Welcome to UP2YOUTH: Youth - actor of social change

Results of the Lisbon workshop - Youth participation Print

The second UP2YOUTH thematic workshop took place in Lisbon in November 2007. Researchers from all over Europe working on one of the three topics young parenthood, ethnic minority youth or participation were invited to present and discuss their findings. The aim was to deepen the analysis with regard to complementary approaches and to broaden it with regard to regions and countries not involved in the UP2YOUTH consortium.

The starting point of the workshop on young people’s participation was formulated in terms of emerging issues which had resulted from the interim phase of the UP2YOUTH project:

  • What actions of young people can and/or should be defined as participation?
  • Does school prepare for or inhibit participation?
  • To what extent are youth cultures recognised as participation?
  • What are positive and negative policy factors with regard to youth participation?
Adrienne Sörbom from the University of Stockholm questioned current understandings of political participation as necessarily being connected to either institutions or social movements. Intergenerational comparison shows how boundaries between life style and political participation, between private and public are being increasingly blurred. In late modernity life politics stand for the simultaneity of an ideology of makeability and the uncertainty of agency. David Buckingham from the Institute of Education London pointed into a similar direction in his presentation of the EU-project CIVICWEB. There is few evidence that the Internet attracts more and other young people to engage online rather than offline. As with regard to offline participation the question arises who actually listens? and where participation starts and where it ends considering the relevance of sites like ‘Myspace’ but also right wing sites. The contextualisation of structure and agency in local communities was also central in the contribution of Alan France and Liz Sutton from Loughborough University. Young people evaluate existing offers according to their access to resources and opportunities for coping with everyday life. A ‘fair’ balance between rights and responsibilities may enhance participation. The experience of unfair treatment in contrast may lead into criminal careers. Alessandro Martelli and Nicola de Luigi from the University of Bologna referred to participation in the context of intergenerational relationships which structure arenas of agency within institutions but also informal strategies and relationships within the local society. Different meanings of citizenship materialise in different policy orientations: policies of affiliation, services, money and a social pedagogical model balancing freedom and tutorship. Serdar Degirmencioglu from Beykent University in Istanbul reminded of the crucial importance of young people’s subjective motivation. Are participation programmes connected to young people’s subjective interests, do outcomes provide experiences of real influence? As a consequence, ‘guided participation’ means policy and practice which address the links between subjective motivation and power relations. Barry Percy-Smith from the SOLAR research group, University of the West of England, Bristol, extended this perspective to consequences for participatory practice which starts from children’s and young people’s actions rather than following preset normative assumptions. Consequently, participation means a general shift from services to spaces in which young people express their needs while professionals have the role of interpreters. The perspectives of participatory policy and practice depend on local, national and European policy structures. Romain Pasquier from the University of Rennes questioned the comparative scope of UP2YOUTH: to what extent are influences on different levels reflected, how have different political histories formed different models of citizenship and is there convergence or divergence in the process of European integration?
As a result, the thematic working group concluded to have received valuable comments.
  • With regard to the definition of participation it seems crucial - yet almost impossible - to separate normative from descriptive and analytical aspects which includes the difficulty to distinguish political from civic participation: what is (not) political?
  • As regards the learning perspective it showed that - apart from institutional settings - theories on participatory practice need to be related with structural and policy factors.
  • With regard to youth cultures individual and collective activities need to be distinguished while de-standardised life courses imply that a restriction to ‘youth’ is debatable.
  • With regard to factors of policy and practice a broader perspective ‘from services to spaces’ and from possibilities for having a say towards having a right to be listened was suggested. More comparative analysis is needed to identify favourable constellations.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 05 February 2008 )

Project supported by funding under the European Union's Sixth Research Framework Programme - Coordinated by IRIS e.V.

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