Chapter 8. Engaging youth in policy-making processes (Module 6)

This module looks at youth participation in policy-making processes via associations (often designated as “informal participation”, which stands in contrast to traditional avenues of civic participation (e.g. voting and party affiliation). Youth participation in policy-making processes is an action-oriented process involving young people in institutions, initiatives and decisions, and affording them control over resources that affect their lives. This section describes different levels and forms of youth participation in the policy-making cycle.


Youth participation in policy-making processes is an action-oriented process involving young people in institutions, initiatives and decisions, and affording them control over resources that affect their lives (World Bank, 1994). Youth participation “includes efforts by young people to organise around issues of their choice, by adults to involve young people in community agencies, and by youth and adults to join together in intergenerational partnerships” (Checkoway, 2011). This toolkit focuses on participation in policy-making processes via youth associations (often designated “informal participation”), which stand in contrast to traditional avenues of civic participation (e.g. voting and party affiliation).

Legally, youth participation is often described as a “cluster” of rights (United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF], 2003). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to participation as young people’s i) right to freely express their views (Article 12); ii) freedom to seek, receive and impart information (Article 13); iii) freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 14); and iv) freedom of association and peaceful assembly (Article 15). Often, participation and civic engagement are used interchangeably. “Civic engagement allows people to express their voice and to contribute to the political functioning of their society” (OECD, 2011). However, active participation in politics is not an indispensable prerequisite for civic engagement; the form of civic engagement differs depending on the subject and individuals involved.

Youth participation can benefit young people’s skills development, self-perception as a citizen, as well as policy design and implementation. First, youth participation fosters transferrable non-cognitive skills and competences. Civic participation promotes young people’s “personal development, and provides them with substantive knowledge and practical skills” (Checkoway, 2011). Connecting with peers through active engagement allows young people to build social capital, an important competency for joint actions which allow achieving objectives usually beyond a single individual’s reach (OECD, 2014). Second, young people who feel that their views and needs are being included and respected develop a positive sense of self-awareness and identity, which increases resilience and well-being (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2012). Through participation, young people learn to process information and build decision-making abilities. It also allows young people to understand better how government bodies work and increases public transparency and thus accountability. An improved understanding of the political and administrative machinery helps to create trust in public authorities (OECD, 2011). Third, policy makers can improve programme design and implementation by incorporating information provided by young people. Furthermore, participation increases the ownership of policies and initiatives, which is an important factor for their success (OECD, 2011).

The main barriers to youth participations are social, economic and institutional in nature. First, the prevailing societal attitude towards young people is often that they are troubled and troubling, which gives justification to “act upon them without their agreement” (Checkoway, 2011). Youth agendas set by adults who hold this opinion might focus on young people’s shortcomings and problems rather than invest in youth’s potential as a positive source of change. Discrimination based on other factors, such as gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or even age, can also be a barrier to participation. Second, income inequality restricts participation. Voluntary non-remunerated engagement of young people requires time, but time always has opportunity costs. When engaging civically, young people forego the opportunity of pursuing a paid activity. Not all young people can afford this, resulting in the involuntary exclusion of poorer young people, which distorts the representativeness of the active youth. Financial constraints also endanger the sustainability of youth associations. Third, employees of public institutions can lack the will or the knowledge to involve young people in processes effectively. Furthermore, there can be conflicts with the organisational culture (e.g. a very formal setting not apt for young people) and procedures (e.g. the final steps of policy design and planning may be behind closed doors).

How youth can participate

Authentic youth participation must be youth centred not youth focused and not limited to one topic (Sinclair, 2004). Youth-centred participation is rooted in their realities and follows the pursuit of youth’s visions and concerns. Youth-centred participation should be transparent, informative, voluntary, respectful, relevant, inclusive and accountable. The topics important to young people are as heterogeneous as young people themselves. Although the topics important to youth can be limitless, key issues include national youth policies, poverty-reduction strategies, education strategies, adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) strategy, employment strategy, rights framework and gender policy.

