In October, we celebrated the winners of the 2018 American Civic Collaboration Awards - or "the Civvys" - in a ceremony at the National Conference on Citizenship in Washington, D.C. While all of our nominees and finalists do inspiring work to better their communities and strengthen the fabric of the nation, this year's winners represent exemplar cases of high-impact, truly collaborative initiatives.
We asked our winners to answer a few questions about the role of civic collaboration in what they do. This week, meet our winner in the Youth category, First Vote NC.
Hunter Buxton accepts the Youth award on behalf of First Vote NC.
First Vote NC believes that if students have an opportunity to practice voting, it will become a habit. They have built a track record of success with their virtual voting platform and civics lessons, which provide education, information, and room for engagement, while de-emphasizing the right versus wrong nature of today’s politics in favor of understanding how perspectives differ because of a myriad of factors. Through a mobilized network of teachers using the platform, the work of First Vote has reached over 40,000 students in 46 counties.
Here's what they had to say about their work and looking ahead to 2019.
What are your hopes for the upcoming year?
It is our hope that schools will use our platform to infuse their classrooms with energy and enthusiasm about local elections. We hope young people will gain a better understanding of the importance of civic participation at all levels of government.
Why is collaboration important in today’s politics?
Collaboration is a by-product of community. When you form relationships you learn to work together; you learn the perspective of others; you learn to compromise. In an increasingly polarized environment where distrust is rampant, we fail again and again to engage with an open mind. We limit our version of those with whom we disagree to the prototype we imagine them to be. Societies work best when people are invested in one another; when we all work off the same knowledge platform, and when we fight the instinct to think of politics as a win or lose proposition. We will only achieve long-term sustainable results if the solutions we use are reached through collaboration and compromise. Otherwise we will continue the negative cycle of trying to dismantle the efforts that were built within defined ideological groups.
What do you wish people who have lost hope knew?
When you look at the recently published life expectancy numbers, it is disturbingly evident that many have lost hope. The drug overdose and suicide numbers are heartbreaking. I cannot pretend to understand the many facets of negative undercurrents that affect so many lives, but I believe we will not begin repairing the damage until we collectively navigate solutions. It is not so much what I want these people to know, it is more what I wish could change about their life circumstances.
What does winning a Civvys award mean to you?
The Civvys Award was important for First Vote NC because it validated our efforts with the thousands of educators we we reach out to each year. Being able to say we are national Civvys award winners gives credibility to the resources we offer, the mission we are working to fulfill, and the non-partisan nature of our work.