Forms of Participation
Participation means involvement and co-determination in the democratic system. Youth participation means that young people are involved in dialogue, have co-determination and can shape the surroundings they live in. Essentially one can differentiate between three forms of involvement or participation:
Project-oriented participation generally involves activities which have a limited time and planning horizon. In practice this form of participation is very frequent, since it can awaken the interest of young people and adults and the activities are characterised by fun and visible success.
The Participation Workshop was developed by ‘beteiligung.st’ specifically for use in Styrian local councils. Under facilitation by ‘beteiligung.st’, young people aged between 13-20 years, members of the council, administration employees and representatives of local associations work out projects for their council together. At the heart of the Participation Workshop is the shared vision and development of ideas for living together in the community. The goal is the concrete realisation of these project ideas. Child- and youth- friendly conditions can be ensured through this cooperative working style in the local councils. By actively including children and young people in communal politics, politics `for´ children and young people are transformed into politics `with´ children and young people.
A questionnaire survey for children and young people can be the first step towards successful participation in a local council. The children and young people questionnaire has the advantage that it can assess wishes, hardships and needs of children and young people - prior to child and youth participation. The questionnaire can help to assess the living environment, the political and communal interests as well as the participation wishes of children and young people can be scanned. The results of this questionnaire can be utilized as the basis for further focused action.
Open forms are models which enable children and young people to articulate their opinions and needs to the mayors and council representatives. The young people are able to do this either through direct conversations, in discussion groups or in surveys. The open form models do not allow for any obligation to regular involvement for the young people and children.
The Open Space Method makes it possible to work with many participants quickly and effectively and can be implemented in schools, in councils or in youth centres.
In this case, a key theme is dealt with in the framework of an event. The participants themselves divide up this key theme into individual topics which are then elaborated on and hammered out in workshops (break-out groups). The knowledge and the diverse competences of all the participants are tapped independently from hierarchies. Ideas, solution proposals and implementation measures are developed in a very short time. This way, sustainable processes can be initiated in schools, councils and youth centres.
Parliamentary and similar forms
Here one finds models which are characterised by continuity and formal structures. Examples of parliamentary or similar forms are: the Local Children’s Council or Youth Council, Youth Landtag (Youth Parliament of a Province of the Federation), and Children and Youth Representatives.
Children’s Councils have already been initiated in many local councils in order to provide young community members the opportunity to get actively involved in council politics and to implement child- and youth-friendly ideas together with those responsible. An election may signal the beginning of a Children’s Council. Another possibility is an invitation with a strong appeal and challenge (character), which is sent to all the children in the target age group. The period of office is usually two years. A Children’s Council is a good prerequisite for continuing cooperation between children and adults and a good basis for follow-up projects. In principle, a Children’s Council has the task of advising the decision-makers in matters concerning children and young people, which of course only makes sense if the Children’s Council is taken seriously and its ideas are taken into account in the decision-making process.
For Children’s Councils to become a genuine instrument for co-determination, they should be embedded in a comprehensive plan for the involvement of children and young people.
Youth Forums can be formed in a number of different ways. On the one hand, they may arise as a loose cooperation for young people and adults. On the other hand, it is possible to elect representatives of youth forums. The appointment may also be carried out according to the delegation principle, which means that youth organisations, associations and free youth initiatives send representatives to regular meetings. A youth forum may be assigned the task of initiating and running active participation models and projects. Through working together, goals are reached more quickly and efficiently.