The course and results of participation are strongly influenced by the characteristics of the young people taking part in it. An important ex ante question is whether the individuals participating are representing themselves or speaking on behalf of all young people. The selection process (elected to participate, self-selected or selected by adults) and the necessary skills and resources for participation can give a first answer to that question (Sinclair, 2004). Youth participation has to be carefully planned and numerous factors have to be considered, as youth participation is affected by “race, gender, age, income, education, national origin, family and community context, rural or urban residence, residential segregation, religious tradition, cultural beliefs, mass media, television watching, social science, professional practice, civic knowledge, extracurricular activities, community service, public policies, legal constraints, institutional barriers, school disparities, parental and teacher encouragement, adult attitudes, and other factors” (Checkoway, 2011). In youth-centred participation, adults still can play various roles, e.g. in engaging young people, mentoring, facilitating, coaching and building support for young people’s work by “providing connections to sources of institutional, community, and political power” (UNICEF, 2011).

Levels of participation

The level of youth participation reflects different degrees of youth involvement and roles they can assume. The “ladder of participation”, commonly referred to as the “level of participation”, classifies different intensities of youth participation and has strongly influenced scholars (Hart, 1992). This toolkit identifies four levels of participation: i) informing young people; ii) consulting young people; iii) collaborating with young people in the decision-making process; and iv) empowering young people with full autonomy (Table 8.1).

Table 8.1. Forms of youth participation





  • Open house

  • Observe youth caucus in parliament

  • Transparent communication by policy makers:

    • radio

    • website/on line

    • television

    • newspapers

    • fact sheets

  • Deliberative polling

  • Survey

  • Workshop

  • Focus group

  • Public comment

  • Public meeting

  • Public hearing

  • Youth commission/council

  • Co-facilitated and co-conducted consultation

  • Internship/fellowship programme in ministries or other public institutions

  • Youth advisory board

  • Part of the steering committee

  • Collaboration in research:

    • designing indicators and methodology

    • data gathering

    • report writing

    • reviewing

  • Youth-initiated and -led (peer) consultation

  • Youth-initiated and -led information campaigns

  • Youth parliament

  • Delegated decisions and implementation

  • Youth-organised and youth-managed small-scale programmes with full responsibility for implementation

  • Independent research

Sources: Lansdown, and O’Kane (2014; OECD (2011); Head, B. (2011); DFID-CSO (2010); YEN (2009); and UN DESA (2003).

The lowest level of participation is informing young people. Young people are objectively informed of policies decided by adults. Thanks to the information provided, young people understand the intentions of policies and know who took the decisions and why (Hart, 1992). Although youth’s role is passive, they still take part in the policy-making process as stakeholders who need to be informed. Further, it “can prepare the ground for working with youth as partners” (DFID-CSO, 2010).

Consultative participation can be active or passive. At this level of participation, the policy process is mainly dominated by adults, but young people’s opinions are treated seriously (Hart, 1992). Consultative participation can be either passive (initiated by decision makers) or active (initiated by young people) (YEN, 2009). Passive consultations are initiated by decision makers who lead, manage and control the process. In passive consultations, decision makers determine the timeframe and topic of consultation. In active consultations, young people are partners in the agenda setting but have no influence on the outcome. Policy makers ensure that youth contributions are “reflected in the alternatives developed and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision” (Head, 2011).

In collaborative participation – the third level of participation – young people are active partners who share the responsibility for decision making with adults. This level of participation is still mainly initiated by adults, but young people can take self-directed actions, and influence and challenge processes and outcomes (Lansdown and O’Kane, 2014). Young people are partners in formulating solutions, and their advice and recommendations are incorporated. Compared to lower levels of participation, young people need more experience and maturity to be effective partners. Being collaborative partners also trains young people to become leaders.

Empowering youth with full autonomy is the highest possible level of participation, placing the “final decision making in the hands” of young people (Head, 2011). At this level of participation, young people have the role of leaders. Young people take initiatives and conduct projects on issues they identified themselves. Spaces within existing structures, systems and processes are open for youth-led decision making (DFID-CSO, 2010). Adults are either providers of organisational backing or are not involved at all, limiting themselves to a role of observers (Shier, 2010).

