Young adults are uniquely poised to strengthen – or abandon – democracy, and as we enter a presidential election year, we are in direct conversations with young rural voters, ages 18-25, to document their perspectives in this historic election. This program – Project Heard – is designed to gain a deeper understanding of how they feel in relation to voting and other civic processes and to hold place-based conversations that integrate the historic and contemporary roots of their civic identities.

The Rural Digital Resilience Project with 100 Days in Appalachia is partnering with community organizers in four Appalachian states — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Ohio — to convene young adults in conversations and mutual learning about democracy, voting rights and elections. The project is taking place between January and October of 2024 and includes virtual and in-person events in each location. 

This is not a ‘get-out-the-vote’ effort, nor is it a project aimed at a voting outcome. It is also not a program convening activists or already civically engaged young people. This is genuinely a deep listening project that is documenting diverse perspectives from our most disenfranchised rural GenZ and GenAlpha members. These are individuals not inclined to vote or participate in conventional civic and democratic processes – for all the complex reasons that dominate the lives of young people in our region. We know from our work with other civic organizations across the country that this project is uniquely surfacing missing context from national narratives about young voters, and we’re excited to hear what our Appalachian and rural young people have to say.

We have onboarded five community leaders to serve as conveners for the state-based events, as well as a young adult facilitator to be on site and an editor to narrate these conversations for 100 Days in Appalachia’s Generation Zeitgeist vertical. We also have a small team collecting oral histories, archiving interviews with the Appalachia Archives at East Tennessee State University and creating a series of mini-documentaries from this work.

This project asks them to engage deeply with history as a first step in defining their own and their community’s futures. Our hope is that participants leave this experience feeling more connected to democratic processes in their community and confident in the value of their own expertise and lived experience – even if they do not see themselves reflected in conventional voting narratives.

Interested to joining Project Heard? Fill out the below form!

Project FAQs

What is required of me for this project? 

You are required to attend one virtual and one in-person conversation with your peers and the Project Heard team, and you will be required to maintain consistent communication with your community convener. The Project Heard team may also ask for a few additional requests, like a pre-event survey, a post-event survey and possibly a discussion reflection after your participation in the conversations. More information on those assignments will be provided to you by your community convener prior to your formal commitment to the project. 

How will I attend the in-person convening?

We will pay for your travel, hotel accommodations and meals to attend in-person events.

How will I communicate with the team?

You will communicate with the Project Heard team and other participants over Slack and through email. Communication through phone or text will only be done on an as-needed basis. You will be added to your community’s designated Slack channel with your convener, where they will provide you with project updates. All pertinent information will also be shared through email. 

If you have not used Slack before, you can watch this short overview video and review these instructions for getting started on Slack.

What benefits do I get from being part of this project?

Our hope is that participants leave this experience feeling more connected to democratic processes in their community and confident in the value of their own expertise and lived experience – even if they do not see themselves reflected in conventional voting narratives.

This can be viewed as a professional and personal development opportunity. All transportation related costs will be covered and participants will be fed during the in-person gathering. Participants will also receive a $150 gift card upon full participation in this project.

Can I stay anonymous if any research is conducted on the conversations?

Yes, your participation in this project and research that comes from it will be anonymous. 

There may be opportunities for interviews with local press or interviews with the 100 Days team for oral history archival and documentaries we are creating, as well as written opportunities for you to be published on 100 Days’ website. However, your involvement in these opportunities is up to you – we will not record, film or detail your involvement in public facing materials without your written consent. 

Does it matter what political affiliation I have to participate in this project?

No, we welcome everyone to participate in this project and in these conversations. This is a non-partisan project, meaning that all political perspectives – both ones that are strongly and loosely held – are welcome.