DOI Collaborates to Engage Youth in the America’s Natural and Cultural Heritage
The collaborative efforts at the Department of the Interior (DOI) are supported by the following:
In order to encourage interagency information sharing and collaboration around youth involvement, the DOI has created multiple collaborative groups, including teams that focus on youth employment, education, and engagement. These groups have helped facilitate discussions around the development and implementation of policies that encourage youth engagement across DOI and their programs and include both leadership-level staff and staff working directly in programs in the field. The collaborative work groups include:
A Youth Council: Comprised of deputy directors and other high-level staff across the DOI, the Youth Council functions as the decision-making body around youth goals and initiatives. Council members help advance policies and practices that embrace youth involvement and encourage youth to experience the great outdoors and their natural and cultural heritage. The Youth Council meets quarterly, or on an ad hoc basis when an issue needs immediate attention.
A Youth Taskforce: Youth Taskforce members are leaders in each of the various DOI bureaus. These individuals have a close connection to, and knowledge about, youth involvement in DOI programs that are implemented across the nation and the challenges that these programs face during implementation. The Youth Taskforce meets regularly, about every three weeks, to share the experiences of different programs within their bureaus that engage youth, and to address challenges that programs are facing.
See promising practices to learn more about the collaboration’s three-pronged approach to youth involvement.
The Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service serves as a coordinating body across the offices and bureaus of DOI and between the Youth Council and the Youth Taskforce. The Office performs a liaison role as these groups work on youth involvement policy and practice, and the DOI collaborates with other agencies and initiatives, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The Office also supports the YouthGo.gov website, disseminating information to youth about getting outside by participating in employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities.
See promising practices to learn more about the benefit of having a coordination office.
YouthGo.gov is a youth-focused website that serves as the public face of the collaboration between the bureaus of the DOI and other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to engage youth in the environment. When developing YouthGo.gov, the Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service was able to expand and build on a website created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The site is designed to reach young people ages 15 to 25 and their families, and features information about the importance of getting outside and experiencing America’s natural heritage and conservation efforts. The site also includes links to employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities that youth can pursue, including the Public Land Corps, Youth Conservation Corps, and DOI internships, among many others. In providing this information, YouthGo.gov aims to recruit and inspire young people to experience the outdoors and restore the environment. Youth who have participated in internships and other opportunities with the DOI can create original profiles on YouthGo.gov that describe their experiences and thoughts about what exploring the outdoors means to them.
See lessons learned to learn more about how the collaboration adapts the website to meet the needs of its users.
The DOI also collaborates on youth engagement efforts with other federal partners that share the mission of engaging youth in the environment. One of the key partnerships that the DOI has had for many decades is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. This partnership was furthered through the creation of the Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service in 2009 and resulted in the collaborative development of YouthGo.gov. The DOI also collaborates with the America’s Great Outdoors Council, an initiative focused on developing a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda including a focus on connecting young people with their nation’s natural heritage. The America’s Great Outdoors Council is comprised of representatives from the following government entities:
- The White House
- Department of the Interior
- Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Council on Environmental Quality
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
- Army Corps of Engineers
- Department of Labor
Through participation in the America’s Great Outdoors Council, the DOI and the Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service helped support listening sessions conducted with youth and adults across the country to generate ideas for conservation efforts. Learn more about the America’s Great Outdoors Council, and view the 2012 progress report.
In addition, the Office of Youth, Partnerships, and Service helped lead a working group on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education with several other agencies of the America’s Great Outdoors Council. The working group focuses on providing youth with early exposure to environmental science education as one way to encourage continued interest in science, math, and engineering subjects throughout the youth’s academic career.