Forms of participation

The forms or ways of participation differ according to the level of participation (Table 8.1). The lowest level of participation (informing) is limited to communication strategies. Authorities give young people the opportunity to inform themselves and understand policies and decisions. To achieve this, policy makers have multiple forms of communication, for example through spots, interviews and discussions on radio, television, newspapers or on line. They can open their houses to the general public on specific days, giving young people the opportunity to access policy makers in person. Young people can also be given the opportunity to observe youth caucuses in parliaments.

Through the different forms of consultation, policy makers recognise the value of youth opinions for policy making. Meaningful consultations need an adequate timeframe for young people to express their opinions and for decision makers to analyse, integrate and give feedback to the comments (OECD, 2011). Youth can be consulted via deliberative polls, surveys, workshops, focus group discussions, public comments, public meetings, public hearings and national youth councils (Box 8.1).

Box 8.1. National youth councils (NYCs): What are they and how do they work?

NYCs are umbrella organisations that represent and co-ordinate youth organisations across the country. NYCs consist of organisations with different interests, activities and local coverage. Many different types of NYC structures exist, and “no one type of structure is best for all youth organisations as it is in the hand of each organisation to define and design the structure that best fits to their mission and goals” (European Youth Forum, 2014). Some NYCs follow a hierarchical and linear chain of decision making, whereas others adopt a more horizontal architecture. Similarly, decisions can be based on consensus, majority rule or on a more top-down approach.

Ideally the NYC’s status, structure, leadership, functioning and role are stipulated in national youth law. The structure of a NYC is described in their status, which defines how the council functions and who makes legitimate decisions (Figure 8.1 depicts a typical structure of a NYC). Transparent and clear procedures are essential to ensure the legitimacy of the decision-making process. The presence of a broad range of founding youth organisations contributes to the representativeness of the umbrella organisation. This founding group is responsible for facilitating the process of establishing a NYC and can comprise different kinds of stakeholders, including youth NGOs, young leaders, student organisations, youth wing political parties, young politicians, local youth councils and also governments. In the majority of cases, youth organisations play the main role in setting up NYCs, although student councils and individual young leaders with enough influence in different political and interest groups often play a prominent role in establishing NYCs.

One major challenge of NYCs is representativeness of the membership. Is the council meant to be a government co-ordinating body, a voice of organisations for youth or the voice of young people themselves? Should NYCs accept individual youth or only organisations? Should they accept representatives of governments? Should religious organisations have right of membership? Should they include youth wings of political parties, considering that they are more articulate and therefore likely to swamp non-political NGOs (Ewen, 1994)? Membership criteria will reflect the response to these questions.

Figure 8.1. General structure of NYCs

For example, in Moldova, the National Youth Council is an umbrella organisation for youth civil society. Forty-five youth organisations are members of the NYC, whose structure comprises a general assembly, a board (elected for two years), a secretariat, as well as a census commission, which monitors finances and procedures. The Moldovan NYC represents youth civil society, promotes exchanges among youth organisations and acts as a bridge between national and international youth organisations. The NYC’s main areas of intervention are youth policy, formal and non-formal education, youth employment, youth rights, as well as youth capacity building. Based on the Moldovan National Youth Strategy, the NYC develops its own action plan with diverse activities. The NYC conducts research and provides consultation services to its members. It also offers to members and non-members capacity-building training on institutional development, project management, financial management and good governance.

As an institutional representative of Moldovan youth, the NYC influences legislation and youth policies. The NYC is part of an inter-ministerial commission on youth, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and consists of three civil society representatives and three government representatives. In biannual meetings, the commission discusses youth policies and issues non-binding recommendations. The NYC further influences youth policies through non-institutionalised channels. The NYC is regularly consulted by different ministries on youth-related issues and frequently participates in ministerial working groups. These bilateral relationships between the NYC and line ministries depend on each ministry’s stance on youth participation. For instance, the NYC contributes to the drafting of the Ministry of Health’s Health Code, or the NYC collaborated with the Agency of Transportation on the extension of public transportation hours. Generally, the NYC takes positions on every major policy impacting young people.

