Video: Youth Participation Research (Dan Moxon & Cristina Bacalso)

What is youth participation research?

Youth participation is an area of research that has numerous policy documents, research reports, legislation and other publications that set agendas, explain, investigate, regulate, measure or evaluate the field of youth participation.

Nevertheless, there are numerous data gaps and challenges with the selection of indicators often limited to formal participation such as voting, the percentage of young members of parliament (MP) or undertaking volunteering activities.


Why is youth participation research important?

Youth participation research provides a knowledge base for designing, implementing and evaluating youth participation opportunities. In order to effectively support young people in their participation, those who develop projects and policies need to take into account the known benefits and challenges that youth participation produces.

Youth participation research is not just produced for researchers and the scientific community itself. It provides useful insights for youth workers, public servants and other decision-makers who are planning, implementing or evaluating youth participation in their organization, municipality, country. Making use of the evidence provided strengthens project applications and adds to the quality of youth participation projects.


How can youth participation research help our target group?

  • Monitoring and evaluation. How do young people like to participate?
  • Measuring outputs and outcomes. What do youth participation processes actually achieve?
  • Developing indicators. How can the multitude of ways that young people participate be measured?
  • Understanding the impact. How does youth participation impact policies and societal change?
  • Accessibility and inclusiveness. What can be learned from different methodological approaches to increase Accessibility ?


What is Youth Participatory Action Research?

Youth participatory action research (YPAR) has emerged as a research paradigm employed to give young people a voice. It defines youth as assets, rejecting the deficit oriented stereotypes according to which young people are seen as lacking the necessary knowledge and experience. YPAR is based on the same principles as participatory action research, but mandates that the research process be led by young people with guidance from an adult researcher. Young people are asked to lead research projects because of the insights they can provide and to empower them. YPAR usually also has a specific change-oriented social justice agenda (Coghlan & Brydon-Miller 2012; LPC Consulting Associates, 2012). Therefore, when undertaking research about young people, including young people’s participation, YPAR can be an empowering and useful research method to use.


Policy Documents


European Council resolution on EU Youth Strategy 2019 – 2027

It sets out a renewed framework for an improved cooperation between EU countries in the youth field for the period 2019-27.  It aims to make the most of youth policy’s potential. It fosters youth participation in democratic life, in line with Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. It also supports social and civic engagement and aims to ensure that all young people have the necessary resources to take part in society.

11 EU Youth Goals

The Youth Goals are the outcome of the Structured Dialogue with Youth process 2017-18. The European Youth Goals present a vision for a Europe that enables young people to realise their full potential. They identify 11 cross-sectoral areas that affect young people’s lives and point out which challenges need to be tackled. Within their respective competences Member States and the European Commission are invited to draw inspiration from them. The Work Plan for the Youth Strategy 2019-2021 relates to the Youth Goals.

YouthWiki chapter on participation

The Youth Wiki is Europe’s online encyclopaedia in the area of national youth policies. The platform is a comprehensive database of national structures, policies and actions supporting young people. The chapter illustrates the opportunities available to young citizens in Europe to participate in politics and civil society.

Council of Europe 2015, Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life

The Charter has been adopted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in 2003 to promote youth participation at local level. The Charter is divided into three sections. Part one gives local and regional authorities guidelines on different thematic youth policy areas; part two provides some tools for furthering the participation of young people; the third part advises on specific structures, such as youth councils, for the participation of young people.

United Nations 1989, Convention on the Rights of the Child

UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights convention in history. It is one of the most important legal instruments globally. Among other things, it grants children up to the age of 18 the rights to express their opinion, be listened to and to take their views into account. The most talked about article in relation to youth participation is article 12 but articles 13 and 15 also cover similar ground. UNCRC has been ratified by and is applicable in almost all countries in the world, with a few exceptions.

