Four years ago, Ryan Stephens signed up to make a presentation at NextGen’s Pecha Kucha Night.

Little did he know how much he’d enjoy sharing his ideas and connecting with other people. “As terrified as I was going into it, the experience changed me,” he says.

“Speaking to people who were actually interested in what I had to say was a confidence boost. I was 23, fresh out of university, and I think I still harboured some of those feelings that a lot of kids at that age have — of Edmonton being bland and a place where not much happens.”

Stephens is now one of the co-chairs of NextGen, a group of community volunteers, civic leaders and city councillors. Their goals? To encourage Edmontonians between the ages of 18 and 40 years to volunteer, to get involved with the City of Edmonton, to help create a vibrant city through events, networking, and new ideas.

June features all three as part of NextGen Month, including the Mercer Super Party and Pecha Kucha Night.

“It’s all about celebrating and recognizing the work that we’re doing to engage young people in Edmonton,” says Christine Causing, NextGen coordinator.

“But it’s also a way of recognizing other organizations that aim to help engage young people to be involved in their community, in their neighbourhood, or in their city. It’s a way of recognizing what we’re all doing to help build our community.”

NextGen Month kicked off June 7 at Cartago, a beer hall in Forest Heights, with an official proclamation by Andrew Knack, one of two city councillors on the NextGen committee, and news about some of the performers for this year's NextGen City Jam. 

Scenic Route to Alaska, Cadence Weapon and Royal Tusk will perform Dec. 1 at The Starlite Room. The annual concert, inspired by a former NextGen member, is only open to people who volunteer at least 10 hours for a local charity or non-profit organization. (A Tribe Called Red played last year’s City Jam.) The headliner will be announced July 28. 

Other NextGen Month activities include:

  • June 9: NextGen in the Pride Parade. Volunteer to walk with NextGen members and hand out flyers and swag in Old Strathcona. From 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sign up through Eventbrite.
  • June 16: Mercer Super Party. This year’s free bash, outside the Mercer Warehouse on 104th Street, features R&B singer Karimah, a previous City Jam performer; and Edmonton poet laureate Ahmed Knowmadic. From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • June 20: MEAET Powered by PKN. MEAET, NextGen’s microfunding forum, is teaming up with Pecha Kucha Night for this special event, located in the old Sears outlet in Kingsway Mall. All the presenters will be female entrepreneurs — including Vanessa Ojeda, who runs Food Bike Tour, and Jill Boychuk, an athletic fitness designer. They’ll each get the usual 400 seconds to present their projects — 20 slides x 20 seconds. The MEAET twist? A winner, voted by the audience, will receive a portion of ticket sales for her project. (Tickets are $25 through Eventbrite.)

Starting later this year, Pecha Kucha Night will be teaming up with another local initiative. People who post their ideas or projects on Make Something Edmonton’s website will be invited to present at future PKN events.

“We want to provide an opportunity for them to talk to a group of like-minded folks who might be able to help them achieve their project or participate in some way,” says Laura Tailleur, program manager for Make Something Edmonton.

“I think it’s a really great platform for sharing ideas and interesting things that Edmontonians are working on. I think what we’re doing with Make Something Edmonton is very much aligned with NextGen’s PKN, so we’re really excited to partner with them.”

Interested in volunteering for NextGen? Visit edmontonnextgen.ca.