THE NEONOLOGY LEGACY
Neonology is a funky movement that
creates awareness + builds connections.
This is a toolkit for people who work with, advocate for, and empower youth.
WHAT DO WE WANT TO ACHIEVE WITH NEONOLOGY LEGACY? • To share our knowledge, experience and best practices in engaging you[th] • To inspire communities in creating innovative + inclusive programming for you[th] • To create a bridge between newcomer you[th] and organizations that support them • To make it easier to develop and facilitate programs to youth in the community on the topics of anti-oppression and diversity
Please use this toolkit as a resource in creating your own programs that are relevant to you[th] and your community.
Why did we develop this toolkit? Engaging fifteen year olds is tough in almost any subject, and talking about racism, discrimination, power and privilege are difficult topics no matter what age. But we did just that. With funding from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and with the support of our School Districts, we listened, talked to and engaged 3000+ youth in these topics. They learned a lot. We learned a lot. It’s called Neonology. Our communities are becoming increasingly multicultural. Cultural diversity is exciting and makes our communities dynamic; it can also make connecting and building relationships difficult and can lead to judgment and exclusion. It is not easy to understand and deal with difference, especially as a teen. We all want a sense of belonging, especially as a teen. For many youth, understanding cultural difference and their peers reactions to it, is challenging. Racism, discrimination, oppression, power and privilege, these are heavy and dark words and topics that are often avoided. Neonology took a different perspective – a brighter, fresher look – a different lens. And, it worked. Fifteen year olds all over the North Shore wanted to be a part of Neonology – wear the T-shirts, join a club, visit the website. How come? By working with teens, listening to them, and embracing their ideas we figured out what worked for them. We engaged them and achieved everything we set out to achieve and more. We learned a lot.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page 1:
Table of Contents
This is for
Team Bio | Thank You’s
The Stats & Beyond Stats
Letter from a teacher
Our needs assessment included 5 key elements
What is Neonology | Focus groups
The Neonology journey
Page 12: 10 tips on growing a Neonology tree Page 14: Check yourself | The set-up Page 15:
Tips on engaging youth
For your information
Glossary of terms. Words to learn
Funky youth initiative
Page 20: Social media Page 21: What will you do next?
This toolkit is not a guide; it is not a Neonology blueprint. It is intended as an inspiration; you will have to figure out how you engage your community and your youth. Youth are complicated - they were tough to connect with and tough to understand – or so we thought. Their modes of communication let them be more complex and covert than ever – or so we think. The truth is they are not much different than before; you just have to meet them where they are. We did. 3000+ times. This toolkit will help you to understand how we did it. How you can do it.
THIS IS FOR This is for the kid in the back of the class who barely listens because he doesn’t care.
This is for you(th). We put the brackets in the word intentionally to make you realize the “you” in youth.
For those who think talking about ‘changing the world’ is boring.
This is for those who don’t understand and more importantly, for those that do not want to understand.
This is for those who have never experienced discrimination. This is for that person who you probably have a lot in common with but will never talk to. For you, thinking about putting this down.
This is for those who recognize that as long as discrimination affects one person in their community, it affects everyone. This is for everyone who has not read this.
For anyone who has never thought about how life would be different if they had less money, a different last name, a different colour of skin, religion, or needed a wheelchair to get around. This is for her who feels that she has to constantly defend her privilege. There are about 3000+ teenagers out there walking around wearing neon t-shirts or have them in their closets. This is not for them. This is for those without the t-shirts. The ones that never got the workshop and probably never will. For those that have never disagreed, protested or stood up for something in their life.
This is for you. 0
Neonology is not a lesson, it is a movement.
Neonology is our answer to the disengaging “stop racism” and “we are all equal” campaigns. Neonology is about having real conversations concerning discrimination and capitalizing on the knowledge and experiences of the participants. Neonology challenges what we think the terms “diversity” and “multiculturalism” mean and takes the discussion of discrimination beyond superficial rhetoric. Neonology is not a lesson, it is a movement.
