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Conference Description: International Conference on Youth Citizenship

"Creating Citizenship: Youth Development for Free and Democratic Society"

June, 1999

From June 17 through June 19, 1999 the Center on Adolescence hosted the first of a two-part international conference on the development of youth citizenship. The focus of the first conference was the developmental needs of young people growing up in contemporary democratic societies. A second conference was held in June 2000 at Brown University, and took up the question of how best to support and transform institutions working to develop youth citizens. The interdisciplinary conference brought together distinguished scholars from several parts of the world to produce a "state-of-the-science" report on what skills, attitudes, and beliefs young people need to learn in order to become productive and socially responsible members of their societies. Scholars from the United States and countries around the world discussed what it takes for youth to develop the capacity to participate constructively in the workplace, the family, the local community, the political system, and the world at large.

The goal of the conference was to develop as much consensus as possible on two related questions: (1) What cognitive, social, emotional, and moral capacities of young people must be cultivated in order for them to become socially responsible citizens? (2) In today's world, what social contexts and conditions - actual or potential - best facilitate the development of socially responsible citizens? Rather than being a forum for presenting current research (the usual conference model), this conference consisted of focused, structured discussions around the above questions and related topics. In this sense, the conference emulated the "consensus conference" format developed by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine.

A small panel of youth from the Northern California area met immediately prior to the scholars' conference. The youth participants addressed matters of how to engage young people in their communities, and then presented their ideas at the "adult" conference. Conference participants divided into small groups and the youth led the attending adult researchers and public policy experts in an hour- long discussion of youth civic involvement. At the conclusion of the conference, students and staff from the Stanford Center on Adolescence will synthesize participants' discussions into a publishable report to be shared with other scholars, policymakers, and practitioners. A copy of that report will be published on this website once it has been completed.

Participants at the conference wrestled with provocative issues, such as the role of civility in modern democratic society, the importance of community participation and how it can evolve into political participation, and the role of dissent in democracy. While the first conference focused mainly on basic research questions, a panel of practitioners from schools, government agencies, and community-based youth programs presented their work and participated in discussions with the invited scholars.