Applications for Mayor Martin Walsh’s 2017-18 SPARK Boston Council, the city’s millennial engagement team, are now open, according to a press release from Walsh’s office.
SPARK Boston Director Amy Mahler said the council was originally started in 2004 by former Mayor Thomas Menino under the moniker ONEin3. The council’s goal was to appeal to a younger generation who comprised around one third of the population, aged 20-34, and to get them engaged in the city civically and politically.
However, in 2016 the council chose to rebrand themselves from ONEin3 to SPARK Boston in hopes to reflect a greater sense of dynamic action and to account for the fact that millennials would not always compromise one third of the city’s population.
Despite rebranding themselves, Mahler said the name change didn’t alter the core values the program embodied when it was first established.
“What SPARK has always tried to do is bring young people together so that they can see the Boston that they love and really bring it forward and also create programming that really appeals to young people,” Mahler said.
SPARK Boston aims to be representative of the millennial population in the city, Mahler said. With this, the council strives to bring together a diverse range of applicants.
“We’re really trying to look for … people who have robust networks, who have a variety of different experiences, to sort of be able to come together and help us give the most robust feedback on what life is like for a millennial in Boston,” Mahler said.
Through education in the form of events and discussions, new council members are able to help their fellow millennials navigate their lives in Boston, whether it be about housing or how to best reach out to public officials, Mahler said.
“[They will] help come up with questions and answers that young people are asking every day in this city that both affect why they want to stay here, but also that make them think about why it is that they’re choosing to live in Boston,” Mahler said.
Benjamin Bungert, a current member of the council, said the diversity of the team allows for conversation that is inclusive of all the different groups in Boston and is more mindful of different perspectives.
“It opens your eyes to a lot of different things that you weren’t aware of before, so it makes you a lot more mindful … so you can educate your friends, your peers, your community, your network on the things that the council is talking about,” Bungert said.
Bungert said these various perspectives are present all throughout the city and the diversity of the council helps bring these perspectives to light.
“Without an epicenter, or a group, or an access point into the city, a lot of these perspectives or a lot of these opinions wouldn’t necessarily be voiced,” Bungert said. “If SPARK is available, opens the door and asks for the conversation, the conversation is more likely to happen, but if we weren’t there, it’s less likely that a person would create that dialogue.”
The applications for the 2017-18 council close on July 16, 2017, according to Mahler.