THE TEAM Sioned Dyer: I am a part of Neonology because oppression exists in my community. To me, Neonology is about creating spaces for dialogue and critical thinking. Neonology gives youth an opportunity to discuss what oppression looks like to them and how they are affected by it. Neonology is about real youth engagement rather than tokenistic representation. Neonology is not about ‘teaching’ it is about sharing experiences and shared learning.
Nia Cahill: I am a part of Neonology because I believe that racism still exists. It is a problem that affects me and my community so I feel I have to be involved. I like Neonology because it is a creative and different way of looking at racism and discrimination; it encompasses various perspectives that all people can relate to. In addition, Neonology challenges me to be a better person, to look at things more critically and to consider old ideas in a different way.
Jian Pablico: I am a part of Neonology because I am dedicated to empowering youth and being a part of changing the community. Neonology does both. I believe Neonology empowers youth because it creates awareness on the barriers that separate them from each other. Put in simpler terms, it creates real connections. I believe it is only when people start building real connections with each other, that real change can actually begin.
Saba Golchin: Neonology focuses on educating youth and adults about issues of diversity, discrimination, power and privilege. It acknowledges that regardless of our racial and ethnic background, gender, age, ability, we all experience privilege and discrimination in one form or another. Thus we all have to work together to move towards a more harmonious society. I hope that the project will act as a motivator for community members to become aware of the impact of diversity issues in their own unique lives as well as their community.
THANK YOU’S For Neonology & its legacy: • All the youth who had a part in developing, supporting, and spreading Neonology. • The Welcoming and Inclusive Communities and Workplaces Program (WICWP) and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation-without this funding, we would never had this opportunity to change the world. • The North Shore Welcoming Action Commitee for seeding the idea, believing in us and the vision and opening the doors to the schools filled with youth. • The North Shore Multicultural Society for making it all happen. • The North Vancouver and West Vancouver School Districts for letting their doors be opened. • Toronto Dominion Bank for seeing so much value in the training they gave us money to do some more.
THE STATS + BEYOND THE STATS
As facilitators, we measured the success of the program in a different way. Here is the measure of our success.
+ Presented at every public
secondary school on th
e North Shore
+ 3000+ youth received Neon
+ 100+ workshops facilitate
+ 80% of youth evaluated sa of oppression
id they gained a better
+ Received the Riasat Ali Kh in the community
+ + + +
an award for the promot
Students came up to us aft er the workshops to shake our ha nd and thank us personally for do ing the work that we do. Youth stated on the evalua tion forms that they had never thought about the things we had discussed in our worksho ps Requests from schools ou tside the North Shore started to come as Neonology grew in po pularity
Youth started up Neon Ini tiative clubs without any facilitator involvement Youth asked their teachers to call us to get the worksho ps and t-shirts Youth emailed us and ask ed how they could get involv ed in Neonology
understanding ion of diversity
+ + + +
During our youth retreats, we witnessed increased confi dence and unexpected friendshi ps Out of everything they co uld wear to school, students continued to wear Neonolo gy t-shirts Facilitators were invited to be keynotes speakers at community forums
Youth put up their hands and said what was on their mi nds Parents shared with us tha t their children came home excited and wanted to talk about the wo rkshop Facilitators were invited to be part of TEDxUBC
HI NEONOLOGY Ever since I came to Canada three years ago, I have been encountered with several different types of experiences. And discrimination was certainly one of them. Although it was true that Canada’s a very accepting and generous country, so many people that I met in Canada were only “accepting”: they were ignorant about the importance of the “respect” element. In other words, people have been tolerant of differences without recognizing their values. Then I met Neonology. After the workshop at my school’s Planning class, I was overwhelmed with joy; there were people that advocated my point of view on discrimination in Canada! Neonology has certainly been one of the greatest influences of my life. With Neonology, I was able to get full confidence and strongly fight for what I truly believe in. Neonology is not just an organization for racial discrimination, but rather one that encompasses a holistic aspects of discrimination in general; and this is what fascinated and attracted me the most. With this approach, I learned from Neonology not only how to strengthen my respect for other differences, but also how to re-build my own cultural values. Neonology has also taught me how to be myself: how to be Korean, how to be a girl, how to be an immigrant, but more importantly, how to be truly committed to myself to an extent that I am proud of myself and I am confident in what I do, think and believe in. With all these lessons learned, I am very happy to acknowledge the great effects Neonology has brought to my life. I’m also certainly positive that Neonology will also bring about a great change to the general public.
