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A 2-3 day boot camp to give young people the tools to run for public office in one state and influence climate policy from the inside.



Much ink has been spilled on the subject of millennials’ political views. Are we liberal? Libertarian? Just confused? Despite the varied assessments of millennials and politics, there is one thing on which millennials have reached a near-universal consensus: climate change is real, it is a big problem, and we need to take action on it today.

Unfortunately, older generations don’t see it the same way and they’re the ones still holding the reins of power. Young people are dramatically underrepresented in politics; millennials represent 27% of the population of the U.S. but only make up 1.3% of Congress. This is due to a number of interrelated factors, including tradition, structural barriers, and a declining interest in running for public office. Meaningful policies to combat climate change would stand a much better chance of being passed if the people that they would impact the most have a stronger voice in our halls of power.

Youth Voices USA advocates for millennials in politics by supporting pro-youth candidates, pushing for pro-youth policies, and encouraging young people to run for office. We are planning a campaign boot camp to be held in the spring of 2015 in New Hampshire to give between 20 and 40 young leaders the necessary tools to run for public office. The boot camp will consist of a number of workshops with prominent state and local officials, journalists, consultants, and young people who have already run for office. They will offer advice on subjects ranging from fundraising to campaign organization to media relations. We will also hold at least one workshop on developing a policy platform, with an emphasis on climate change policies. Our organization will continue to provide advice and resources to the candidates as they move forward with their campaigns. We plan to form a group of young elected leaders that will collaborate to pass meaningful climate change legislation in New Hampshire, and, if successful, export this model to other states.

Category of action

Youth Leadership on Climate Change

What actions do you propose?

Our focus is on changing the political environment to increase the ability of young people to demand the economic, environmental, and research policies that will seriously address climate change.

One guaranteed way for millennials to claim a seat at the table is to run for public office. Due to the growing complexity of campaigning in America, we want to host a how-to-campaign boot camp in New Hampshire. The boot camp will bring between 20 and 40 young leaders from New Hampshire or attending New Hampshire schools together with professional campaign staff, political consultants, journalists, elected officials, and other millennials who have run for office. Young people of any political affiliation will be encouraged to attend. Over two days, with a series of panels and workshops, we will provide our participants with a rough blueprint of what it takes to run for public office. Topics to be covered include: filing requirements, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, media relations, advertising, working with political parties, and voter turnout. We will also have a speaker on climate change and a group discussion and workshop of how, even at the local level, millennials seeking office can make an impact.

The topics covered in the panels and workshops are the basic components to running a successful campaign. Without a program like this boot camp, though, many of the topics could be perceived as too complex to be accessible to young people who might be interested in running for office. The major political parties tend to handpick candidates based on connections and the length of time they have worked in the political structure, criteria that often exclude young people from this important civic responsibility. People who have worked in politics for many years often learn the intricacies of filing documents, fundraising strategies, and state party structures simply through long exposure to them. By showing millennials the necessary steps to run for office, we plan to surmount these barriers by presenting them with information, connecting them with state leaders as well as peers with similar ambitions, and supporting them throughout their eventual campaigns with additional information and advice.

The participants will form the core of Youth Voices Millennial Leaders Network. By staying in touch with participants and helping them stay connected to each other, Youth Voices aims to foster a political ecosystem in New Hampshire of young people supporting each other in running for and holding public office. The Network will also help millennials seeking office connect with campaign professionals, journalists, and consultants to enhance their likelihood of winning.

If the event in New Hampshire is successful, Youth Voices will hold similar campaign boot camps around the country. We plan to duplicate this model in other states, with a particular effort to engage with young leaders in states with economies primarily based on fossil fuels. In this way we will foster a new generation of leaders that view climate change as a serious problem that needs to be addressed and holds new opportunities for their states and the country. New program participants will be added to the Millennial Leaders Network, adding new perspectives to our internal dialogues, new opportunities for partnership, and new ideas about how to get young people elected to office. In the medium to long term, we believe that the relationships built through the Network will carry over as members seek higher offices in their states and in Congress.

