Scaffolding & Sustaining Participatory Politics Webinar/Twitter Chat Series: Highlights from Round 2

The following post was written by my Media, Activism and Participatory Politics research team, including Alexandra Margolin, Diana Lee, and Raffi Sarkissian. At the end of February, the Media, Activism, and Participatory Politics team at USC wrapped up a 4-part webinar and twitter chat series on  Scaffolding & Sustaining Participatory Politics in partnership with Connected Learning. We recently shared a blog post that showcased highlights from the first webinar and twitter chats from the month. This post focuses on the second half of the month, as we shifted our attention from defining and measuring success to creating an action plan to achieve set goals. You can view a complete list of Webinar 2 participants here.

We had a few departures from both the scaffolding and thematic connections of the first webinar and twitter chat. First, we were excited to have two members from our research team take a more prominent role in the second half of this webinar series. Raffi Sarkissian and Diana Lee, two Ph.D. students at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism who had previously taken a more behind-the-scenes role within the MAPP project, moderated the live webinar discussion. The second shift was in the connections between our second webinar conversation and twitter chat.

In our first webinar and twitter chat about defining and measuring success in participatory politics, the twitter chat served as an elaboration of webinar themes. In the second half this was not necessarily the case. Rather, in discussing what an action plan for engaging in participatory looks like webinar speakers focused much of their attention on steps that can be taken in the classroom or in collaboration with teachers. In the subsequent twitter chat, the focus shifted to outside the education system. The juxtaposition of these two conversations provides an interesting snapshot of where young people are engaging in participatory politics, the structures in place, and the challenges of engaging in this kind of work.

You can check out both the full webinar and twitter chat below. We have also provided some highlights if you don’t have time to watch and read it all.


Webinar 2: An Action Plan for Achieving Success in Participatory Politics


Some highlights include:

  • Nicole Mirra, a Postdoctoral Scholar at the UCLA Graduate School of Education (GSEIS) kicks things off by discussing some of the challenges facing youth-led research projects, particularly the perception of young people as “cute” or “fun,” rather than as truly engaged, active members of the community that should be listened to. Citizenship does not start when you turn 18 and young people participate in many different ways politically, often through digital media. Check out her comments 4:45 into the broadcast.
  • It is important to establish safe spaces for young people to explore topics that they care about (which may be different from what adults tell them to care about). Between 6:26-8:09 political science doctoral student and Black Youth Project coordinator Allen L. Linton II discusses some of the stigma around digital media tools in schools.  From 11:16-14:09 magazine editor Marium Mohiuddin outlines how the establishment of youth summits for American Muslim youth have provided a space for young people to find their own political voices.
  • Allen points out that it is important to work with schools and school districts. However when doing so it is imperative to gauge teacher attitudes and comfort levels in engaging with new media and participatory politics. The important part of participatory politics is participating, not going viral. Check out his comments at 17:45.
  • It is often difficult to know what things will go viral. At 32:29 Talitha Baker, former staff member at Invisible Children discusses how perception matters.
  • At 35:08, Marium emphasizes the importance of building relationships: “Networking and socializing are all part of building relationships, and it’s so vital to what we do as far as being civically involved, community activism and organizing. You can tweet, snapchat, and all you want to, but it always comes down to picking up that phone call or having coffee with somebody.”
  • The challenges of activism and organizing, are not “new” because of social and digital media. The structures are different and things move faster, but many of the core challenges are the same (45:26).
  • When engaging in participatory work, we often forget to take care of ourselves. See what the webinar participants have to say about sustainability and burnout at 50:03.
  • Learn what campaigns the participants look to for inspiration and insight starting at 53:36.


Twitter Chat 2: All questions were facilitated by the Connected Learning team (@theCLalliance).

  • Do you have any advice for youth activists who are not taken seriously because of their age?
    • TeachThought (@TeachThought): “Focus on "branding" the effort/function rather than themselves.”
    • Samantha Close (@ButNoCigar): “Some outlets will feature you bc young activists are ‘surprising’ - can be condescending but take advantage”
    • ByAnyMedia (@ByAnyMedia): “Stay on message- condescension is often used as a distraction from the powerful content of youth activism”
    • Raffi Sarkissian (@rSark): “Persistence should often pay off; if not in achieving your goal, then at least in showing the strength of youth . . . @TalithaBaker was mentioning this on webinar about youth persistence with changing govt representative's stance.”
    • Diana Lee (@MsDianaLee): “@ButNoCigar Agree. Learning to navigate and code switch speaks back to condescension and other forms of discrimination”
  • What rookie moves should be avoided in modern civics and action? What advice do you have to someone starting out?
    • Samantha Close (@ButNoCigar): “Burnout - not knowing how or feeling you can't take breaks to sustain . . . Maybe reaching out to those inspirational orgs we talked [about] at beginning can help Take advantage of their institutional memory and/or mentorship, grow #activist network & don't feel alone”

As we wrap up this discussion, we are excited by the depth and introspection of the conversation. Thank you to all of our panelists and facilitators for sharing your insights. While the webinar series has concluded, the conversation is just getting started and we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. You can join the conversation about Scaffolding & Sustaining Participatory Politics on Twitter by using #byanymedia. We look forward to additional conversations and collaborations in the months ahead.