The recently launched Association of Young Americans provides a platform for its members to connect and engage with legislators on key issues.
To better serve the interests of the 80 million Americans ages 18 to 35, the Association of Young Americans officially launched this week.
AYA Founder and CEO Ben Brown said the group’s mission is to “help young people create the future that they want.” To accomplish that, AYA helps members save money through discounts on products and services, while also encouraging civic engagement.
Through its online lobbying platform, AYA allows members to connect directly with legislators via phone, email, or Twitter. In addition, members have the option to support ongoing issue campaigns, such as those related to climate change or education reform, or to create new ones. AYA also distributes an e-newsletter to keep subscribers updated on key issues that don’t always make the headlines.
The inspiration for AYA came from a 2012 Washington Post column by former political advisor Matt Miller about how young Americans were “getting the shaft.” After reading the article, Brown said he started to imagine what the world would look like if young people were “roaming the halls of Congress” and mingling with lobbyists who represented their interests.
“That thought ultimately ended with an idea that young people need an organization that lobbied on their behalf,” he said. “I really could not get this idea of an organized association working on behalf of young people out of my head. It honestly kept me up at night.”
Brown, who had had been working in clean energy and consulting at the time, began building upon this idea. AYA test launched in March 2016 and received positive feedback from its early members through Facebook and e-newsletter surveys. But, when it came to funding, Brown said he was hesitant to look to large donors—largely because of the influence their ownership would have on the organization. “An organization like AYA needs to be beholden only to young people,” he said. Instead, Brown turned to a membership model and explored ways to engage young people to help support the organization.
Since it was established, AYA has received the support of AARP leadership. Kevin Donnellan, chief of staff and executive vice president at AARP, sent an encouraging tweet to Brown.
“They obviously know a lot about running a membership organization,” Brown said. “Their advice is really invaluable.”
While Brown said AYA’s primary focus is making young people aware of the tools and resources the organization has to offer, the group also has broader ambitions. “We are planning for a future in which AYA has staff lobbyists working on behalf of our members,” he said.