The most active collaboration is when young people are involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes. This can be achieved through internship or fellowship programmes. Young people can be active in implementing and delivering services. They can be the face of the programme, e.g. as peer educators or in communicating with young programme beneficiaries. With their hands-on knowledge of youth issues, young people can collaborate in research by assisting the design of indicators and methodology, data gathering, report writing or the review process. Young people can be equal partners in steering committees and advisory boards.

Empowering youth with full autonomy is a challenging form of participation in policy making. In large-scale national programmes, only certain decisions and implementation aspects can be entrusted to young people. In smaller scale community programmes, young people can act more autonomously. Young people can, for example, organise and manage the implementation of programmes that were planned in collaboration with adult decision makers. The easiest form of autonomous participation is enabling young people to initiate and lead information campaigns, consultations and research. In this process, young people can assess their situation and the functioning of programmes and, consequently, elaborate policy and implementation proposals that are then presented to policy makers (Lansdown and O’Kane, 2014). Youth parliaments also give young people autonomy and raise awareness about the functions and procedures of parliaments. Although actual decision power is limited due to legal and political frameworks, youth parliaments are important participatory institutions for youth to discuss policies autonomously, and they can assume a democratic “consultative function for youth-relevant issues” (UNDP, 2013). The representatives elected by young people should have the competencies to “determine priorities and manage their own agendas” (UN DESA, 2003). In some countries, youth parliaments even have shadow ministers who follow the work of national ministries.

Engaging youth in the policy cycle

Youth participation includes young people in each step of the policy cycle: i) analysis of the situation; ii) policy design and planning; iii) implementation; iv) monitoring and evaluation; v) and advocacy and participatory debate that feeds back into ongoing situation analysis (Figure 8.2).

Figure 8.2. The policy cycle

Source: Authors’ own elaboration.

Over the policy cycle, the forms and levels of participation differ. Although youth participation is a valuable and desirable process, legal and political frameworks may impede young people from engaging in all steps at all levels. Moreover, in practice, youth participation is never limited to only one step or one form of participation. The following examples represent common forms and levels of participation in each step of the policy cycle. Young people commonly make valuable contributions to shaping policies in the analysis of the situation, monitoring and evaluation, as well as advocacy. Designing and planning policies leaves little room for young people to act autonomously due, among other reasons, to their lack of knowledge, experience and democratic legitimisation. Young people can, however, collaborate in the implementation of services.

Youth involvement in the situation analysis phase: Sri Lanka national youth parliament

The Sri Lankan Youth Parliament has 335 members; 500 000 members of youth organizations and clubs across Sri Lanka elect them in district-wide polls. Twice a month, youth parliamentarians meet in the capital and debate relevant issues, shadowing the work of the national Parliament. Thirty youth ministers follow national ministries and have working space there. Youth parliamentarians can enter the committees of the national Parliament and consult national members. Youth are included in national decision making and learn about electoral processes. The national Parliament has included the youth parliament’s recommendations in the national youth policy (UNDP, 2013).

Sri Lanka’s national youth parliament is a good example of young people autonomously participating in the first step of the policy cycle (situation analysis) and being consulted in the second step (policy design and planning). It includes young people in national decision making in a representative way and enjoys strong political support in Sri Lanka.

Youth involvement in the policy design and planning phase: Youth consultations in Viet Nam’s poverty-reduction strategy

Viet Nam’s government, in developing their poverty reduction strategy (PRSP), commissioned an NGO (Save the Children) to conduct three consultations with children and young people in particularly poor urban areas over the course of five years. The purpose of the consultations was to feed into the formulation of the strategy, and to provide opportunities for young people and children to review the implementation of the strategy. The first assessment in 1999, before PRSPs existed, was to inform national development planning […]. The second consultation in 2001 sourced feedback on the interim PRSP and policy for the PRSP. The third consultation in 2003 was part of a review of progress on the implementation of the country’s first PRSP.” (DFID-CSO, 2010).

