Apathy is Boring is a non-profit organization created by youth for youth in order to mobilize youth to vote in Federal elections. They offer education on the political climate, encouraging youth contribution that goes beyond just voting. We spoke with Erika De Torres, the Director of Impact and Development, to discover Apathy is Boring’s ultimate vision as a whole.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
Apathy is Boring is a national, non-partisan, charitable non-profit organization that aims to support, educate and activate youth in Canada’s democracy. It’s a youth-run, youth-led organization that maximizes its impact through rigorous research, experimentation and practice. We have several programs to reach our objectives, including RISE, BUILD, Table Topics, the FEED, and VOTE. We’re national in reach and have a hub space in Vancouver, where we work with Vancouver and Lower Mainland partner organizations and amazing local youth.
What problem does it aim to solve?
“Youth in Canada aren’t voting”, but that isn’t the entire picture. Young people in Canada have been retreating from formal political institutions for the last 50 years. The decreasing percentage of youth turning out to vote since the 1980s shows evidence of this retreat. However, from various surveys, we also know that youth are interested in politics, but there is also a sense of alienation from the democratic processes.
There is not necessarily a decline in political engagement but a shift as youth in Canada participate in different ways regarding civic engagement. Young people are not apathetic regarding the issues, but many feel powerless when they engage in the formal political system. Youth democratic participation moves away from the formal way people are familiar with, like voting or visiting your elected officials. Instead, young people are at the forefront of movements, actively signing petitions and organizing in their communities.
Apathy is Boring aims to increase youth engagement in democracy through “Youth-Led Democratic Innovation”, where increasing youth representation in each mode of participation enables democratic renewal and begins to address issues at the core of our crisis of political culture. The modes include youth-as-movement leaders, youth-as-creative organizers and youth-as-decision-makers. We do not value one mode of participation over the other; instead, we know that they build and meaningfully support each other.
We provide youth with the skills, resources and knowledge to engage in the democratic system through our youth-led democratic innovation framework. For example, our VOTE program aims to increase voter turnout by providing youth with resources and knowledge like when, where and how to vote. Our RISE program approaches youth engagement in democracy differently: by providing youth with skills training and network building, young people can organize projects to engage their communities. Our BUILD program develops youth skills to advocate for issues they care about at the institutional level.
When did you start/join it?
I first joined Apathy is Boring in 2020. Before getting hired into my current position, I followed Apathy is Boring since I was 12 years old! I saw the founders talking passionately about activating more youth in Canadian democracy. It was inspiring to see young people like myself taking action around issues they cared about. Since then, I followed their programs and participated in the very first Table Topics in 2019, when I hosted a group of friends to talk about politics at the dinner table. The best part was that they reached out after the event to get my feedback. Now I’m the one in charge of evaluating the impact of our programs, so making those phone calls to youth like me to ask about their experiences with our programs!
What made you want to get involved?
I wanted to get involved because I know that the more people – and the more youth, especially – participate in democracy, it betters our outcomes as a society. I care about the objective of the organization to mobilize more youth like myself to participate in democracy. As I said earlier, this was an organization that I was following since I was 12 years old because of how impactful the vision was to me.
Also: who’s ears don’t perk up when they hear Apathy is Boring?
What was the situation like when you started?
When I started, we were living through the peak of the pandemic with whispers of a looming election around the corner. In 2020, we worked with Environics to do a survey for over 5,000 youth across Canada about the impacts of the pandemic. The majority of Millennial and Gen-Z Canadians said that the pandemic has had at least a moderate impact on their lives, including their emotional health and well-being, their ability to continue with work or education, and their day-to-day bills.
Due to the pandemic, we had to adjust our get-out-the-vote strategy for the 2021 election, and we focused primarily on digital assets and outreach. Despite that, interviews with our Executive Director and Communications Director around the 2021 election showed over 1 billion impressions, hundreds of thousands of impressions through our social media, and we reached over a thousand youths with our events and our vote pledges.
Beyond our VOTE program, most other programs had to adjust due to the pandemic. We delivered our RISE and BUILD programs virtually and supported impactful projects and initiatives. Many youth noted that these programs were a highlight because of their ability to network, build relationships, learn more about civic engagement and develop employable skills.
How has it changed since?
Since the pandemic restrictions have lifted, all our programs are now back in person. However, the pandemic still has continued effects for many young people, especially around mental health. Furthermore, when we partnered with Abacus Data in 2021, 2022 and 2023, we assess the current issues youth care about. These issues include climate, affordability, health care, and housing. Apart from these issues, mis-and disinformation are also huge areas for democracy organizations to work against.
These are at the top of mind for many youth, and issues that are directly related to governments. We need to continue engaging and educating youth in civic engagement and encouraging them to actively participate in democracy.
What more needs to be done?
While many youth believe Canada is heading in the right direction, there are just as many who believe that Canada is heading on the wrong track (Abacus Data, 2023). Furthermore, there is over half of young people who say they have a low level of trust in politicians, mass media and governments. This is a major flag for us as an organization that shows just how much work needs to be done to continue engaging youth in Canada’s democracy.
We are going to keep doing the work we do to reach as many youths as possible to support, educate and activate them in our democracy. We need to reduce the barriers to participation for many young people through education and programming.
How can our readers help?
There are a couple of ways readers can help! One way is through financially contributing to our organization. Every little bit helps as we continue our programming and try to reach as many youth as possible to become actively contributing to Canada’s democracy. You can donate here.
If you are a youth or have a youth in your life that’s interested in getting involved, you can also get them to check out our website and learn more about our many programs!
Do you have any events coming up?
We have a few Table Topics events that are coming up for youth ages 18-30 to check out. Youth across Canada are hosting their own Table Topics on issues they care about. You can check it out here.
Otherwise, follow us on social media to keep up to date with what we’re doing.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
There are SO MANY incredible charities out there, all of which deserve so much love. One that I really love in Toronto is called Foodshare Toronto, an organization that advocates for the right to food. They do incredible work to make food accessible by supporting initiatives and working alongside communities most affected by food insecurity and poverty.