How do young people in Amsterdam look back on their visit to an international conference?
As part of the UPLIFT project, a youth board is active in the city of Amsterdam. This youth board is founded and supported by !WOON, housing association Lieven de Key, TU Delft and the Municipality of Amsterdam. From the perspective of the young people themselves, the youth board advises on housing policy development and proposes new housing concepts and initiatives. On 29 and 30 September 2022, three members of the Amsterdam youth visited the UPLIFT consortium meeting in Barakaldo, Spain. At this meeting, they presented themselves and their activities and they also met the youth boards from three other UPLIFT cities. Below they tell us about this trip.
We had beautiful days on our trip to Barakaldo. The first day we gave a presentation and we enjoyed the presentations of the other participants. This way we got acquainted with their cultures, the norms and values of the other young people and of course which specific topics they wanted to talk more about. Whereas we were talking about housing, I thought it was nice that the group from Romania really went back to basic: education. That made me, growing up in an on average richer country, think. Without a solid basis, you cannot think about the problems that follow. After the presentations, we had a short feedback session about what we have done so far as a project and what will follow in the future. As a nice end to the day, we all went to dinner, where we were able to get acquainted with the whole team.
Friday morning we went to the opening of the Youth Summit in Bilbao. After the lunch break we had a tour around Barakaldo and we visited various youth centers. The youth workers explained what do they for young people in Barakaldo. We heard that unemployment is a lot higher in Spain than in our country and that this causes a lot of concerns among youth. Without money, of course, you cannot make steps in your life and rent a house. The tour also included a piece of history of the city.
The last day we had some free time! We strolled through the city and at the end we had dinner and a beer together!
All in all a beautiful experience.
I was very happy to be part of the conference in Barakaldo. The opportunity to see such different cultures and backgrounds come together to discuss inequality of opportunity among young people was inspiring. We all had different perspectives and unique circumstances, but what we had in common is that we were all convinced of the following: ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’
The UPLIFT meeting in Barakaldo was an interesting journey in which we were able to gain multiple perspectives on youth inequality. Different countries have different problems and solutions to increase the chances of young people. Meeting these other cultures also puts the Dutch approach into perspective.
Our delegation from the Netherlands consisted of three young people from the UPLIFT youth panel, two process supervisors from !WOON, two researchers from TU Delft, two employees of housing association Lieven de Key and two representatives from the municipality of Amsterdam. I noticed that other delegations were positively surprised that the municipality and a housing association had travelled with them; in their own words, they would not do that so quickly in their own hometown. It was also nice that for this exchange, which was about involving young people, we had a young delegation; 10 of the 11 Dutch representatives were under the age of 40.
I see the wide variety of stakeholders as a good example of the polder model, in which agreements are made with a large number of parties at the same time. I would consider this to be the typically Dutch thing we brought to this meeting. I think the polder model is our strength when it creates broad support among parties, but perhaps sometimes it is a weakness in housing. The polder model represents the idea that everyone’s interest must be taken into account before coming to a decision. Only if all that is guaranteed something can then be started. For example, a large construction project in Amsterdam was stopped because there may have been too much noise pollution from aircraft, and numerous construction projects were cancelled by the nitrogen problem. I think that a freer construction sector like in Belgium could solve a large part of the housing shortage in 10 years. We could learn that some interests simply outweigh others. Something like a weighted polder model, in which the interests of young people are fully taken into account, could make a difference.
What I also take with me is the Basque governance model. I think the secret of this region mainly lies in a unique system of governance. In the town of Guernica, local residents have been discussing what laws there should be under an oak tree centuries ago. This form of local democracy continues nowadays and this down-to-earth/bottom-up approach seems to work very effectively for the region. They have had to fight a lot for their autonomy, but now that they have it, good decisions are being made. Even the mayor of Barakaldo came to visit the UPLIFT meeting, which is a good example of the involvement of local politics.