote16 campaign. With the movement to lower the voting age to 16 growing, this storytelling contest encourages youth to reflect and creatively express their views on the issue. Members of the Vote16USA Youth Advisory Board will serve as judges to evaluate the submitted videos, writing, music, and visual art.

Making Space for Youth-Led Virtual Responses: The young leaders on our Student Leadership Board will host virtual response forums featuring a diverse group of youth from urban and rural communities around the country to share their authentic views of how their lives have been impacted by the crisis, how they see their community working to adapt, and how civic systems are and aren’t responding to needs. 

Virtual SXSW EDU Panels

We worked with partner organizations to create virtual spaces and reinvigorate the conversations intended to take place at the SXSW EDU conference back in March, unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19. We had a super dynamic conversation with folks from Mississippi to Massachusetts and beyond about how we can reimagine civic education & participation in democracy. Thanks to our CEO, Scott Warren, Brianna Carmen of Voto Latino, Shaniqua McClendon of Crooked Media, & Jyoti Sarda of And She Could Be Next for leading the discussion. If you weren’t able to join us, check out the recording here.

Virtual Community Spaces

As we expand the formal coaching and support, we also recognize that all of us across the GC community are going through this crisis together. One antidote we can provide is to create opportunities for strong, authentic connections. We’ll offer our teachers, college student volunteers, and Student Leadership Board members and alumni the space for informal connection and leaning into networks of support.

Connection through EdTalks

We’re opening up our EdTalks series, a space where we convene and open the floor to people to share their expertise and skills with our broader GC community. We’re eager to collaborate with partners who bring new insights and ideas that can strengthen our work during this critical time and welcome sponsorships of these events.

Virtual Wall of Win (WoW)

With restrictive social distancing measures in place, there is even greater value to connecting people through sharing stories of impact and inspiration. This interactive Wall of Win on our website will feature cascading success stories and logos from our partners, enabling all members of our community to elevate the ways that young people are continuing to make a difference from their homes, recognize the way our teachers and staff are making an impact across the country, and celebrate funding partners that join our family during this critical time by showcasing their philanthropic commitment. This platform and the aligned #GCWoW social media campaign we will launch will help students and teachers recognize their connection to this movement despite their isolation, and it will provide an opportunity for student work to receive public recognition and celebration.

Sustaining Engagement

Catalyzing informed, active civic participation is critical in this moment. Not only does social distancing create barriers to voting, census participation, journalism, and engagement in community forums — this crisis strains the ability of our local and state governments to be responsive while our communities contend with rapidly emerging challenges. This is shaping how an entire generation understands democracy — and their role within it. We’re tackling this head on by:

Promoting the 2020 Census

Even as entire industries shut down their operations, the 2020 Census continues. Recognizing the need for an accurate count, we’ve modified our Talking About Cens-US unit for teachers to lead virtually. In addition, we’re leading virtual trainings for teachers to deliver these culturally responsive lessons effectively. Check out a recent webinar our New York team presented on to help you get started. While you’re here, respond to the 2020 Census yourself!

Launching Beyond the Ballot

Knowing that democracy doesn’t pause during a crisis, and in fact becomes more relevant than ever, Generation Citizen is launching a Beyond the Ballot initiative in partnership with What the Constitution Means to Me, a play by Heidi Schreck that reimagines how the Constitution will shape the next generation.

Join us by taking a 15-second video of yourself telling us how you would amend the Constitution. Post it on social media with the hashtag #beyondtheballot! See all the responses here.

In addition, The Beyond the Ballot initiative will include resources to mobilize civic engagement in the lead-up to November, as well as equip people to stay engaged beyond this election. They include:

    — Virtual lessons that activate youth to make a direct impact and mobilize others

    — Step-by-step Civic Action Toolkits for a range of civic activities including voter registration

    — Guides for policymakers to champion youth civics education and engagement

    — Resources for caregivers to support youth civic engagement

    — Pledges to take action and stay engaged during this critical time

View our 2016 Beyond the Ballot initiative here.

Sharing Best Practices

We’ve seen widespread momentum around efforts to support youth civic engagement virtually from forms hosted by elected officials and community organizations to families and caregivers seeking activities to educate their children about this historic civic moment. There is both need and opportunity for all of us to cultivate young people as civic leaders, especially while schools are closed. Our 360 Civic Learning Toolkit provides insights and guidance for anyone engaging in these efforts to ensure they’re effective for youth from historically underserved communities.

Engagement Through Media

One of the most powerful aspects of Action Civics is the way it builds authentic relationships and connections across local communities. The new virtual resources we’ve designed incorporate opportunities for young people across the country to connect and share experiences with peers. Through our interactive #democracydoesntpause social media campaign, our youth and partners will share experiences and motivate each other to stay informed and involved. Additionally, we’re working with young people to share their voices and perspectives in opinion pieces and sharing daily civic participation prompts for anyone to engage with on social media.

Additional Resources

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