Thank You, (Youth from North Vancouver Secondary School)
NEEDS ASSESSMENT A community needs assessment is important for the following reasons: • It will allow program planners’ to know what the community requires and wants. • It will provide the most effective program that will address the needs of that specific community. • It helps create a shared voice so members of the community feel personally invested in creating a more inclusive community for all. • It identifies what support systems currently exist in the community and also uncovers barriers in creating an inclusive and welcoming community. • It allows for a broad, diverse range of perspectives that will create a more effective program.
What do adults need to know about youth? ‘We are not all
and we try our best to make
people proud!’ - (Windsor House student)
OUR NEEDS ASSESSMENT INCLUDED 5 KEY ELEMENTS
1) Lead Focus Groups with Youth This was far and away the most important part of our needs assessment research. The information held in academic journals and other published documents is valuable, but the perspectives and perceptions captured quickly become dated. Speaking with youth in real time provided us with a current understanding of what youth in our community were experiencing. We went to great efforts to get a diverse range of perspectives from youth on the North Shore. Our focus groups included representation from youths who were: immigrants, at-risk, Canadian born and racialized (youth who selfidentify as being a person of colour), Canadian born and non-racialized, alternatively schooled, First Nations.
2) Conducted a demographic review of the communities of the North Shore Using the information available, we did an assessment as to the make up of the various communities on the North Shore.
3) Scan of current antioppression and youth engagement websites First, we wanted to know what was available to youth who needed support and so we did an extensive search online to find youth friendly websites that addressed discrimination. This was important because we were able to see not only what was available but we were also able to identify gaps in online services for youth. Second, we wanted a sense of how to present information to youth and so looked at visual appeal and content turn-over rates.
4) Scan of existing diversity and anti-oppression toolkits This was an important part of our program development because we wanted to see how anti-discrimination programs had evolved in the last few years. We researched existing and past anti-discrimination toolkits. We reviewed these and noted activities and concepts that we felt were still effective. This was an important step because we came across examples of â€˜anti-discriminationâ€™ activities that were ineffective or, in fact, oppressive.
5) Scan of academic materials / journal / research We did a scan for current academic journals and publications addressing youth experiences of discrimination in Canada. The scan revealed that few studies have been completed on this topic.
WHAT IS NEONOLOGY “N eonology is an inclusive youth program that encourages youth to get involved in various community events and to contribute positive thoughts, actions, and impacts to their surroundings.” – David (West Vancouver Secondary)
FOCUS GROUPS The goal of the focus groups was to find out if youth felt welcome and supported in their school and community. The focus group questionnaire had three parts: Part 1 – focused on youth and their community Part 2 – focused on how youth felt about parents and teachers Part 3 – focused on youth supporting other youth
We wanted to know: a) What kinds of issues youth were either personally dealing with, or were recognizing as issues within their schools,
These questions guided the focus group disucssions: • Do you feel welcomed in your school? • How welcome and included do immigrant youth feel in school and their community? • What can teachers and parents do to help immigrant youth feel more welcome and included? • What do they (teachers and parents) need to know? • Why should youth care about other youth? • What advice would you give to a youth who was feeling excluded or did not have many friends at school? • What does racism / discrimination look like to you? • Is racism a problem in your community?
b) How youth saw the role of teachers in stopping racism in schools, c) What the relationship was like between students, teachers, administration and principals d) What community supports youth were aware of and whether or not they had accessed these services.
