Objective: Engage young people in dialogues about political issues and events.
In a Nutshell: Generation Engage operates independently of election cycles and seeks to promote participation in issues beyond the voting booth. The nonprofit recruits local coordinators and youth leaders, then forms partnerships with other nonprofits to conduct voting workshops and political issue discussions. The organization relies on connections to youth programs to spread the word about events it hosts at “hot spots”: local social areas with which Generation Engage has forged a partnership.
The largest events are the organization’s iChats, where former and current political players discuss issues with a group of young voters while Generation Engage webcasts the discussion to all of its other sites. Recent iChats have included Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and four former politicians: President Clinton, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Raleigh, N.C., Mayor Tom Fetzer (R).
Where and When it Happens: Based in Washington, Generation Engage operates events on weekday nights and weekends in North Carolina, Virginia and New York.
Who Started It and Who Runs It: Generation Engage was founded in December 2004 by Adrian and Devin Talbott, sons of Clinton foreign policy adviser Strobe Talbott, and Justin Rockefeller, son of West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D). The organization, with a staff of eight, is still run by Adrian Talbott, executive director, and Rockefeller, national program director. Devin Talbott chairs the board of directors.
Obstacles: Measuring any immediate success continues to be a real challenge, according to Adrian Talbott. By using the Internet and local meeting spots, he hopes to keep voters registered by Generation Engage in touch so that the nonprofit can track the effects of its outreach.
Cost: Generation Engage operates on a $650,000 annual budget.
Who Pays: Generation Engage receives funding from individual donors; corporate supporters, such as Ralph Lauren andDominion Resources; and foundations, including the Open Society Institute and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. The Apple Corp. has provided software to conduct the iChats.
Youth Served: Generation Engage targets young people who haven’t been to college. The Generation Engage Network – young adults between 18 and 29 living in North Carolina, Virginia or New York who have submitted contact information at events or on the website – includes just over 27,000 members.
Youth Turn-On: Most of the hot spots are established in venues that youth and young adults would frequent anyway – pool halls, bars, community centers, places of worship – so the events don’t cut into social time.
Youth Turn-Off: For its youth leaders, the initial publicity and hawking that goes into getting a local site off the ground is a turn-off. “Most everyone is supportive of the idea of Generation Engage or interested at the start. After all, who is going to say they are against young people being civically engaged?” says Christopher Lewis, the organization’s Virginia director. “But it takes an initial tipping point to get things rolling locally.”