Partnering to Develop the Next Generation of Public Policy and Advocacy Professionals

The Minnesota Government Relations Council (MGRC) and the Center for Youth Voice (CYV) have partnered for more than 20 years in different ways to support young people as they learn about our system of state government and how to effectively use their voice to take action on issues that matter to them. After a few quiet years during and after the pandemic, in 2023 the two organizations hosted the inaugural “Emerging Leaders VIP Tour and Reception” on opening day of the Youth in Government (YIG) conference. The event brought together MGRC members, elected officials, and YMCA senior leaders to see YIG delegates debating bills, hearing court cases, and discussing and advocating for policy issues. The reception that followed the tour was a chance for attendees – including a dozen or so YIG delegates – to network and build connections with each other.

This year, in addition to the tour and reception, MGRC and CYV created a new program for youth participants to “Shadow a Professional Lobbyist.” During the long-running Lobbyist Luncheon that takes place on Friday at YIG, several MGRC members gave short presentations on their career path and the type of advocacy work they do. At the end, all YIG youth lobbyists were given the opportunity to sign up to shadow a professional lobbyist during the 2024 legislative session. The young people selected the type of lobbyist they were most interested in being paired with: contract, corporate, association, public agency, or nonprofit. MGRC is promoting the opportunity with its members and will identify a match between a student and a professional lobbyist; CYV staff will then connect the young person with the professional lobbyist and facilitate a “day on the hill” to learn about and experience what it’s like to work as a professional lobbyist.

“This collaboration provides a unique networking platform for both MGRC members and future young leaders,” says Robert Freeman, MGRC member and co-chair of MGRC’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “One of our organization’s goals is to encourage, support, and foster the next generation of public policy and advocacy professionals. We recognize that differences and diverse backgrounds bring richness to our work environment and the policy arena. We are committed to making the profession more inclusive while cultivating a diverse pipeline of government relations professionals. Collaborating with Youth in Government provides an opportunity to support a program that fosters diverse voices and perspectives, contributing to a more inclusive political landscape.”

YIG Lobbyist Program Specialist Abby Duininck points out another benefit to the partnership: “MGRC members bring a wealth of experience and knowledge about policy and advocacy. Collaborating with them helps YIG delegates gain practical skills that are invaluable in their future work in the policy world or wherever their career path leads. And establishing connections early in a person’s career can be beneficial for all parties involved, creating a network that spans generations and professional backgrounds.”