Oct. 7, 2020 2:06 pm

Young Involved Philadelphia says its time to ‘start local, get vocal’

Lauren Roberts: “Successful civic engagement is simply being an active Philadelphia resident and doing what you can to make our city even better than it already is."

A Spring 2018 Young Involved Philadelphia April event.

(Photo via facebook.com/yiphilly; image has been cropped)

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Like other organizations, Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) has been challenged by going virtual due to COVID-19 in 2020. Every event and program hosted by YIP has a civic engagement component or lens.

YIP board members and volunteers plan programming that speaks to how their personal passions align with civic engagement.

“If a volunteer is excited about a topic, they are more likely to get others excited about the topic as well,” said Lauren Roberts, who handles communications for YIP. “Successful civic engagement is simply being an active Philadelphia resident and doing what you can to make our city even better than it already is.”

Pre-COVID and for in-person events, YIP worked to host events in a variety of neighborhoods and locations.

At the start of the lockdown, YIP did weekly check-in events for their community. These started as a way to process and share information about COVID-19 resources, what everyone was doing for mental health, and how to stay productive while at home.

Over time, these shifted to a monthly format and have expanded the event topics to include guest speakers and info sessions.

YIP has approximately 8,000 community members and the age range is roughly 22-35, but all ages are welcome. YIP board members cover multiple industry sectors in Philly and serve as board members and volunteers for other non-profit organizations.

Roberts said other groups can replicate their success by following the same model they use, which is:

  • Find people who are passionate about the same topic as you and who are from diverse backgrounds and represent different issues.
  • Create accountability among the board and meet regularly as a group. Set expectations with board members at the beginning of their term and follow through on those expectations.
  • Work as a team to support each other when life gets in the way and have fun!

One challenge YIP faces is that their audience is young, constantly moving, and focused on growing their careers, businesses, passions, and personal lives.

“This active audience means that we don’t see the same attendees at event after event or the same volunteers year after year,” Roberts said. “However, our ever-changing audience keeps our content new and interesting and helps YIP represent young Philadelphians as they are in the moment, not as they were 10 years ago.”

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Their board met for only a few months in person before switching to board meetings via video calls, exclusively. YIP had to learn to adapt their programming to a virtual format and to redesign their signature programs (Board Prep and State of Young Philly), both of which include multiple networking events, to provide the same value to a virtual audience.

One of the toughest parts of the pandemic is not being able to get out into the city to learn about and work with organizations that require hands-on volunteerism. While a lot can be done virtually, learning about something from your computer isn’t the same as being able to do it in person while meeting new friends.

“We’re looking forward to a day when we can meet in person again,” added Roberts.

State of Young Philly (SOYP) is an annual event series hosted by YIP every fall. The theme for SOYP 2020 is: “Start Local, Get Vocal”. State of Young Philly 2020 will be held from October 9-22.

Proposed SOYP events should answer the questions: “How can young adults in Philly make a greater impact locally?” or “How can young adults in Philly work with nonprofits, city government, and neighborhood officials to enact change in their community?”


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