Welcome to UP2YOUTH: Youth - actor of social change

Youth participation: active in the public - recognised or chased? Print

The core question of the thematic group on young people’s participation is what participation actually means for young people and under what conditions their participation may actually increase. This article presents findings and emerging issues from the first phase of the working group.

Active citizenship and participation of young people is not only important for the political systems in Europe, it is also a question of social integration. Accepting this, participation appears to be particularly linked to the debate on social capital and empowerment. Indeed, young people’s participation tends to be fully accomplished if and only if it permits to narrow the gap between policy makers and young people who are the most distant from decision-making processes related to their lives as well as to their communities. This gap exists in various respects:

  • Formal education appears to be a predictor for different involvement in the participation processes;
  • Young people experience participation programmes as tokenism while activities such as skating, squatting, or political protest are a rather criminalised than acknowledged way to participate;
  • Participation is reduced to ‘soft’ policy are - as like youth work while in school, training, or labour market programmes ‘hard’ criteria (qualifications, employability) are more important;
  • Young people want to participate now, yet participation programmes aim at educating them for later on participation.

To develop our current approach, we have organised our material along four main research questions that are both specific to the topic of participation and to the overall question towards young people’s agency:

  • What is the impact of the process of individualisation on young people’s participation? Individualisation means that social integration and participation depend more on individual decisions than on collective patterns. There is only limited insight which kinds of participation are meaningful for young people and how these can be integrated into the established societal institutions.
  • Learning to participate – participation in learning?A wide-spread position is that most young people lack the competencies needed for active participation. In fact, these are used to legitimise young people’s restricted scope of participation. This is especially the case with regard to participation in school which is restricted to some aspects of school culture while issues of curricula, qualifications or discipline are excluded.
  • To which extent does youth culture influence the forms of youth participation? Current participation programmes represent a formal culture of involvement and decision-making. Our concern here is to scrutinise different forms of participation which may appear at the margins for public authorities.
  • To which extent do different policy levels facilitate participation experiences? With this last point, our aim is to assess the various forms of participation with regard to their relation with wider institutional structures (education, welfare, labour market policies), their attractiveness for young people, and their capacity to empower young people.
Last Updated ( Friday, 07 September 2007 )

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

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