Apathy is Boring is a non-partisan, charitable organization that supports and educates youth to be active and contributing citizens in Canada’s democracy.
Mission and Purpose
Apathy is Boring is a national, non-partisan, charitable organization that was established in 2004 and based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Its mission is to use art and technology to educate youth about democracy. More specifically the organization seeks to increase youth voter turnout, increase youth engagement in their communities, and to promote dialogue between youth and elected officials.
Alongside its year-round activities, the organization conducts youth mobilization campaigns during federal, provincial, and municipal elections. The organization has several unique characteristics. Its work targets youth between the ages of 18 and 35 – those who are eligible to vote, but are no longer at school and less likely to live with a parent. Apathy is Boring also focuses its efforts on youth who are not currently engaged in the democratic process, be it as voters or by other means. This distinguishes its work from other organizations that work through schools or focus exclusively on young leaders. The organization relies heavily on research from the social sciences to inform the structure of its programs, and also conducts its own research. In the past, Apathy is Boring has conducted studies on behalf of Elections Canada looking at electoral accessibility as well as youth.
Origins and Development
Apathy is Boring began in January 2004 when founders, Ilona Dougherty, Paul Shore, and Mackenzie Duncan saw that many of their peers felt disengaged from the political process. When the 2004 Canadian Federal Election was called, work began on what would be A is B’s first federal “Get out the Youth Vote” campaign. Using a website, digital media technology, concerts, and a media outreach campaign, A is B was able to reach over 500,000 young people in Canada in less than four months. Following this successful campaign, the founders of A is B began to build their vision into an organization which included local events such as “The Civic Duty Concerts” in Montreal which featured acclaimed Canadian artists such as Euphrates, K'naan, Tumi and the Volume, Taima and Chris Brown and Kate Fenner. A Is B has continued with its mission by organizing concerts and events, creating a clothing line, making public service announcements that were shown in theatres.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
A is B has grown to have a full-time staff in eight cities across Canada. Their board of directors is also made up of influential community members from coast to coast. In addition, they have developed an online presence on social media platforms that attracts hundreds of active supporters and volunteers.
Apathy is Boring receives funding from the following revenue streams:
- Foundations and government grants
- Consulting revenue
- Workshops and presentations
- In 2008, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, became A is B’s organizational patron.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
Apathy is Boring employs a number of different participatory methods and tools to engage youth. While many of their programmes are focused on civic education and community organizing, some methods are specific to the goal of each project:
- VOTE Program: Works to increase youth voter turnout rates through information and mobilization campaigns in federal, provincial and municipal elections. They also conduct research projects focused on improving youth mobilization tactics.
- RISE Program: An initiative under Canada Service Corps, RISE is designed to help young people find ways to co-create community projects and contribute in strengthening our civic and democratic fabric by engaging on topics that interest them. RISE hubs are currently operating in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
- Youth-Friendly Program: Gives civil society and government the concrete tools they need to engage youth in decision-making, through workshops, organizational audits and other resources to support organizations as they reach out to and engage young people aged 18-30 in decision making.
- Workshops and presentations: Conducts a variety of educational workshops targeted at both youth and those who want to work with youth. The workshops cover a range of topics based on outreach to youth.
AisB also makes use of information and communication technology to get in touch with and involve youth and those interested in working with younger demographics. Uses of ICT include the website apathyisboring.com; social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and Citizen Factory.
Major Projects and Events
- In 2005, A is B launched www.youthfriendly.com in partnership with the Department of Canadian Heritage to offer youth friendly workshops for “adult” organizations who want to better engage youth in their work.
- In the fall 2007, A is B testified in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs about changes to the Elections Act.
- In 2008, A is B completed its concert series “Every Party Should Be Democratic” in conjunction with its third Canadian federal election outreach campaign. In addition to two Youth Dialogues with the Governor General of Canada, A is B co-produced a series of four concerts, featuring well-known Canadian artists Hedley, ill Scarlett, Theo Tams, K'naan, and Jully Black, among others. A is B also produced a PSA that aired on MuchMusic Television, advertised in free weeklies in every major Canadian city, and undertook an online campaign “Democracy is More than Voting”, urging youth to make an informed decision in the fall 2008 Canadian federal election.
- The 150 Years Young (2016-17): 150 YY project brought together community partners and 12 City Ambassadors (representing Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver) to tell stories about youth in Canada through creative installations and dialogue - both online and offline.
- #5MMV Canadian Federal Election Campaign (2015): The #5MMV campaign was online/offline campaign to engage young people in the 2015 Canadian federal election. Street Teams attended concerts from coast to coast, handing out election resources and answering questions their peers had about when, where and how to vote.
- From 2014-2018, a partnership between Apathy is Boring and Elections Alberta worked to increase voter turnout in the province through community workshops and a registration drive.
- In 2018, the RISE program was launched in Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa giving 19 youth ambassadors opportunities to develop community impact projects around the topic of social inclusion. A hub in Toronto was added for Cohort II in the Fall of 2018.
- In 2019, RISE focused on the issue of the environment. Vancouver is added as a fifth hub for Cohort IV.
- Apathy is Boring mobilized youth voters in the spring of 2019 for the Alberta election and in the fall for the Canadian federal election. Their campaign reached more than 2-million young Canadians across their social media platforms.
- In 2020, RISE expanded once again with hubs now in Winnipeg and Halifax.
- Youth-Friendly Audits: Provides in-depth analysis of an organization’s youth engagement practices and offers concrete next steps to improve and build on current practices. Youth-Friendly Audit clients included the Canadian Red Cross, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and several municipalities in Ontario.
- Apathyisboring.com: Provides youth with information, "how-to's", and support to get involved in democracy.
- Citizen Factory: Online resource for Canadian youth that aggregates Parliamentary information and condenses it, making it easier for youth to understand how the Canadian Government works. Citizen Factory also includes resources for teachers to help engage youth in Canada’s democratic process, including a set of lesson plans that are structured to help bring the online content of Citizen Factory into the classroom.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Want to contribute an analysis of this organization? Help us complete this section!
2013-2014 Annual Report: https://issuu.com/aisb8/docs/annual_report_2013_final__dec_2014_
 Bastedo, H., Dougherty, I., LeDuc, L., Rudny, B., & Sommers, T. (2012). Youth, Democracy and Civic Engagement: The ‘Apathy is Boring’ Surveys. In annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Edmonton.
 Dougherty, Ilona and Adrienne Smith. (2008). Implementation of the Identification Requirements in the Canadian North. Montreal: Apathy is Boring.
 Rudny, Bernard, Ilona Dougherty, André Blais, Delia Dumitrescu and Peter Loewen. (2011). Youth Engagement and Mobilization in the 2010 Toronto Municipal Election. Ottawa: Elections Canada.
 Apathy is Boring. "Vote." Available at https://www.apathyisboring.com/vote
 Apathy is Boring. "Rise". Available at https://www.apathyisboring.com/rise
 "Youth Friendly Program." Apathy is Boring. Available at http://www.youthfriendly.com/
 Wikipedia. "Apathy is Boring." Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apathy_Is_Boring