Housing Policy with a Side of Beer, Please!

It is autumn in New Hampshire. The temperatures are cooling, pumpkin spice is back, and we are in the thick of conference season!

I attend a fair amount of conferences and other events for work and, not surprisingly, I am often the youngest person in the room. Is this because young people don’t care or aren’t engaged? Of course, not! Between writing the Path to Politics series here on the Stay Work Play blog and participating in the 2019 Rising Stars Awards as a judge, I am blown away by how much young people are doing to make New Hampshire a better place to stay, work, and play!

It is because conferences tend to be neither fun nor inclusive. I said it and I am not apologizing. During a recent conversation about how to engage millennials, I thought back to the best and worst conferences and events I’ve attended over the past couple of years. I considered a handful of my favorite ones and what made them different.

If engaging young people is at the top of your priority list, first and foremost, get a young person involved in the planning. Do you have a young person on staff? On your Board of Directors? On a committee? Next, make it engaging, make it fun, and make it inclusive. 

Make it engaging

Seek out engaging speakers and create opportunities for attendees to participate. Hire an economist who is also a comedian, level up the technology and conduct polling, or facilitate an activity that requires attendees to move around and talk with one another. Representation matters, so keep this in mind when selecting presenters and be mindful of diversity (including age and gender, as well as race and ethnicity). All of the above creates an environment that is welcoming. 

Stay Work Play’s own NH Next: A Summit for Young Changemakers was a great example of this. I was surrounded by people my age, while being entertained by incredible (and diverse) speakers, and the event ended with a hands-on activity that gave us an opportunity to move around and share ideas. 

NHNext: A Summit for Young Changemakers attendees pose for a group shot. Photo by Madison Tager.

Make it fun

Last year, I attended the Portsmouth Housing Authority‘s “Home Sweet Happy Hour” at Liar’s Bench. This one stuck in my mind not just because I am a housing nerd and a craft beer enthusiast, but because it was completely new idea to me. Is a casual gathering with a side of craft beer the best setting for a conversation about housing affordability?

This past spring when it was time to plan my organization’s Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony, I followed the PHA’s lead and moved the event from a stuffy conference room to 3S Artspace and catered the event with a “Taco Tuesday” theme in mind. Whether it be the food, beverages, venue, or all the above, offering something different and fun makes people want to come.

Bonus tip: Create a Facebook event. If Facebook isn’t your forte, I am sure you can find a young person who is happy to help.

Beer and housing. Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.


A couple of bona fide young people having fun at Taco Tuesday with the Workforce Housing Coalition! Photo by Laura Harper Lake of the REDC.

Make it inclusive

According to a study by the Federal Reserve, millennials spend less money because we have less money, and those registration fees do add up. As a nonprofit director, I understand the burden of fundraising, but if you value diversity and want to engage millennials, you have to be mindful of socioeconomic differences, too. Consider changing the ticket price to a suggested donation, offer opportunities for attendees to volunteer at the event, or host an essay contest with free registration as the prize. Be creative!

Given its mission, it isn’t surprising that Stay Work Play is leading the charge on offering events that are welcoming to younger people. This fall, the Stay Work Play crew is at it again, offering a series of free events, called Policy and Pints, in every region across the state. 

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