When Sandra Stahl works on civic engagement in Detroit, there’s one question she hears again and again.
“Where are all the young people?”
The answer to that question is complicated. For one thing, Stahl said, “high school government classes tend to focus on the federal government.” So by the time students are eligible to vote, it’s hard to figure out what a city council does, or what the mayor does, or when all these local elections are held. In addition, many younger people in Detroit feel disempowered and disconnected from the political process.
Inspired by a program in Finland that sends a box of baby supplies to all new mothers in the country, Stahl and her team at CitizenDetroit came up with an idea aimed at solving this problem. They call it the “Welcome to Voting Age Birthday Box.”
The plan: When Detroiters turn 18, they’ll get a colorful package delivered to their door that contains information about local elections and how to participate. They’ll also get some fun stuff, like items to wear to the polls, and some heartfelt stuff, like a handwritten note from an older community member encouraging them to make their voices heard.
Now, this idea is in the running to win some big money from the Knight Foundation.
To hear more about the Voting Age Birthday Box, and the role Stahl and her team hope it will play in the life of Detroit, listen to full interview below.
The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.