FYI • Approximately 1/3 of young people in BC have experienced discrimination. • Youth born outside of Canada are twice more likely to report discrimination than youth born in Canada. A Picture of Health: North Shore/ Coast Garibaldi. McCreary Centre Society
THE NEONOLOGY JOURNEY What did we do with the information and input we collected from our research and focus groups? Identified on Overarching Theme After a thorough review of all input and information collected, our team agreed that the scope of the project needed to be expanded. Initially, the project was to specifically address the discrimination that immigrant youth experience living in Canada. Our research indicated that new immigrants were not the only youth experiencing discrimination. Many Canadian-born racialized (visible minority) youth experience the same type of discrimination. Furthermore, our focus group participants shared their belief that discrimination in all forms is creating unwelcoming schools and communities. The team determined that an ‘anti-racism’ perspective was too limiting and would not be effective and so an “anti-oppression” perspective was adopted. With “anti-oppression” as the overarching theme, we felt we now had the flexibility to address all the information we gathered and create a truly relevant program.
Identified Key Themes Our review also identified key themes. These key themes guided the development of the Neonology curriculum. We made sure that in the program planning process, the themes were referred to on a regular basis to make sure we were addressing the issues identified by youth, academics and community stakeholders. Throughout the program planning process, we referred to the input collected from the youth; if we couldn’t have them at program planning meetings, we wanted to be sure that the challenges they raised were front and centre. We wanted the project to be “youth driven”. Key Themes that Neonology address: • Media power and the influence on youth • Privilege and how it relates to systemic discrimination • Systemic power • Language
Identified Project Goals In addition to these key themes, we identified two goals for the project: 1. To get youth to think critically. 2. To lead all project participants to see their role in ending oppression. We wanted to create ‘anti-discrimination revolutionaries’ but realized that was unrealistic and somehow short term. More long term and likely more impactful would be to inspire youth to be critical thinkers. And this became one of our goals. We also wanted a project that spoke to someone who did not acknowledge their privilege in society. We wanted to show those youth who have a great deal of privilege in society (e.g. white, heterosexual males) that they had a role in ending oppression in their community. And this became our second goal. With key themes and goals in place, selecting activities and discussion topics became easy.
What We Learned • Include youth in the project development process; listen to their voice • Steer away from duplicating existing programs • Market the program as funky and fresh • Keep the brand consistent • The t-shirts worked and part of the reason they worked was because they are simple and “logo-less” • Facilitate sessions in a style that promotes “open discussion” not “teaching” or “lecturing” • Ensure that facilitators are properly trained • Do a self-check-in before the work shop (e.g. how are you feeling, what are your biases, etc) • Ensure facilitators have space to debrief after workshops (if needed) • Allow the project to develop, change and evolve • If you can get youth to think about things differently but don’t fully change their beliefs, you have still been successful • Create and understand the importance of an authentic online presence (neonology.ca, twitter, and Facebook)
What We (un)Learned Racism Now and Then Racism in Canada looks different than it did 20+ years ago. In the past, racism was more overtly displayed and expressed. It was more common to hear someone openly and loudly discriminate against someone else due to race or ethnicity; we heard slurs and name calling and we saw posters, ads, and graffiti. While the previous examples still exist, some forms of racism have become more hidden or less overt. In other words, the opinions or mentality of many people is still the same but how these opinions are expressed have changed. The notion of “political correctness” has caused many people to be cautious when making comments or stating opinions concerning race or difference. Subtle demonstrations of racism include not acknowledging someone in your class or workplace, thinking you know someone’s personality or lifestyle because of their race (stereotyping), or not hiring someone based on their race or ethnicity (but, of course, giving them a different reason.) Besides these subtle forms of racist behaviour, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media and electronic communication can be at work quietly and “virally”. Although racism still very much exists and there is a lot more work to be done to get rid of it, it should be acknowledged that great changes have occurred over the years. Many great activists, important Canadian figures and citizens have worked hard to eliminate a great deal of racism and discrimination, making society a better place today.
