UPLIFT advocates to bring “Young people’s voice at the centre of policy-making” at the European Week of Regions and Cities

UPLIFT joined forces with members of the advisory board from Kreisau Initiative in Berlin and the Foundation for Democratic Youth in Budapest, to co-organise a Participatory Lab: “Young people’s voice at the centre of policy-making” at the 19th European Week of Regions and Cities event.

The session took place online on 12 October 2021 and attracted almost 50 participants from across Europe. We were joined by practitioners who work with young people on a daily basis, by representatives of academia who focus on empowering young people in their research, and by policymakers who have the power to make young people’s voice heard, acknowledged and included.  The diversity of knowledge, experiences, and insights brought to the (virtual) table by all the participants enriched our discussions, helping to draw some interesting conclusions.

The core aspect of the Participatory Lab were mini workshops organised in two breakout rooms, where our partners shared local stories about how they engage and collaborate with young people.

The first room provided participants with the opportunity to learn more about activities carried out as part of the UPLIFT project and dive deeper into the process of co-creation of housing policy in Amsterdam and the educational programme in Sfantu Gheorghe

The second room involved our partners from the Foundation for Democratic Youth and Kreisau Initiative, who shared experiences from their collaborative projects.  Their work involves coaction between young people and local policymakers in Budapest to co-create local Youth Strategy, as well as empowering young climate activists from France, Germany and Poland.

The mini workshops were wrapped up with discussion structured around three key questions:

  • How to mobilise young people for policy co-creation and how to reach the more vulnerable ones? 
  • How to establish a meaningful exchange between policymakers and young people, and find a common language? 
  • How to encourage institutionalisation of youth policy co-creation? How to make it a standard practice in our cities? 

These drew interesting conclusions and were summarised by Éva Gerőházi, the coordinator of UPLIFT project.

One main point raised during the overall discussion was that most policy co-creation processes involve better educated young people, who most probably belong to or are affiliated with some institutions or networks.  In order to access and engage vulnerable participants, additional strategies and effort is required.  Such as, networking and working closely with gatekeeper social and youth organisations, providing financial and non-financial incentives and creating a safe and open environment for discussion.  

Participants also emphasised that in order to bridge the gap between vulnerable young people and city administrations and decision-makers, it is advised to have a moderator who understands perspectives of both sides and can “translate” the ideas, languages and levels of knowledge. In order for such dialogue to be possible and meaningful, it is essential to create a space, where all participants feel safe to share equitably.  

Another valuable observation was that co-creation processes tend to be project-based. To ensure that co-creation is within standard decision-making processes, it may be more impactful to create links with institutional structures at the onset of projects.  Thus, making co-creation an aspect of civil structures and procedures.    

The Participatory Lab was closed with a final inspirational thought from the City of Cascais, the European Youth Capital 2018. Our special guest; Catarina Marques Vieira; the Commissioner of the Cascais European Youth Capital shared with the participants what this title meant for the city and how it impacted the collaboration between the municipality and young people of Cascais. Spoiler alert: the political participation of young people has significantly increased, and young people still contribute efficiently to the everyday operation of the local municipality.