Youth participation. What needs to be considered?
- 25. May 2021
- Posted by: Ingrida Jotkaite
- Category: News
Young people are usually underrepresented in participation processes that are supposed to address all age groups. Many feel that they are not taken seriously or think that their opinions don’t count. Therefore, targeted measures are needed to involve young people in political decisions and to show them that they are being heard.
Take part means identification
We know this from our everyday lives: those who are included in projects and processes, or at least have been consulted on the subject, identify with them. They are more willing to follow a path and accept challenges. This is especially true for young people who experience a lack of autonomy in their everyday lives. Especially for their political and democratic education, it is therefore essential to strengthen their identification with projects and to experience self-efficacy through experienced democracy.
In general, young people are more active on social media and platforms than older citizens. However, they are less engaged in offline participation processes such as workshops or meetings. Digital participation therefore addresses your target group where it is. It also offers flexibility in terms of time and place. This means that it is easier to reconcile different needs, school and leisure activities. Moreover, online participation is often more inclusive: people with language barriers or disabilities may find it easier to get involved and participate if they can do so digitally. Last but not least, it is easier to make processes transparent and comprehensible online. Transparency in turn creates trust.
7 rules for youth participation
Digital participation can therefore help to better involve young people in decision-making processes. However, whether digital or analogue, the requirements for initiators of successful youth participation are the same:
#1 Involve young people early on
You can save yourself a lot of work if you involve young people in your planning at an early stage. Otherwise, you can easily miss out on the participants and their needs.
#2 Form partnerships
Schools, youth clubs, (sports) associations: many institutions are happy about projects in which young people are involved and gain experience with politics and social issues. Those who join forces spread the process over several shoulders and increase their reach.
#3 Communication at eye level
Technical terms, abbreviations and foreign words are barriers. Explain your requirements, limitations and possibilities using real-life examples. However, refrain from using juvenile language. You will be seen through!
#4 Why, Why, Why
Young people want to know not only how they can participate, but why. Why is their opinion important to you? Why now? Why doesn’t everyone just discuss it in Messenger? In planning/conception, every “how” should therefore always be followed by a “why”.
#5 Safe Space
A safe space is important to feel welcome. If you are not afraid, you develop space for thoughts and feelings and dare to change your mind. This also includes paying strict attention to data security. Platforms like OPIN are committed to protecting personal data.
#6 Participation is relationship work
Be clear from the beginning about the expected results. The older the young people are, the more bad experiences they may have had with empty promises. Show who is on board, which decision-makers need to be convinced and who is willing to support the project. Be honest if you don’t know something or are still waiting for answers.
Youth participation projects need time. In addition to school and extracurricular commitments, there is often not much room for additional engagement. Even a short participation process can drag on for a few weeks. Think about how the time in between can be bridged so that the goal is not lost sight of.
Platforms for digital youth participation
Liquid Democracy has developed two free participation platforms: OPIN.me and adhocracy.plus. Both score points for their intuitive use and place particular emphasis on security and data minimisation. With different modules, for example, short opinion polls, ideas, texts and theses can be collected, discussed and evaluated. It is easy for initiators to set up projects and moderate the ongoing discourse. The registration process often deters trolls, for example, which is another reason why hate speech and abusive discussions are much rarer here than on social media. It is also possible to initiate private projects to which participants are invited directly.
As important as the right software is, in the end it is crucial that young people who participate feel good about the process. One of the ways you can reach participants who feel hesitant is if they understand the topic and have confidence in you.
Katharina Matzkeit, Liquid Democracy