Research and Publications


Farrow, A 2018, SALTO Think Tank on Youth Participation: closer to the edge of participation and activism

The first section considers the state of youth participation and explores the models that assist in defining, analysing and evaluating participation. It particularly notes the lack of reliable and comprehensive data and provides an overview of the European policy landscape. Building on this foundation, the second section considers the new and emerging trends in participation and youth activism – such as threats from the far-right, shifting expectations and power and the use of technology as a tool for change.

Banari, R, Capecchi, D, Kost, R, Moxon, D, Pirvulescu, R 2019, A seat at the table for everyone. Promoting inclusive youth participation through the EU Youth Strategy 2019 – 2027

The paper aims to consider how inclusive youth participation can be promoted through the concrete tools foreseen in the EU Youth Strategy 2019 – 2027. It explores what we mean by inclusive youth participation, and the methods which can support it. It also looks at how this might be developed with three key elements of the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2017 :- EU Youth Dialogue, Erasmus+ Programme: Youth Chapter and European Solidarity Corps.

Crowley, A; Moxon, D 2017, New and Innovative Forms of Youth Participation in decision-making processes, Council of Europe

Against a backdrop of a rising concern on political disengagement of young people, this study set out to explore and identify ‘innovative’ forms of youth participation and to understand the role of innovation within the context of youth participation in decision making at the national, regional and local levels.

RAY, 2018, Long-term effects of Erasmus+: Youth in Action on participation and citizenship.

This research project aims to explore how Erasmus+: Youth in Action (E+/YiA) contributes to the
development of citizenship competences and what the long-term effects related to participation and active citizenship are, in particular on participation and citizenship practice.

Theben, A, Porcu, F, Pena-Lopez, I, Lupianez Villanueva, F 2018, Study on the Impact of Internet and Social Media on Youth Participation and Youth Work, European Commission: Brussels

The study examines the impact of the Internet, social media and new technologies on youth participation and looks at the role of youth work in supporting young people to develop digital skills and New Media literacy.

Karsten, A 2012, Participation Models: Citizen, Youth, Online, Youth Policy Labs: Berlin

This collection of 36 models from 1969 to 2012 details different models and theories of participation. This selection provides imagery, excerpts and original introductions and explanations. This resource pools together some of the most used and debated models and concepts in youth and citizen participation.

Bacalso, C 2015, Gaps, gapes and gulfs: data (or the lack thereof) on how youth participate around the world

The blog post discusses the limited state of youth participation data despite the emphasis that many youth policy frameworks place on participation. It provides an overview of which scattered data sets and indicators exist, however limited in their conception of youth participation. It discusses the efforts of a Mexican civil society organisation to build a National Youth Participation Index.

Farrow, A 2015, Children, young people and participation. Youth Policy Working Paper No 3, Youth Policy Press.

This paper explores academic literature and recent publications and considers the relevance of traditional participation models and theories at a time where young people have the ability to be heard and realise change in a way that bypasses formal organisations. The paper explores the absence of power in formal processes. It confronts the willingness of young people to engage in activism seeking radical change, such as street protests, with the dominant rhetoric of youth participation processes.

Farthing, R 2012. Why Youth Participation? Some Justifications and Critiques of Youth Participation Using New Labour’s Youth Policies as a Case Study.

There has been limited exploration of why participation might be desirable in the first place. This paper attempts to address this anomaly by offering three analyses. Firstly, it constructs four ideal-type justifications for participation from existing literature; rights-based, empowerment , developmental and an efficiency justification. Secondly, it challenges these justifications against three emerging critiques of participation; radical, conservative and secular critiques. Thirdly, it uses New Labour’s youth policies from 1997- 2010 as a case study to highlight the need for critical reflection about the merits of participation before embracing it as an intrinsically ‘good thing’.

London School of Economics (LSE), 2013, Youth Participation in Democratic Life, EACEA 2010/03.

This study is concerned with the participation of young people (13-30) in European democratic life. It looks at strengths and weaknesses of the participation of young people in Europe across their social and national diversity and systematically assesses their causes. Through 6 key themes it looks at different dimensions of youth participation and provides policy recommendations.