Young people were consulted in numerous ways: surveys, discussion groups, interviews and participatory workshops. In this process, young people had two roles. They responded to surveys as beneficiaries, and some were partners in facilitating the consultations by acting as peer educators. Consultations with adults were run in parallel but in a separate and independent environment to maintain a youth-friendly space in which young people could act and freely express themselves according to their capacity without fearing adult judgment.

This consultative process created awareness among policy makers about young people’s situation, highlighted forms of youth deprivation the extent of which was previously unregistered, and taught local officials how to enlist youth participation to improve the formulation of policies. One criticism was that participants came mainly from the capital city and surroundings. Nonetheless, as a result of this consultative process, Viet Nam’s PRSP has greater reference to young people.

Youth involvement in the delivery of programmes: Angolan youth on STI awareness

The example of young Angolans educating and counselling peers on HIV/AIDS shows how youth can implement and deliver services. The youth developed and implemented community education activities that succeeded in raising awareness about STIs among young people and in revealing unmet needs.

UNICEF trained youth-run civil society organisations in peer-to-peer education, interpersonal communication, project planning and monitoring and evaluation (UNICEF, 2004). The training manual was elaborated in collaboration with young people. Empowered by the training courses provided by UNICEF, young peer educators elaborated different ways to transmit the messages on HIV/AIDS prevention to the target groups. The different approaches included community theatre, which was performed wherever young people congregate (e.g. schools, markets, restaurants and health centres). Other strategies included engaging with key informants and leaders for young Angolans (the military, military police, traditional leaders and healers, lorry drivers and parents) to increase awareness about the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Peer-to-peer exchanges revealed the lack of recreational and vocational opportunities for young people. This resulted in UNICEF, together with donor organisations, funding the creation of youth information and recreation centres. Peer educators also discovered that condoms should be distributed at a nominal price, as the free provision led young people to believe they are of no value and use.

Youth involvement in monitoring and evaluation: Youth collecting data in Uganda

Uganda’s Youth Empowerment Programme trains young people in qualitative and quantitative research methods to collect data to monitor and evaluate programmes on SRH, livelihoods and conflict resolution. After initial training, young people pre-tested the monitoring and evaluation tools in order to improve their design (DFID-CSO, 2010). The improved tools allowed young people to monitor the programmes in the field. As part of their collaboration in the programme evaluation process, they surveyed peers on knowledge, attitudes and practices.

Young people’s participation improved both the data collection and the programme training itself. Important lessons were to adjust training to local youth realities and to afford more time for the training. The youth’s contribution helped to rephrase the surveys in youth-friendly language and to reach out-of-school and marginalised young people. Their contribution to more youth-friendly data collection methods helped to gather valuable data, which in turn helped to improve the identification of targeted beneficiaries of the programme. Ultimately, the productive collaboration of young people gave young people an increased voice and influence within the Youth Empowerment Programme.

How to set up effective youth participation

The pathway to youth participation in policy-making processes has three stages (Shier, 2001). The first stage is opening up to working with youth and embedding the “awareness that involvement is desirable” (Head, 2011). The second is creating opportunities to work with young people. Opportunities are created by funding the endeavours adequately and endowing adults and youth alike with skills and knowledge (Shier, 2001). The third stage is making working with young people an obligation; in other words, it becomes the norm.

A prerequisite to opening up opportunities to work with youth is building their knowledge and skills (Box 8.2). Participation in the policy-making process requires basic knowledge of politics, policies and negotiations (‘the rules of the game’). The required skills are cognitive (citizenship education) but especially non-cognitive (communication and negotiation skills). Young people should be trained to formulate their messages clearly and to use communication tools effectively. Governments can impart knowledge and skills to young people directly by introducing citizenship education into school curricula and indirectly by creating an enabling environment for civil society organisations (Kolev and Giorgi, 2011).