The discussions that we have in the boot camp, as well as future discussion in workshops and conferences, will also produce pressure on current office holders to earnestly listen to young people--what we want, and what we have to offer. When millennials start winning elections, whether for school board or for Congress, the political establishment will be forced to take our policy views into account. Once the ideas generated by our discussions at the boot camp and at further policy conferences gather enough local exposure, all candidates will have to address them. In this way, we will be adding to the political discourse regardless of whether millennial candidates actually win their elections (though we do intend to win). It will certainly make it harder for members of Congress or governors to ignore the overwhelming science behind climate change as well as force them to produce their own ideas and solutions to address this pressing problem.

Who will take these actions?

Youth Voices USA is a non-partisan non-profit and will be the organizer of this event. We currently have four staff members, but anticipate bringing on additional staff to plan and execute this event and our other initiatives. Both of the co-founders of Youth Voices worked in New Hampshire politics and have connections that will be helpful in securing the attendance of local and state officials.

We will partner with a university or similar institution which will help provide space for the event, food, and possibly accommodations. We have created a list of such institutions and will contact them to determine which one is best able to meet our needs. If necessary, we will attempt to secure additional funding in the form of sponsorships from local businesses.

We will invite speakers including, but not limited to, campaign managers and other campaign staff, local journalists, local elected officials, state elected officials, political consultants, and party officials. These individuals will share their experiences and accumulated knowledge with program participants. They will also engage with the participants, forming connections that are vital in the realm of politics, and use their particular expertise to help them to refine their campaign strategies in smaller groups.

What are other key benefits?

New Hampshire is host to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. By the spring of 2015, all of the serious presidential contenders from both parties will be making trips to New Hampshire. We will work to bring the media attention stemming from these visits onto the boot camp, increasing the likelihood that national media outlets will cover the event. This could influence the national conversation about the issue as well as forcing the presidential candidates to take positions on the issue. The media coverage also makes it more likely that other states will be willing to host such an event.

While few of the young people attending the boot camp will run for Congress immediately, placing millennials in local office is also important. Once elected, these officials can create change from the ground up. Making climate change a priority early in their careers will help them sustain that action as they move to higher offices.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Projected costs:

Accommodations for 20-40 participants, 5-10 speakers: $2125 (25 rooms at approx. $85/night)

Food for 40-70 people: $1500 (catered lunch 2 days, dinner 1 day)

Renting space from a college or university for 2-3 days: $2500

Speakers’ honoraria: $1200

Printing costs: $325 

Transportation costs for 2-7 staff: up to $1700

Web hosting and website construction costs: $350

Graphics design costs: $100

Other miscellaneous costs: $200

Total: $10,000

Because most, if not all, of the boot camp's attendees will be from New Hampshire, the carbon footprint of the event will not be enlarged by excessive air travel.

Time line

Short term: The first campaign boot camp will be held in the spring of 2015, enabling young candidates to run for office in the fall of 2015 or 2016. Once elected, they will be predisposed to push for meaningful action on climate change because of their generation’s attitudes and the boot camp’s emphasis on climate change as a defining issue of our time. Our organization will continue to support them in writing policy, providing positive media coverage of action on climate change, and making connections between young elected leaders that will allow them to form stronger coalitions to push for change. We will create other, similar boot camps across the country to push for change nationwide.

Medium term: The policies that the candidates and officials have passed will take effect and their impacts will start to be seen. More young people will run for office.

Long term: While most of the young people we originally supported will no longer be in public office, their legacies will encourage other young people to run, win, and make climate change a priority.

Related proposals

Because our proposal is aimed at electing young leaders to positions where they will have the most power to influence climate change policies, none of the other proposals are directly related to ours.


Millennial attitudes on climate change:

Size of the millennial generation:

Millennial attitudes on running for, and holding, public office: