Welcome to UP2YOUTH: Youth - actor of social change

Implications for policy and practice Print


The UP2YOUTH project has collected a number of case studies on policies and practices in our research fields. These case studies have been selected to represent current trends in policy-making in Europe. An explanation of the idea behind this collection can be found here.

In the following, UP2YOUTH coordination team member Andreas Walther draws policy and practice implications from the UP2YOUTH research findings. More general policy implications of our research can be found in the "Results" section of this website.

An agency-based approach to enhancing young people’s participation regarding “decisions which concern them and, in general, the life of their communities” (European Commission, 2001, p.8) implies the following set of quality standards:

·        Accepting a diversity of conceptual and actual types of participation and overcoming the dominant dichotomies of what is and what is not participation:

-         Firstly, because not all young people have the same opportunities and competencies;

-         Secondly, because different issues are relevant for different young people;

-         Thirdly, because different types of participation hold the key to understanding the changing meaning of participation – including the changing meaning of politics, collectivism and public space – in late modernity.

·        Implementing participation mechanisms in all (‘hard and soft’) institutional contexts in which young people’s lives and transitions to adulthood are shaped:

-         School: extending pupils and students participation from organising extra-curricular activities to participation on contents, forms, assessment and organisation of learning;

-         Youth policy: broadening the opportunities of young people’s involvement beyond youth councils through projects that allow for on-and-off engagement and open youth work;

-         Transitions to work: allowing for both choice and experimentation in counselling, orientation, pre-vocational education, training, work experience and employment schemes through negotiation and/or veto rights for unemployed young people in relation to institutional job and/or training scheme offers and the provision of service user councils in relevant institutions (e.g. job centre);

-         Transitions to parenthood: young parents as well as young people in transition to parenthood need to be consulted in relation to family policy making whilst also being allowed choice and flexibility in other transition policies.

·        Providing public spaces in which young people can:

-         Express and negotiate their needs and interests, their experiences and their views,

-         Experiment with life styles in interaction with others (peers groups and the wider community).

-         Young people should not be criminalized in occupying and utilizing public space; the differing needs and interests of young people and other citizens can be reconciled through negotiation between and amongst these groupings.

-         Ensuring that alternative solutions meet all of the young people’s needs; not just the  easiest to satisfy (e.g. providing ‘half-pipes’ for skaters in the suburban outskirts will not end conflicts in the city centre as skaters strive for visibility).

The decoupling of participation rights from achievements and progress in transitions to work:

Conditions of de-standardised transitions to adulthood have lead to a postponement and partial suspension of the citizenship status of young people, participation in itself must be a right for young people.

Current trends (e.g. the Commission’s communication on youth policy ‘Investing and Empowering’, European Commission, 2009) increasingly connect participation with the generation of human capital. While participation is likely to have multiple learning effects, participation must not be reduced to measurable competence and employability. A number of key points emerge in this regard;

-         Learning from participation is non-formal learning; it cannot be designed per se but only be designed for. Wenger 1998, p.)

-         Young people’s labour market integration is not only a problem of employability and education; it also stems from economic flexibilisation and globalisation. Given the relationship between education and social inequality, connecting participation and human capital may increase rather than reduce unequal citizenship rights among young people.

Youth cultures need to be recognised as contextual settings in which young people develop political orientations together with subjectively meaningful life styles. This suggests that policy making has to;

-         Accept and support political countercultures rather than criminalise them;

-         Recognising leisure-oriented youth cultural activities as young people attempting to balance their identities and shape their lives in public.

Addressing young people’s activities in the public realm, or directed to a public audience, as potentially participatory implies that any means of dialogue, exchange and understanding exhibits the young people’s underlying needs, interest and aspirations as well as offering the potential for  altered meanings of participation.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 July 2009 )

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

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