Box 8.2. Skills and competences for active participation in policy making processes

Active participation in policy making processes demands certain skills and competences. In order to train young people, foster participation and determine the best level and form, it is important to understand the skills and competences young people possess. The set of skills and competences needed for successful participation in the policy making process can be grouped into under i) political literacy; ii) democratic attitudes and values; and iii) critical thinking (Table 8.2). Political literacy refers to the basic knowledge needed to understand ‘the rules of the game’. The foundation of any participation and consensus is that young people share democratic attitudes and values. Finally, young people have to be able to think and act critically, and to clearly communicate clearly their opinions and ideas.

Table 8.2. Skills and competences needed for active youth participation in policy making processes

Political literacy

Democratic attitudes and values

Critical thinking

  • Basic understanding of concepts of democracy

  • Awareness of their rights and duties as citizens

  • Knowledge of basic laws, political rights and democratic institutions

  • Understanding of the role of political parties and, interest groups

  • Knowledge about how to influence policy development

  • Responsibility

  • Social justice

  • Human rights

  • Respect and acceptance

  • Identity

  • Diversity

  • Conflict resolution

  • Ability to collect information from different sources

  • Ability to analyse, interpret and judge information

  • Communication skills for a political discussion

  • Ability to take a position based on prior critical analysis

Source: Based on European Youth Forum (2002).

To endow young people with the adequate set of skills and competences, it is important to understand how and where these are formed. The requisites for active participation are acquired in the family, at school, in non-formal education and through “life-wide learning” in informal environments (European Youth Forum, 2002). All of these social institutions and social norms pave young people’s way to participate actively. Family, religious institutions, associations, peers and role models strongly influence active participation. Schools shape young people and endow them with many of the above-mentioned skills through its curriculum and practices (e.g. its ethos, organisation, extra-curricular activities and operational structure). Qualitative research can provide valuable information on i) the role of these social institutions in empowering and providing skills to young people; ii) the methods they use to motivate active participation; and iii) how effective they are in endowing and motivating young people. The results of such research can guide policy makers who wish to develop strategies to improve and widen young people skills and competences for active participation.

Meaningful youth participation needs political and institutional support at each level of participation. Support is best assured if youth participation is seen as an obligation. The cultural change needed to adopt that view can be encouraged by building strategic alliances with youth networks and civil society organisations, strengthening youth wings of political parties, and legislators representing youth (UNFPA, 2007). Aligning “the minimum voting age with the minimum age of eligibility to run for office” and introducing youth quotas in electoral laws can support this cultural change (UNDP, 2013). Quotas can stipulate youth be included on party lists or seats be reserved for youth in the parliament. This way, young people have genuine representatives in politics, with the power to enforce the obligation to work with young people.

Based on existing literature (ActionAid, 2015; Lansdown and O’Kane, 2014; DFID-CSO, 2010; IPPF, 2008; Sinclair, 2004; and Shier, 2001), this section provides policy makers and researchers with guidelines on how to let young people take part in the policy making process. The guidelines are structured as questions that help researchers analyse the institutional framework for youth participation and help policy makers structure youth participation. Before deciding on the best form of youth participation, authorities have to prepare the ground. First, the political and institutional support for youth inclusion has to be assessed and eventually created. Second, authorities have to be clear on the purpose of including young people in the policy cycle. Third, before choosing the form of participation, the ideal level of participation has to be determined. This section closes with key recommendations for successful youth participation in the policy-making process.

Assess political and institutional support for youth participation

To institutionalise youth participation may require internal changes in government bodies. Authorities need to pave the way to institutionalise youth participation processes in the policy cycle. Every authority, agency and organisation with the intention of including young people in the policy making process has to assess its capacity before planning any form of youth participation. These questions are intended to guide that assessment:

  • Is the right for youth to participate included in guidelines, national laws or the constitution?

  • Does the authority’s staff value young people’s contributions and take them into consideration?