Why is Neonology important for your school / community? ‘Neonology is one of the best programs if you are looking to help the community in some sort, through doing it with teamwork with friends and through the method you want. Neonology is a very openminded program.’ – Behdad (Argyle Secondary)
10 TIPS ON GROWING A NEONOLOGY TREE
 Make sure there is room for the plant to grow first.
Choose a location that ensures room for growth and that has full sunlight Neonology would not have been possible without partnerships with North Vancouver & West Vancouver School Districts and the dedicated teachers who gave us space in their own classrooms to plant the Neonology seed.
Choose the right seed: neonology Neonology was developed to grow and flourish in the communities of the North Shore. We worked to ensure that it would not die after planting. We made sure to not just take a tree from somewhere else and plant it in this community expecting it to grow, but instead selected this seedling specifically for this community’s soil.
 Ensure that the “last frost” has passed
Timing and temperature had to be right for Neonology to be successful. Therefore, for each workshop, we worked with the teacher to schedule appropriately. Upon arrival, we made sure to check the classroom’s climate and adjust the temperature, if needed. The use of different “icebreaker” activities helped get the right temperature
Dig deep for the seed’s roots to flourish Neonology did not want to just “talk about racism”; we wanted to dig deeper. We focused on covert discrimination and the discrimination that we cannot easily see. This depth allowed us to engage a greater diversity of youth.
Place seed with care Every activity, starting from the “check-in” to “closing”, was planted strategically to ensure that the Neonology message (seed) would be received successfully. Facilitators allowed space for an open discussion and for the class to make it relevant to their experience without losing track of the focus. Each activity increased in intensity and challenged youth to open their minds and sharpen their critical lens. This concluded with a final activity that allowed youth to explore their “own power to change their community”.
 Keep in mind that it’s better to plant fewer seeds so the plants do
not compete for nutrients. “The more plants together, the weaker each plant will be”. In the 75 minute workshop we talk about: the power of name brands, stereotypes, and power/privilege. But most importantly, we focus on the discrimination and power that we cannot easily see or that we don’t always respond to. For example, we often heard “that’s just how it is” in response to an act of discrimination. It is responses like this that we focused on and aimed to debunk. Of course, there was so much more that we could have planted, but for the time that we had, we felt fewer plants would grow stronger.
 Keep the ground clean
Although we promote open discussion and challenging opinions, we do not tolerate sexist, homophobic, or racist language in the classroom. The facilitators are trained to handle difficult situations and they establish guidelines during the introduction clearly stating that “hate language” will not be tolerated.
Give just the right amount of water Both too much and not enough water kills plants. Therefore, it is important that we give just enough information and not too much. We challenge youth to discuss issues that really matter to them, always keeping time and relevance in mind.
Stake or provide support, if necessary Youth who are interested in continuing the conversation beyond the classrooms or who want to get more involved are able to get support by utilizing our social media tools. We also have opportunities for youth to get more involved through youth powered community initiatives. Being able to provide this support and encouragement to already engaged youth is crucial for growth of both the youth and of Neonology.
Fertilize to boost growth To ensure a plant’s growth, the right fertilizer must be chosen. The neon t-shirts, neonology.ca, and youth events like “Movements” are all examples of fertilizers that have worked for the Neonology project.
