We give Fellows the tools and peer-mentorship communities to reflect on their direct experiences. By combining systems thinking with engaged civics, Fellows practice contemplative action. Fellows gain increases in civic efficacy, self-confidence as leaders, and willingness to build bridges through leading local actions. Fellows also gain improvements across key determinants of mental health.
Civic Service Fellows lead actions in their community each season:
Building community empowerment events around the ideas Fellows are most passionate
Teaching democracy to local elementary school students via democratic simulations and civic engagement games
Running voter education drives to motivate peers to vote locally, share paths to running for office, and help peers register and pre-register to vote
We equip Fellows to cultivate consistent civic habits, foster a sense of belonging, and co-create the world they want to live in. We invited Fellows to share their experiences, and the results speak for themselves. Here is our impact among Fellows at the levels of 1) individual Fellows, 2) communities, and 3) country
of Fellows feel that participating in a Fellowship has increased their civic knowledge.
of Fellows feel more confident in their ability to find common ground with other young people.
of Fellows feel more likely to build bridges between people who disagree with each other.
As those who lead all our local Chapters, Youth Organizers develop leadership skills, learn by doing, and support Fellows. Here is our impact among Organizers at the levels of 1) individual Organizers 2) communities, and 3) country
of Organizers feel that they have increased their collaboration skills since starting the program.
of Organizers feel more likely to take action when they see civic opportunities in their community.
of Organizers feel more likely to build bridges between people who disagree with each other.
We’ve built Rhizome as a home for young people to feel genuine belonging and purpose. Using the Ryff Scale of Psychological Well-Being, we measured our impact on social determinants of mental health across six areas: personal growth, autonomy, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. We provided a scale with options for 1) strongly disagree 2) disagree 3) neither agree nor disagree 4) agree 5) strongly agree.
Here are our results, with one question for each area of well-being:
Here are results based on other key mental health indicators in Rhizome:
The U.S. has long been suffering a breakdown of institutions that build democratic practices. At the same time, our country is suffering from a process we call “partisan capture”, where parties and media capture an overwhelming amount of civic attention. As a result, Americans invest our time into national, polarized forms of discourse rather than building relationships or taking local actions in our communities. Slowly but surely, we become followers rather than doers.
Meanwhile, school systems and young people are under attack by underfunding, mass shootings, and a national discourse that devalues teachers, students, and the role of education in equipping young people to build healthy relationships with each other. Many students are school avoidant, refusing to attend school while placing more weight on the shoulders of their parents.
We are working for a future where schools are sites of belonging, empowerment, and hands-on practice for becoming responsible members of society. By training leaders and bridging schools with civic institutions, we enable young people to create the world they want to live in. We offer community, emotional tools, and civic skills to survive the present and build a healthier future.
We reckon with the responsibility that we have to co-create the future, just as we reckon with how far we are from the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, that it is the right of the people to institute government “that shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness." At a time when suicides have been climbing for two decades - and young people are afraid of being shot at school each day - we know this is not a country of Safety and Happiness for many young people.
We work to represent the values and perspectives of young people. We don’t advocate for parties or candidates. We’re instead focused on closing the gap in representation, civic participation, and generational influence. This is why we are student-led at every level, and why we invite Fellows to lead actions around the nonpartisan ideas they’re most passionate about.
We’re dedicated to supporting emerging leaders in under-resourced communities, and inclusive of any young person who wants to work with us. If you are wondering if Rhizome is a fit for you, we do not care what party you belong to or where you’re from. We will support you to become a better leader, shape change, and to build relationships that let other young people do the same.