  • Is the authority’s staff trained in working with young people (e.g. using language easily understood by young people)?

  • Is the authority ready to support youth participation actively? Are there already forms of youth participation in place? Do young people have access to resources needed for participation?

  • Has the authority allocated budget and staff to ensure, oversee, develop and sustain youth participation?

  • Does the authority recognise youth participation as a long-term commitment?

  • Is the authority prepared to build in changes long term (not just as a one-off undertaking)?

Determine the purpose of youth participation in policy making

Once a favourable environment for youth participation is created, authorities must have a clear vision of the purpose of youth participation in policy making. These questions are intended to guide the definition of the vision at any given step of the policy cycle:

  • Which policy areas can benefit most from youth participation?

  • What is the authority aiming to achieve by youth participation?

  • Which step of the policy cycle best allows achieving the determined aim?

  • Is it appropriate for young people to participate in this particular step of the policy cycle?

  • Why were young people not included before?

  • What structures exist to let young people take part?

Choose the level and form of participation

The selection of young people and counterparts in the authority can have a strong influence on the appropriate level and form of participation. The skills, knowledge and experiences of participating young people and adults can exclude or favour certain levels and forms of participation. These questions can help to obtain a first insight in the participants’ capacities (see also Box 8.2):

  • Which group of young people shall be included in the participatory process?

  • How can the authority make contact with the targeted group of young people?

  • Do the selected young people need any training to participate effectively? If so, will the authority build the necessary capacities?

  • With whom in the authority should the young people collaborate?

  • Does the authority’s staff need additional training to collaborate with the selected young people? If so, will the authority train its staff?

The level of participation can be determined by understanding where the authority is in the three-stage process. The authority has to be open to youth participation, has to have (or create) opportunities to include young people, and has to feel the obligation to do so (Shier, 2001). The questions in Table 8.3 help to understand the stage of the authority within each level of participation.

Table 8.3. Guiding questions to determine the level of youth participation





Is the authority ready to take youth’s views into account and let them influence the debate, design, implementation or analysis of policies?

Do the authority’s internal processes enable taking young people’s views into account in the debate, design, implementation or analysis of policies?

Is there a requirement that youth’s views must be given due weight in policy making?


Is the authority ready to let youth join in decision-making processes?

Is there a procedure that enables youth to join policy-making processes?

Is it a requirement that youth must be involved in decision-making processes?


Is the authority prepared to share (or even give up) some power?

Is there a procedure that enables youth and adults to share power and responsibility for policy-making processes?

Is it a requirement that youth and adults share power and responsibility for policy-making processes?

Source: Based on Shier, H. (2001).

The exact form of participation can be decided after determining the purpose and level of participation in a given step of the policy cycle. The answers to earlier questions in this subsection and earlier examples of successful youth participation help authorities in selecting the appropriate form of participation from Table 8.1.

Key recommendations for successful youth participation

Among multiple factors, successful youth participation depends on the participants themselves and their capacities, purpose, resources and expectations. The following list of selected key recommendations for successful youth participation is aimed to help authorities include young people, irrespective of the form, level of participation or step in the policy cycle (IPPF, 2008):

  • Have clear expectations on the purpose and possibilities of youth participation.

  • Provide training and support for young people.

  • Provide training and support for adult decision makers to help them engage with young people and listen to their views.

  • Provide young people with jargon-free information that is accessible to them.

  • Ensure hard-to-reach groups of young people are aware of and encouraged to be part of projects. Consider their specific needs.

  • Ensure meetings are accessible (times and locations).

  • Make participation voluntary and do not expect long-term commitment.

  • Allow adequate time for participation (to mature).

  • Value the input of young people; take their views seriously and give clear feedback on the impact of their contribution.

  • Manage the expectations of young people. Ensure clear and transparent communication about the limits of their involvement.

  • Make sure there is the necessary financial commitment to youth participation.

  • Set up systems for reviewing and continuously improving the process.

  • Recognise young people’s contribution and input (e.g. a certificate of achievement).


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