CHECK YOURSELF What makes a great facilitator:
√ Challenges youth to speak their mind and encourages them to be who they are √ Remembers participant’s names and uses them throughout the presentation √ Provides positive feedback to participants after the presentation is over √ Brings as few props as possible √ Understands the importance of social media √ Supports follow up opportunities to debrief sessions with participants √Genuinely respects and values youth and their experiences. Intenton is to offer ideas instead of teaching
√ Does regular self-check of own biases and knows their own privilege. This will help build connections with participants
√ Encourages respectful disagreements √ Able to steer the discussion back to the topic
THE SET-UP 1. Be flexible (ready to work with the time allotted and the venue given) 2. Arrange chairs in a circle (or in a way that no one is behind someone else) 3. Allow for Check-In and Check-Outs 5. Ensure confidentiality between you and the participants 4. Create a group agreement with the program participants so everyone is clear about the expectations 6. Create opportunities for team building + fun/ social activities 7. Meet youth where they are at (literally and figuratively) 8. Provide resources they can access for support after the workshop i.e. counseling
TIPS ON ENGAGING YOUTH Below are tweets on “Tips on Engaging Youth” in 140 characters or less. Each tweet is further explained in more than 140 characters for those of you who are unfamiliar with tweeting.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION Workshop handouts
ut—a document At the beginning of the project we distributed a three page hando ation. inform t contac that summarized the workhop and provided our A couple of things made us re-think the benefits of handouts: main piece of 1) As www.neonology.ca grew with information, this became our , relevant informational support for youth. We were able to give more useful bly changed. information online than with a static piece of paper which inevita we also where was that so We also recognized that youth ‘hangout’ online and wanted to be. ys after our 2) We found many handouts left in the classroom or in the hallwa it as a sign took presentation. We did not take this as a sign of disrespect, we often, we had that they did not want to read what was on the handout. Most giving them very little time to spend going over the handout and so we were a meaningless pieces of paper.
by government, Typically a part of every project is an evaluation. If you are funded to design tunity oppor the often the evaluations are very prescribed. If you have the evaluation for your project, consider the following: ask 1) Word them simply and carefully. Make sure the questions you responses you can use.
will give you
2) Be sure to ask for suggestions for improvement. ly learned
actual 3) Ask some open ended questions that will capture what was or felt.
to tell the respon4) Leave enough time to complete the evaluation and be sure or projects. dents that their responses will be incorporated in future workshops
WHAT IF’S What if a participant makes a racist or discriminatory comment? Assuming that a group agreement has already been discussed (one that includes a discussion that racist, homophobic and/ or discriminatory language will not be tolerated); we would ask that participant to leave the classroom. It is important to note that one person has the potential to ruin the experience for the rest of the group and so it is not always the best idea to keep that person in the room and try to ‘educate’ them. What if a participant gets really emotional or angry during a discussion? It is paramount (especially when working with youth) to maintain group safety. If a participant gets emotional, then do your best to address the issue in a safe way. If it appears that the participant is going through something that you can’t deal with in the classroom, ask your co-facilitator to step out with that person to debrief. Take the time to find the source of the anger/ grief/ sadness and make sure to listen rather than immediately trying to solve the problem. Individuals may have experienced trauma in regards to racism, discrimination or oppression and it may take longer than a 10-minute conversation to solve the issue. Also, make sure to follow up with the participant the next day. What if I am having a difficult day and don’t want to facilitate? We have always co-facilitated every Neonology presentation and would recommend the same to anyone. If one facilitator is having a bad day, the other facilitator can take on a bigger role during the presentation. If you are not able to get someone else to facilitate, just be honest. Tell the participants that you are having a bad day; it may actually work to your advantage because it gives them an opportunity to connect with you on a more authentic level. We all have bad days and no one is perfect.
What if a participant challenges me during a discussion and I do not want to or cannot argue back? Be honest, people can tell when someone is stalling or making something up. You can say something like ‘I appreciate your point, I disagree and that is okay’, which acknowledges what they are saying, but you are not giving in to their argument. What if a student shares something that is emotionally heavy? In our workshops we always ask the participants for their opinions and to share personal experiences. If a student shares something that is emotionally heavy do not dismiss it- acknowledge it. Depending on how impacting the statement is, you may feel that a conversation is needed after the workshop. If time permits, ask the student if they would like to talk about what they shared. Acknowledging what the student said is very important as it most likely took a lot of courage for them to share with the group. Be sure to thank them for sharing (this goes for anyone who shares a personal experience). **The biggest thing we have learned from facilitating to youth is that being honest is the most powerful tool one can bring to a presentation. As stated earlier, it allows the audience to connect with the facilitator. The facilitator’s stress goes down as they feel less inclined to ‘preach’ and more inclined to ‘discuss’.
