What is an Action Project?
An action project is an ambitious capstone project created by students in a club aimed at addressing a specific social issue. This is the culmination of a year-long process the group has gone through.
Every school and community faces unique challenges to full inclusion and justice, so every group is encouraged to brainstorm an action project that is most relevant for them and their community.
It’s important to distinguish an action project from other efforts. Bringing in a guest speaker for a one-time talk, doing community service for a few hours, or watching a movie and having a discussion, while all important, do not rise to the level of action we are encouraging at this stage. An action project should be ambitious in advancing inclusion and social justice in a meaningful way. Consider root causes of the injustice your group is looking to address, and then craft an action project that strikes at the heart of those root causes. This is the time for big, bold ideas to make change.
Why is an Action Project Important?
Your group will have bonded through icebreakers and discussions, and everyone will have learned new terminology, thought in new ways, or built new skills for social change. All of these building blocks are important for a young person’s individual development. But how will we achieve justice and inclusion without making structural and institutional change?
An action project is where the rubber meets the road. This is the step in the process where hopes, ideas, brainstorming, thinking, and wishing need to be shifted into doing. If your group does not take on an action project, how will your school or community be any different for the students who come after you? How will they be any closer to inclusion and justice?
Steps for a Successful Action Project
Identify Your Issue
If you’ve been following the YCD Program throughout the school year, the fall semester led your group through a series of workshops and discussions to highlight an issue your group wants to address. This is a critical step, and shouldn’t be rushed.
If your group has identified more than one issue, see if there is an overlap or intersection between the issues that your project could focus on. In general, we recommend a single, major project for the group to pursue so that it will be effective and have the whole group’s attention and effort.
For more information on this, check out the page on Organizing Your Community.
Plan Your Project
Once your issue has been identified, it’s time to craft your project. The planning process typically requires at least 3-4 weeks before you can implement.
Questions to consider:
- Who is your audience for the project? Are you trying to convince decisionmakers, such as school leaders or city councilmembers, to make a change? Or is your audience the student body, and who within that? How will you reach your intended audience?
- What tactics and strategies will you use your project? Are you aiming to persuade folx that a change is needed? Are you trying to get publicity? Do you want to use art to make a statement? The page on Student Activism has multiple ideas of ways to engage in activism.
- What is your timeline for the project? What are the key milestones? Create a project schedule that is realistic to accomplish your goals.
- Will your project require funds or money to be implemented? Do you need supplies, transportation, or food? The YCD Guide provides some ideas of how you can fundraise, or places you can apply for grants.
- How will you measure success? Every successful project has some type of evaluation so you know if your efforts made a difference. The YCD Guide provides sample evaluation ideas to help you.
Implement Your Project
Time to bring your project to life! Ensure each club member has a defined role, and that communications among group members are clear. Many times implementing your project will go faster than the planning process. Ensure the group is coordinated and working inclusively throughout this time.
Evaluate Your Project
You will have created an evaluation plan as part of your planning process. Make sure while implementing your project that you take the time to conduct evaluations with your audience, so you can demonstrate the impact of your work.
Ensure your group or club’s final meeting of the year is a celebration of everything you’ve accomplished. Think back on where you started, the process you went through, the highs and lows, and what you’ve accomplished. Even if the issue you chose to address is not fully resolved, take pride in your effort and how your school or community is a changed place because of your work.
As a final step to the year, tell YCD more about your project and how it went with this form. This feedback guides our efforts in the future, and gives other groups points of inspiration for projects they may want to pursue.
How YCD Helps Your Group with an Action Project
In addition to providing the YCD Guide free of charge, which includes many more details on each of these steps, groups that have joined the YCD network get these tools to help with action projects:
- Reminders and suggestions to nudge your group through the process
- Webinars and virtual trainings throughout the school year
- Feedback, suggestions, recommendations, and guidance from YCD staff
- Ideas for funding sources and opportunities
- Connections and introductions to groups in your region that may be pursuing similar projects or issues
- Sharing success stories from across the YCD network