Civic Engagement and Innovation

By FSM Communications

Twenty Free Spirit Media students took advantage of the Civic Innovation Summer, a pilot program serving youth from Mikva Challenge and Free Spirit Media, sponsored by the Smart Chicago Collaborative with additional support from the Department of Family and Social Services.

 Dedrianna Williams taking footage of a walkthrough the 1871 Tech Incubator during one of the Friday professional development sessions.

Dedrianna Williams taking footage of a walkthrough the 1871 Tech Incubator during one of the Friday professional development sessions.

FSM youth participants—referred to as Real Chi Youth—used new media like blogs, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine to produce journalistic segments that humanized issues concerning Chicago youth. Crew members reported on dozens of stories, which deconstructed negative stereotypes of Chicago youth put forth by mainstream media. They created Trayvon Martin reaction pieces, which saw youth collaborating with key black youth activists in Chicago. They also developed a social media campaign around Chicago Public School closings.

To enhance youth understanding of civic engagement, new media, and technology, the Smart Chicago Collaborative organized a series of work­ shops for FSM and Mikva youth each Friday. One notable Friday session held at civic tech incubation hub 1871, addressed the applicability of digital tools towards social change. Another Friday session highlight was a visit from Harper Reed, former Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Campaign. Most recently, Phil Ponce interviewed @RealChiYouth crew member, Kumari Mason, on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, where she relayed thoughts on her civic summer experience.

This pilot was a hit with the youth and offered a framework to support FSM’s inclusion of innovative curricula and emerging technology in future programs as outlined by ZOOM, FSM’s newly minted strategic plan which is aimed at sustaining FSM’s long term impact, relevancy and growth. FSM is thrilled to propel this work forward with a new grant from the Hive Learning Network and a new partner, the Adler Planetarium.