What is Neonology? ‘Neonology is great way to get the required volunteer hours
while helping others and making a change for the better‘ - Noah [Seycove Secondary]
GLOSSARY OF TERMS. WORDS TO LEARN In our presentations we use a lot of terminology that is relevant to the goal of Neonology which is to create more welcoming and inclusive communities. We value ‘being real’ and using accurate vocabulary in discussions and choosing words that will not water down our message. The following is a list of words we use in our conversations with youth, parents, teachers and members of the community. We do not use certain words for certain groups; all words are relevant to all groups. **Please note this is how we define these words; you may not define them in the same way AND that is fantastic! There is no one definition.** Privilege: Opportunities I have that I did not earn. Everyone has privilege, it is a fluid entity and depending on what situation one is in, they may gain or lose privilege. We make it clear in our presentations that understanding ones own privilege is not about feeling bad or guilty; it is about connecting with those who do not share that privilege. Systemic (Invisible) Power: When we discuss invisible power we are recognizing that there are power dynamics that exists within society that are difficult to define. In school, youth have discussed that if a teacher doesn’t like a student, they can give them a bad grade without being held accountable. Systemic Racism: If someone shouts a racial slur at another person, we can address this incident in very clear terms; however, if someone doesn’t hire someone based on their ethnicity (without explicitly saying so), it is much more difficult to address. This happens all the time in our communities and victims of systemic racism have very limited courses of action. Anti-racism: Strategies, theories and actions that aim to challenge and counter the inequalities, misconceptions, prejudices and discrimination produced through a system that has historically developed to favour white people while marginalizing people of colour. It is important to note that we are clear in our presentations that any group can be racist; our goal is to get rid of all racism. Oppression: The exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, exploitive, or cruel matter. We use oppression when explaining the bigger picture of power dynamics and its relation to discrimination. It is often a new word to youth but we show our respect to them by using elevated language (with an explanation) to have a real discussion.
Lived Experience: This phrase is in acknowledgment that each of us has a story that is valuable to the discussion and that our experience is our knowledge. Critical Lens: In order to effectively address the discrimination that exists in our communities, we need to become more questioning about the world around us. Oppression is not always visible and gaining a critical lens allows us to have better insight into where oppression exists in our world. We challenge youth to think critically about their environments. For example, we ask youth to question the stereotypes and assumptions they make about people and to think about where those assumptions came from. Stereotypes: A negative assumption, generalization or pre-judgment about a group of people, which is not based in reality. Branded: We use this term when we discuss the influence that advertising has on us and how it motivates us to buy certain products or brands. A lot of the time, we are not conscious of how heavily advertising affects us, and how certain brands connote certain stereotypes that we take as the truth. Multinational corporations spend a large percentage of their money on advertising and very little on the actual product, because the understanding is that people want to be associated with the brand first. Discrimination: actions or behaviours carried out based on generalizations about a group of people that negatively affect that group of people. ‘Isms’: This is to acknowledge the other ways we oppress certain groups of people. Ableism, sexism, ageism, etc.
FUNKY YOUTH INITIATIVE How do you brand a project to ensure it will be cool for youth? It’s not about knowing ‘what’s in’ for youth; it’s about knowing ‘what’s in’ in general. Evidence of this idea can be confirmed by the simple fact that there are no ‘youth versions’ of Facebook, YouTube, or popular movies. Neonology does not separate how we engage youth and how we engage adults. For us, it is the same thing. Therefore we steered away from using tokenistic ‘youth-like’ tools such as slang or adding graffiti images to our websites and promotional materials. The way we see it; whatever looks good, looks good no matter if you are a youth or an adult.
Which of these glasses are cool?
