Tech and Society

Announcing SCE’s Youth Voice Challenge Partners

When we announced our Tech and Society Youth Voice Challenge last winter, we sought the answer to a single question: How can young people inspire their peers to use technology in healthy ways and make digital spaces better for everyone? 

Six months later, the world looks completely different. COVID-19 has impacted the health and economic futures of millions. Across the United States, hundreds of thousands of people are marching to demand an end to police brutality and to state unequivocally that Black lives matter.

Our Youth Voice Challenge was never intended to directly address a global pandemic or racial injustice. But as our society goes through this period of transformative change, youth voice will be more important than ever.

With the future of in-person learning uncertain, young people are spending an unprecedented amount of time online. More than ever before, they’re using technology to connect with their families, peers, classmates, and online communities. And for the foreseeable future, technology will be how young people explore, discuss, and take action around critical issues.

In this context, young people need solutions that help them build positive and productive digital environments. Those solutions must be designed, tested, and implemented by youth themselves.

We’re proud to partner with nine exemplary organizations in search of youth-led solutions for a tech-enabled world. Each of our partners brings a unique approach to this work. All of them engage youth as leaders. Over the next two years, we’re excited to collaborate with this cohort, learn from their expertise, and share our learning with the field.

Read on to learn more about our Youth Voice Challenge partners.

Beam Center: Beam Center is a New York City-based makerspace that brings together youth, artists, engineers, and educators. Together, Beam Center program participants produce ambitious, collaborative projects that support youth to take bold steps towards meaningful futures and foster conditions for educational equity. To support a vision of digital public health for everyone, Beam Center will train and empower two diverse cohorts of young people to conduct their own research on Healthy Digital Futures. Their project will also support youth as they create a platform where they can share their findings with peers, youth-serving organizations and policymakers.

Digital Harbor Foundation: In 2013, Digital Harbor Foundation transformed a closed-down rec center in Baltimore into a vibrant Tech Center for youth. Since then, they have offered workshops and programs about technology and maker skills to both youth and educators. Digital Harbor’s project will provide approximately 40 Baltimore youth with the equipment, training, and mentorship to research, produce, and market their own podcast that discusses the most pressing technology issues they face today. Using this platform, youth will lead critical conversations about the role of technology in society.

Erikson Institute: Erikson Institute is a hub of complex, creative thinking that empowers adults to help children reach their fullest potential. They bring the newest scientific knowledge and theories of children’s development and learning into graduate education, professional training, community programs, and policymaking. Their project uses teen voices and experiences to research, develop, and implement a technology peer-to-peer mentoring program. It will honor and highlight youth perspectives and experiences, leveraging a strengths-based approach to supporting young people in healthy media use while building relationships between older and younger youth.

Games for Change: Games for Change empowers game creators and social innovators to drive real-world impact through games and immersive media. They convene industry experts through their annual Games for Change Festival, inspire youth to explore civic issues and STEAM skills through their Student Challenge, and showcase leading impact-focused games and immersive experiences through live Arcades for the public. Their project, Raising Good Gamers, will inspire young people to shape the culture of online communities, advance youth leadership and advocacy for safe, diverse, and inclusive gaming experiences, and build positive game communities that counter toxicity.

PeaceCasters: Based in Louisville, KY, PeaceCasters is a youth-led program housed within the Peace Education Program (Peace Ed) that empowers young people in middle and high school to share their stories with the world in order to create change through digital and social media. Through their groundbreaking Youth Influencers curriculum, they support young leaders to be influencers on social media and in their communities by sharing stories from lived experience, practicing positive communication skills, and building community online and off. Their curriculum is based on three pillars: empowered storytelling, social media for social good, and online conflict resolution. The PeaceCasters program builds on Peace Ed’s 37 years of experience training youth and adults to build and sustain positive relationships, bringing these essential skills into digital spaces and onto social media platforms.

Project Zero: Housed in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the mission of Project Zero is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity for individuals and groups in the arts and other disciplines. Project Zero’s Reimagining Digital Well-Being will begin with empirical research that will help adults better understand the challenges that today’s youth face in their digital lives. Then, Project Zero will engage with youth in a participatory design project to develop a Digital Well-being Toolkit, which they will pilot and disseminate in partnership with youth-focused organizations.

Spy Hop: Spy Hop is a Salt Lake City-based digital media arts center offering in-school, after-school, youth-in-care, and satellite programming for students ages 9-19. Brave Voices, a youth-led participatory research, design, and media project, engages 400+ Utah youth in challenges, podcasts, and data storytelling to foster digital mindfulness and collective resilience. As digital auto-ethnographers, producers, and audiences, young people will create an open educational resource that shares both evidence-based insights and recommendations for building a better digital ecology.

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (YCEI): YCEI’s mission is to use the power of emotions to create a more equitable, productive, healthy, and compassionate society, today and for future generations. They conduct research and design educational approaches that support people of all ages in developing emotional intelligence and the skills to thrive and contribute to society. Their project will use a free program called InspirED to empower students to design and implement projects they believe best support healthy technology habits among their peers. Beyond the effects expected for participating schools, YCEI intends to promote these projects through its free website and share research findings about inspirED’s impact.

Youth Emerging Stronger (YES): YES’ mission is to provide runaway, homeless and foster youth (RHY) with safety, stability and housing, along with the relationships and resources to thrive now and in the future. They envision a world where resilient, self-assured, and hopeful youth are free from a life of homelessness and become capable of achieving positive, fulfilling futures. This youth-led project will help participants explore their own engagement with technology and ensure that their use of social media aligns with their long-term plans to enjoy academic and professional success. Once piloted, this project can be replicated for agencies serving runaway and homeless youth in Los Angeles and across the country.

Photo: student participant, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. © 2019. CASEL. All rights reserved.