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Engaging Youth in Argentinian Elections

By Sabrina Frydman, member of SUMANDO Argentina

SUMANDO Argentina is a youth-oriented non-profit organization working to enhance young people's commitment and involvement in public life through participatory and ludic activities carried out in schools and non-formal settings. As all civic engagement organizations know, election years provide a unique momentum to reach out to young people and are also a great excuse to teach on the value to adopt civic action in their everyday lives.

We are excited to share three tips based on the learning gained through actions taken by SUMANDO Argentina during election years, which we hope are insightful for other organizations that share our vision.

Tip #1 - Join in partnerships!

SUMANDO Argentina joined a campaign carried out by the non-profit FUNDAEDU (American Foundation for Education) every election year to promote civic education for voters. In 2015 SUMANDO Argentina provided its youth-oriented perspective to contribute in drafting educational materials, spread information and provide real-time responses to questions and complaints through social media and emails.

The campaign "Cuidá tu voto" ("Care for your vote") promotes a responsible exercise of citizenship by teaching voters how to make sure they are properly registered in the lists, they know how to engage as monitors of voting tables distinguishing valid from invalid votes and provide relevant information on accessibility. The initiative was funded by the German Embassy in Buenos Aires.

Our educators team distributing and explaining the educational materials for the elections.

The key question for partnership engagement is: Is there a specific need we can tackle as a youth-oriented organization to complement the current activities? We found this partnership, that also includes the National Electoral Chamber, to lack a strategy targeting youth. SUMANDO Argentina joined this collaborative effort by offering a strategic review of educational materials and incorporating creative and technology-based ideas to target the young voting population.

Tip #2 - Use your expertise to make a difference!

The youth vote act was passed in 2012, and while adult vote is mandatory, young people (16 and 17-year-olds) are offered the possibility as an option. This means we have the challenge to value the act of voting to enhance ballot assistance, while keeping a clear message to value other forms of civic engagement. SUMANDO Argentina's commitment to youth civic engagement provided the framework for making a valuable contribution to the "Cuidá tu voto" campaign. As education curriculum experts SUMANDO provided feedback to the National Electoral Chamber in the drafting process of flyers distributed amongst young voters.

Furthermore, SUMANDO Argentina understands the importance of engaging young people through technology and innovative media to ensure civic action. This is why the campaigning included social media strategies on Facebook and Twitter. SUMANDO also developed creative videos appealing to the young audiences in social media. These strategies pursued opening channels of communication for young people to bring questions and complaints before and during the day of the election.

Tip #3 - Seek long-term impact!

As part of the strategies implemented after the youth vote was passed, we transformed our evaluation survey to ask young people for their opinion on youth voting. While 68% of participants agree youth should have the option to vote, those who are against it claim young people are not ready or mature enough for such a responsibility. When asking students what criteria they use to decide who to vote, almost 50% refer to the parties' proposals, while 20% trust their families' and friends' opinions. We are very optimistic about young people's voting in the future, especially because we ask them if they would vote even if it was not mandatory, 75% responded positively.

One of the biggest challenges in civic engagement is having youth value their community activities and everyday actions as a form of responsible citizenship. SUMANDO pursues this purpose by including questions to guide the youth vote debate during our regular yearly "Demos, Building a Responsible Citizenship" program. While voting is just one instance of civic participation related to the election of representatives, the ultimate goal is for young people to embrace the everyday civic responsibility to get involved in their communities.

We encourage all civic engagement organizations to build partnerships to enhance the impact of other organizations that share their vision, while opening the door for all civic action stakeholders to see young people as a fundamental part of the political process.

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