Edmonton’s NextGen has a broad impact all throughout the city. You may have attended one of NextGen’s pecha kucha nights or City Jam’s, know one of the members, or have seen them on twitter at @EdmNextGen. NextGen has a vision to connect the next generation of Edmontonians and create a city that works for Edmontonians aged 18-40. I am lucky to work with Councillor Jon Dziadyk as the City Council representative on NextGen. As someone who falls in the upper ages of the millennial range, I am always inspired to meet with the dedicated volunteers at NextGen to hear about their thoughts on our city. Many people aged 18-40 are in pivotal years of their life – establishing a career, family, and lifestyle to set themselves up for the future. At 38 years old, Edmonton has one of the youngest average ages out of any major city in Canada. It is critical that we have initiatives like NextGen to ensure we are serving our vibrant population in the best way possible. NextGen was recently on the radio speaking about their recruitment of new members. If you are interested in joining NextGen, check out the application.
The NextGen coordinator, Christine Causing, has been with the initiative since it was created in 2005, and later became the coordinator in 2007 when NextGen became a permanent program at the City of Edmonton. When I asked Christine what impact she felt NextGen had on the city, she responded that there are many issues that are important to the next generation in Edmonton and ones that stand out currently are focused around the growth and development of Edmonton, the health and vibrancy of our city and women’s issues especially those pertaining to women in politics and leadership roles. Christine believes that the projects and events that NextGen puts on in Edmonton allows people to make connections with others, provides unique learning opportunities and gives young people a platform for their ideas.
Al of the projects that NextGen works on are created and driven by volunteers and committee members. NextGen helps brings these ideas to life. It’s amazing to see the positive impact that events such as Pecha Kucha Nights, City Jam, MEAET, and projects encouraging young people to vote and be more civic and community minded have made in the city. Many of the Committee members and volunteers who are part of NextGen become influential leaders in their workplace and in our community. Lastly, NextGen has helped create long lasting friendships and connections with others. Christine often sees volunteers become the best of friends after working together on NextGen!
The Co-Chairs of NextGen are Katie Hayes and Ryan Stephens.
Ryan Stephens is the Community Co-Chair of the NextGen Committee, where he started as a volunteer in October 2014 and first joined the Committee in January 2016. Ryan sees NextGen’s impact in the connectivity that it provides. He says that as the city grows and young Edmontonians lay down roots, it’s important that they have opportunities to participate in civic dialogue and affect the shape of their city. This is at the core of NextGen’s mission: that the city maintains as flat of a hierarchy as possible, in which your everyday student or young professional feels confident and able to step up and speak to those in power. More specifically, Ryan thinks young people value connectivity — both in the physical sense of a strong network of transit and active transportation — and the intangible sense of having a city in which we are all able to live peacefully, healthy, and happy.
Ryan says that NextGen has some exciting plans for 2018! They have their third edition of City Jam coming up at the end of the year and we’re expecting it to be the biggest and best yet, helping them leap forward into bigger and better plans for City Jam 2019. NextGen has done a lot of work this year to engage with new communities and create space for less-heard voices, including a popular networking event for new Edmontonians and a Pecha Kucha Night dedicated to women entrepreneurs.
Katie Hayes is the Civic Co-Chair and have been involved with NextGen for 3 years, she believes that NextGen plays an integral role in engaging the community of 18-40 year olds in Edmonton to help build and shape our city’s future. Whether it’s through using various content strategies to share information about issues relevant to our demographic or by developing initiatives that celebrate the contributions young people make in their communities, NextGen exists to provide opportunities for young people to be involved and engaged in community and civic life. One of the best pieces of advice Katie has received growing up was volunteer and get involved by giving back to your community and your city. Volunteering is a great way to grow and discover what makes our city so unique.
In my experience as the City Councillor on this initiative, NextGen is an exciting hub of opportunity for Edmontonians to meet inspiring individuals while giving back to the community. Some of my favourite experiences with NextGen has been at the City Jam concerts. The City Jam is a live music event that encourages volunteerism. In 2017, the City Jam helped raise 11,000 volunteer hours to local volunteer programs in Edmonton. There are no tickets sold for City Jam, the only way to gain admission is to volunteer for at least 10 hours and submit those hours to NextGen! Not only did I have a great time at the first two annual City Jam’s but I am inspired by the mission behind it – which is to celebrate volunteerism in Edmonton. Edmonton has a reputation for being a city full of dedicated volunteers, and initiatives like City Jam are critical in helping out city foster a culture of volunteerism.
I think Ryan says it best, when asked why the next generations perspective matters. “We’re going to be the ones living here for the next half century! Edmonton is going through a generation of transformation and its our generation that is going to continue the transformation and reap the rewards. We’re all going to be much happier citizens if we use our voice to build the city we want to live in for the rest of our lives, and there’s a very real opportunity to do that right now”.
Written by A. Knack, M. Banister – with submissions from C. Causing, R. Stephens, and K. Hayes