A Day of Information for a Lifetime of Action (DILA)
Through our DILA Program we aspire to a world where youth are increasingly and meaningfully engaged in building a better world, both today and in the future.
Our approach to getting more youth meaningfully engaged in their communities is simple: let them do something about something for their community.
We believe that the best way to get youth engaged is to connect with a civic issue: something which matters to them (e.g. cost of bus passes, lack of employment, sexism), and have them actually do something about it. By building on their talents, our facilitators guide them to develop an “Action Plan” - a series of interconnected actions that create a positive impact on the civic issue chosen by them - whereby youth become empowered to take on the important challenges facing our communities.
Working with teachers and Youth Outreach Workers, our facilitators introduce youth to civic tactics (lobbying, surveys, petitions, etc), strategies (collaboration, coalition building, identifying decision makers, etc), and opportunities (lobbying elected officials, town hall meetings, rallies, etc). These introductions develop the kind of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that allow youth to become democratically-minded citizens.
In 2005, Youth Ottawa’s former Executive Director, Jason Collard, ran a one-day conference for high school students called A Day of Information for a Lifetime of Action, or DILA for short. The DILA Conference ran annually until 2015, bringing together youth and advocates on a range of social and environmental issues. The aim was not only to make youth aware of issues facing their communities, but the tools necessary to become agents of social change.
While the conference was popular, it became evident that a one-day intervention was not enough to get youth involved in creating positive change in their communities long-term. After exploring various forms of running DILA in schools, Jason connected with Generation Citizen in the United States for resources and secured a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which led to the development of the DILA Program as it is now run in Ottawa area high schools. Since September 2012, we have worked with over 300 civics classes.
In the summer of 2015, Youth Ottawa assumed responsibility for running the program. Along with a generous donation from the Community Foundation of Ottawa, Youth Ottawa’s fundraising initiatives like the Spirit of the Capital Awards Gala and the Mayor’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament support core funding for the program.
In the spring of 2016, two new Grow Grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation have allowed us to expand further. Firstly, we have introduced the JIVA program for francophone youth and civics teachers. Secondly, we have grown our work in anglophone high schools significantly. We will have worked with 133 civics classes - well over half of all civics classes in Ottawa - for the academic year 2016/17.