Eurobarometer: European Youth: Participation in Democratic Life, European Commission, 2013

The survey examines young (15-30) EU citizens’ participation in society, with special reference to attitudes towards participation in elections and intentions to participate in the European elections in 2014. It concludes that participation in activities run by various organisations has an impact on interest in politics or elections.

Eurobarometer: How do we build a stronger, more united Europe? The views of young people, European Commission, 2019

The survey provides an overview on young people’s trends regarding their social and civic participation. It examines the involvement of young people in organisations and volunteering, their political participation through formal channels and the information sources they use.

Eurobarometer: Post-election survey 2019 – First results, European Parliament, 2019

Conducted in the weeks after the elections across all 28 Member States, nearly 28.000 citizens answered questions about their participation in the European elections and the issues that motivated them to vote. It shows a significant increase in young people with a pro-European mind-set, who cast a vote in the 2019 European elections.

European Youth Forum, Young People and Democratic Life in Europe, 2015

This study provides an overview of the themes and trends around the topic of young people’s relationship with democratic life in Europe, beyond electoral participation, and zooms in on 6 broadly representative countries. It looks at the relation of young people with politics and tries to counter common misconceptions around ‚disengagement‘. The study examines the emergence of new forms of political activism as well as the influence of Internet and social media on political youth participation. It provides policy recommendations on how to ‚Youth Up‘ politics.

PARTISPACE project working papers on youth participation

PARTISPACE was a pan-European research project aiming to question the boundary between participation and non-participation and to develop a concept of participation. A series of reports and papers were produced throughout the course of this project. These papers cover a range of topics, e.g. national context of youth participation, biographies of young people’s participation in eight European cities, young people’s participation as a lived practice.

Thomas, N 2007, Toward’s a theory of children’s participation

This paper concentrates on children‘s and young people’s participation in ‚public‘ decision-making. The term ‚participation‘ in the children’s field tends to have positive associations, seen as inevitably a ‚good thing‘, something to be promoted, something that should be beneficial to all those involved. Keywords: children’s participation; participation workers; public decision-making; theorisations; young people’s participation

Wyness, M 2005, Regulating Participation: The Possibilities and Limits of Children and Young People’s Councils

This paper addresses some contradictory trends by examining the relationship between the regulatory framework and participatory forums, which offer a political space for children and young people and by implication a means to some degree of ‘self-realisation’.

Hart, R 1992, Children’s Participation: From tokenism to citizenship

This seminal essay introduces the influential Roger Hart’s Ladder of Children/Young People’s Participation. It is written for people who know that young people have something to say but who would like to reflect further on the process. It is also written for those people who have it in their power to assist children in having a voice, but who, unwittingly or not, trivialize their involvement.

Gretschel, A, Levamo, T-M, Kiilakoski, T, Laine, S, Mäntylä, N, Pleyers, G, Raision, H 2014, Youth Participation Good Practices in Different Forms of Regional and Local Democracy

The paper advocates using a broad scope of democracy in policy planning, and it documents existing practices all over Europe. The good practices are analysed from the adult perspective and the actual impact of these practices on young people is not assessed.

Save The Children 2014, A Toolkit for Monitoring and Evaluating Children’s Participation

The toolkit provides a conceptual framework for measuring children’s participation, together with guidance on how to undertake monitoring and evaluation and practical tools that can help you gather the information you need. It can be used by organisations working directly with children, by child- and youth-led organisations, and by governments that are committed to fulfilling their obligations to respect children’s right to participate.

IJAB 2014, Guidelines for successful e-participation by young people in decision-making at local, regional, national and European levels

The Guidelines provide those planning an e-participation process for young people with a set of factors they should take into consideration to make the process more effective. They are the outcome of the European ‚youthpart‘ project, coordinated by IJAB, the German International Youth Service.


Martti Martinson
Martti Martinson

Martti Martinson is an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Australia and his research and advocacy work is focused on the enabling environment for youth participation in decision-making processes. He is a strong advocate for the concept of human rights based youth work and legislating youth participation.