With that said, during the development, facilitation and promotional processes of Neonology, we kept three concepts mind: 1. What’s cool right now? Example of what was cool on the North Shore during the development of Neonology was skateboard, snowboard and hip hop culture. The fashion born out of the amalgamation of these cultures was flashy, loud, ironic, random and neon. For us, at first, this was demonstrated through our name Neonology. The name gradually led us to our colours (neon) which in turn set the tone for the overall feel of the program. Neonology’s activities, website, facilitation style, flyers, posters, logo, and voice all had to be loud, funky, and fresh but, also clean and simple at the same time. 2. What’s not cool? There is the classic “nerd” look with “nerdy glasses” which over the years has become the quintessential symbol for someone who is considered as un-cool. But, then again, in some years the “nerd look” actually becomes “cool” turning the idea of what is hip upside down. Fashion often comes around full circle. What was cool a year ago, if you wait long enough, will become uncool the next year and if you wait even longer, it may become cool once again. Evidence of these full circle phenomena’s can be found in the resurgence of Converse shoes, nerdy glasses, certain hairstyles, snapback hats, the colour neon, music styles, high fives and many more. Even the word “cool” itself can be seen as a hip word to use or not depending on whom you talk to or what year it is. All this confusion brings us to the last and most important point of branding for Neonology. 3. The understanding that there is no such thing as “cool” is cool During the workshops we challenge youth to think about the power of peer and media pressure in affecting what is cool and hip. We ask them to think about how even the clothes that people wear can affect how we see them or whether or not we talk to them. The we ask youth to challenge ‘what is cool’ and encourage them just to be themselves whether or not it fits in with the mould of what people define as ‘cool’. For us, being confident in who you are and not letting people dictate who you are is the coolest thing to be. Because the notion of ‘what is cool’ is so relative, we challenge youth to understand the idea that there is no such thing as ‘cool’. After the Neonology workshops, our goal is for them to know that it’s really all about “being you”, what ever that may be. With that said, we are in no way saying that there is anything wrong with being cool or knowing what’s in. The key is being aware of this influence and having the choice to follow it or not. The choice itself alone is true empowerment. This means dressing and looking the way you want to look even if it is considered “cool” or “un-cool”. That’s Neonology!
Basically, depending on what year it is, who is wearing them, who is not wearing them, and where they are being worn: all & none of them are cool. This is a prime example of seeing things through the Neonology lens.
SOCIAL MEDIA Think of Social Media as a language that youth speak. If we are illiterate in this language then there is no doubt that we will not be able to have conversations about something that greatly influences them on an every minute basis. This is a mistake.
Why should youth care about this? ‘Because it gives them a chance to act on what they feel is best, and gives them the ability to create change in a more youth friendly way.’ – Jake (Seycove Secondary) 2
WHAT WILL YOU DO NEXT? Done
Happening Right Now
Need a Plan / Need funding
Have you done a community needs assessment? Do you know the youth demographics of your community? Do you know what is going on for your youth? Have you engaged the community to support you? Do you have partners? Do you know what you want to achieve for your community of youth? Do you have a plan for getting input from youth and engaging them in your program planning processes? Have you identified your target audience(s)? Beyond youth, will you provide training to parents? Teachers? Community service providers who work with youth? Have you identified outcomes and ways to monitor your progress and measure your outcomes? Do you have a “look and feel” a “brand”? Are you prepared to learn and to be flexible and responsive to the needs of your youth audiences?
Are you on top of what you need know to engage youth and keep them engaged? Are you social media savvy? Do you know how you will use it?
You will recognize that there is no explicit discussion about First Nations people in this toolkit. In the development phase of the Neonology program, we acknowledged that this conversation was a vital part of an anti-discrimination program. Put simply, we felt unable to properly address this issue without it coming across as tokenistic. During the curriculum development stage, we engaged in dialogue with individuals who identified as First Nations. Still, we felt that our team did not have the lived experience or the knowledge to facilitate an activity that addressed how colonization and the residenial school system have led to the continued discrimination towards First Nations people. We did not want to tokenize this unique experience by puttng it into a 15-minute activity. We addressed the issue as it arose and were clear about our feelings.
FIND A E D I R U YO Neonology did not exist until we created it and that is why it has worked for us. It is not perfect, so If we have missed anything please trust your experience, passion and ideas in creating your own project.