Provided by the Interfaith Youth Core. Used by permission.
Faith communities are an important resource because their members and leaders already recognize the role of religion in city life and as an inspiration to service. Additionally, faith communities are already organized, building social capital, and often building assets in the lives of young people. They can offer important resources to improve youth-led interfaith service programs.
Example: Philadelphia's "Walking the Walk" program, a year-long service and leadership program for high school students, decided to recruit participants directly through area congregations. This has allowed organizers to engage faith leaders and institutions as they recruit participants, amplifying the work.
Youth-Focused or -Led Institutions
Youth-focused organizations, such as YMCA s, Boys and Girls Clubs, and high school service-learning offices, are important partners in this work because they are where young people are, and will have wisdom on where youth leadership is in your city.
Example: When they began their work in New Orleans, Interfaith Works decided to partner with a local youth leadership organization called Operation Reach, which had no previous religious or interfaith affiliation, for two small events. This helped build Interfaith Works' credibility with youth and youth organizations around the city and connected them with dozens of young people, which helped them find the individuals interested in leading the interfaith youth movement.
Educational institutions, from elementary schools to colleges, private and public, religious and non-religious, are important partners because they are where young people spend most of their time and often have pre-existing resources for youth-led work. Youth-led initiatives will have easier access to money, resources, and people if they involve educational institutions.
Example: Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls (IP/FBW), a community interfaith service organization in St. Louis, reached out to local colleges and universities. This resulted in a yearly Day of Interfaith Youth Service for Collegians, which connects college students interested in interfaith work from all over the city and constantly exposes new students and communities to the work of IP/FBW. This has brought mutual benefits of increased financial resources for community partners, and stable partners for college students.
Multi-Religious or Interfaith Groups
Any pre-existing interfaith work in your city is an obvious ally in any interfaith partnerships you wish to begin. Particularly, check local high schools and colleges to see if they have interfaith groups, and research whether the clergy in your city meet through a Religious Workers Association or other organized body. You may not share the same goals as other interfaith groups—they may be focused on adults over youth or on dialogue where you wish to promote action—but these groups will have invaluable experience regarding interfaith relationships in your area.
Example: When a few individuals became interested in youth interfaith work in Kansas City they reached out to the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, focused largely on building understanding among adults. Through the Council they got exposure to conferences and events for recruitment, and now have launched a monthly service program for youth called the KC Interfaith Youth Alliance.
Local media such as school and community newspapers, bloggers, billboards, or congregational bulletins, are one of the most important ways you can find people interested in interfaith work and create city-wide buy-in for religious pluralism. When you tell the story of what interfaith relationships can do for the community, even those who don't participate may be transformed.
Example: The Twin Cities Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition partnered with a local television channel called TVbyGirls to produce a video about their service work found here. This video exposed them to new audiences and other young leaders, has been a helpful tool for recruiting participants and funders, and most importantly introduced the idea of cooperation over conflict to their community.
Secular Service or Community Organizations
Your community has service and civic engagement organizations already doing good work. These can make great mutually beneficial partners as they have wisdom and experience on effective service in your community, and through interfaith work you may help them reach volunteers that have not previously worked with them or think of service in new ways. Good places to start are agencies such as the United Way, online volunteer matching services such as Volunteer.org, and any place you personally have volunteered in your community.
Example: When Imagine Englewood If... and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago decided that they wanted to volunteer together to tackle the issue of lead poisoning in the Englewood neighborhood, partnering with pre-existing lead awareness groups and volunteering together through city wide voter registration initiatives run by Chicago Cares was the easiest way to build relationships and do effective service while their group was still small. Now, youth run a yearly Lead Awareness Festival and continue to volunteer together around the city.
Local Government Officials
Government officials hold many resources, and can also be important figures in making any social change your group is invested in. These contacts are less critical in your initial stages of building relationships and religious pluralism, but can be helpful partners when and if you expand your reach.
Example: 9/11 Unity Walk of Washington, D.C., which mobilizes young people to do interfaith service in remembrance of 9/11, held a dinner event on eliminating hunger. They invited City Council officials, Administration employees, and others in a successful attempt to raise the profile of their organization and increase their chances of truly eliminating hunger in their city through government-NGO partnerships.
Almost all programs will require some kind of funding. It will be helpful for you to know the best sources of funding in your area for service projects and make yourself known to them, from potential individual donors to foundations to congregations to government grants.
Example: In addition to seeking grants found through internet searches, Donna Yates of the elementary school interfaith poetry project Poetry Pals strategically chose her board members so they would be connected to different parts of the Chicago community, and have non-overlapping funding opportunities. This gave her a wider range of funders to ask for support when elementary-schoolers needed funding to make placemats for a local homeless shelter and for poetry teachers.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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