Youth Engagement Programs and Best Practices

Civic Engagement versus Political Engagement

There is often confusion between 'civic engagement' and 'political engagement.' While civic engagement is a broad term that implies being an active citizen in any way in service to the community, political engagement is a more narrow term that refers to direct participation in formal city governance and administration.  

Although thinking about political engagement can be intimidating at first, anyone can have civic engagement within their communities on any level, no matter how small. Engaging in civic activities can be your first step in being politically involved and making a difference. 

What is Civic Engagement? 

There are many types of civic engagement, some examples include:

  • participating in the community and volunteer organizations
  • participating in elections by volunteering or voting
  • writing letter to political representatives
  • campaigning on various issues through social media
  • membership in associations and groups
  • rallying and protesting
  • signing petitions
  • engagement with local government politics
    • sitting on city councils, regional boards, Advisory Committees, Task Forces, boards
    • making presentations to the council

Declining Youth Voter Turnout

publication by the Parliament of Canada has noted that Canada’s youth voter turnout is well below all other demographic groups. To further the issue, the conventional wisdom that non-voters become voters as they get older may no longer hold true, according to a number of studies. With declining youth participation in civic engagement, the average age of people actively involved in local government will be on the rise. 

By exposing youth to civic engagement earlier on, they will be familiarized with their local government – thereby increasing likeliness for youth to participate on more levels with their local government over time.

Aging & Retiring Workforce in Local Governments

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, some municipalities expect 30-50% of their municipal workforce to retire within the next 10 years, most of which are likely senior experts. If employees within the local government sector are not replaced at the same rate as they retire, local governments may experience recruitment and retention issues for new staff. Therefore, it is important for current local leaders to engage with their youth to encourage higher civic engagement and ultimately, increasing interest in pursuing a career within local government.


Some challenges local governments face in increasing youth engagement are:

  • formal structure in civic and political processes deter youth from participating;
  • youth feeling disconnected due to lack of knowledge about political and civic processes;
  • youth do not believe their engagement would make a difference;
  • youth do not know how to get involved and where to start; and
  • negative stereotyping against youth who are civically engaged.

Despite the difficulties listed above, there are ways to combat these issues and your local government can get involved now.

How Your Local Government Can Get Involved

Your local government can get involved today to encourage civic engagement in youth. 

Best Practices & Toolkits

Youth Engagement Toolkit
This multi-level comprehensive toolkit was produced in 2013 by the University of Victoria in partnership with the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development, Province of BC. Below are the five different pieces that fit together as a wholesome toolkit:

Municipal Youth Engagement Handbook
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities developed this handbook in 2014 by FCM Jack Layton Fellows with input from local governments across Canada. This handbook includes strategies and tools which local governments can adopt to engage youth.

Youth Civic Engagement in Lower Mainland of BC: Needs Assessment
Produced by the Justice Education Society and supported by Status of Women Canada in 2014, this needs assessment report outlines research findings from seven British Columbian communities in the Lower Mainland on young women civic engagement.

Youth Civic Engagement
In this 2010 report, the Library of Parliament explains the importance of youth civic engagement and that it is not innate, but rather acquired. The report also outlines the ways in which civic engagement could be developed through family and academic settings, as well as through the media. 

Creating a Sustainable Dialogue Around Elections
Elections Alberta and Apathy is Boring have created a toolkit manual to help community organizations support youth engagement during elections. 

Local Government Awareness Activity Ideas
The Local Government Awareness has compiled a list of activity ideas that could engage youth of all ages in their local government. Local governments are encouraged to use this resource to get started on the annual Local Government Awareness Week.

Making Life Happen: Career Toolkit
The Local Government Management Association of BC has developed an exciting website and toolkit designed to raise awareness of local government with a specific focus encouraging younger Canadians to consider a municipal career.


Local Government Awareness Week
The Local Government Awareness Week is held in May each year. This is a co-operative initiative, coordinated by the Union of BC Municipalities, CivicInfo BC, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, BC School Trustees Association and the Public Works Association of BC.

Annual UBCM Convention
Students are welcome at the annual UBCM Convention. The UBCM Convention is a week-long forum for dialogue, learning, and policy-making. Convention provides an opportunity for local governments of all sizes and from geographic areas to gather and share experiences and best practices to explore solutions for relevant issues facing communities. Students enjoy a significant discounted registration fee and are encouraged to attend to gain exposure to local government and experience this event. 

Let's Hear From You!

We know there are other great ideas and activities going on within our members and we want to hear about it! What is your local government doing to promote youth engagement? Share your best practices with UBCM via the contact below.


Marie Crawford
General Manager, Richmond Operations
604-270-8226 ext. 104