Get Inspired to Improve Your Outreach with Youth Participation – Case Study of the Dutch National Agency

Year of production: 2024

When aiming to support participation in democratic life, outreach and communication becomes essential. Ignoring this might create barriers for young people that hinder their participation. The Dutch National Agency together with two youth activists share their recommendations on mistakes to avoid and smart steps to take when engaging young people.

The team of the Dutch National Agency for Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps (Nationaal Agentschap Erasmus+ Onderwijs & Training) have understood that, with their mission to bring the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes to as many young people as possible, the agency works together to reach out to more diverse young people.

Linda Janmaat from the Dutch National Agency talked about the agency’s youth engagement approach and learning moments. Valérie van Diepen (23) and Nuno Gomes da Silva Neto (24) are involved as youth ambassadors in the agency. We discussed youth participation, the challenges, bad practices and the strategic value of meaningful youth engagement with them.

One might not immediately think marketing and communication of as an important part of youth participation, but after discussing with Linda, Valérie and Nuno, it became clear that this is an integral building block which should not be overseen.

“For me, youth participation means working together with young people as equal partners for the benefit of both parties. Young people are one of our main target groups and we need to have a better understanding of their life and how they experience things. Otherwise, you will quickly fall out of touch. You might think you know what they want and need but you will not be able to notice the blind spots, and everyone has them,” explains Linda about the importance of being in regular dialogue and cooperation with young people.

Linda is convinced that meaningful youth participation starts from a management decision.

  • “If the organisation makes a statement that young people are a priority in their work but at the same time are overloaded and not able to involve young people, the ways of working need to be seriously considered.”

Young people as advisors and trailblazers

The Dutch National Agency has taken several steps to improve youth participation in their own work and strategic planning. They try to involve young people as co-creators and designers of specific projects such as “Democracy Reloading” and DiscoverEU, in addition to EuroPeers and the Youth Ambassadors initiative.

The Dutch National Agency has also started an initiative of Youth Ambassadors to consult young people on various issues. “They give us advice on what kind of tone of voice to use in communication, which channels to choose, how we should reach out, etc. Some of the advice has not been easy to follow up, for instance, starting a new channel when we felt our agency already had too many channels,” Linda shares examples.

Valérie, who has been involved as a Youth Ambassador for some time, remembers these discussions on channels. “The National Agency was super nice, but their communication style seemed a bit outdated to us and considering young people as an important target group, we proposed they go on Instagram. They were hesitant at first but after some consideration, they agreed. We then helped the agency to start the channel and generated content for them. It’s great to see their Instagram account is still active and has gained more followers,” Valérie recalls.

The youth engagement in the Dutch National Agency is not only focusing on communication campaigns, as Youth Ambassadors are able to share their ideas and advice on how the National Agency could better improve young people’s experiences with youth exchanges, youth participation, DiscoverEU, non-formal education and young people’s involvement in the National Agency. The Youth Ambassadors mandate lasts from 4–6 months and the Dutch National Agency has had three groups of young ambassadors giving input to their work already. Linda emphasises that in all groups, the majority of young people had no prior experience with Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programmes, which helped the agency to get useful input on how to better reach out to new young people.

Young people experience many barriers

Valérie became interested in working with the Dutch National Agency to learn about the opportunities of the European Union. ​​However, the issue lies in information divide, as she herself was one of many young people who had never experienced Erasmus+ nor European Solidarity Corps projects and was unaware of the opportunities.

“Thanks to becoming involved in the work of the agency, I learned a lot about the opportunities. This gave me the feeling that I can also participate, and since then I have been involved in two Erasmus+ short term projects and went to Krakow, Poland for an academic exchange. I’m now promoting this all to other people. I realise over and over again that most of them have no idea about these possibilities. When they hear what’s available for them, their eyes light up,” Valérie comments.

“It seems that there is almost a problem of two polarities – those young people who are very informed and involved in the youth programmes and those who don’t know about these possibilities at all. The information should be more accessible for everyone,” says Valérie and emphasises that the role of communication here is crucial.

Looking for more inspiration about great youth participation?

The “New Power in Youth” Strategic Partnership between National Agencies for Erasmus+ Youth & European Solidarity Corps is actively working to advance youth participation in democratic life through diverse approaches. Among its different initiatives, one is specifically dedicated to supporting youth involvement in the work of National Agencies. Check the 2022 mapping report which captures various inspirational practices and suggestions for youth participation from 10 National Agencies and SALTO Participation and Information Resource Centre!

The work on meaningful youth involvement in decision-making of National Agencies is ongoing as one of the aims that Youth Participation Strategy calls for.


Meelika Hirmo

Meelika Hirmo is a Communications expert who is currently working at Citizen OS promoting digital participation worldwide. The topics of democratic participation, environment, media and information literacy and culture are very close to her heart. She has campaigned for lowering the voting age in Estonia, coordinated international events, led the communication of the international civic movement World Cleanup Day, and is eager to put her skills into practice to create a positive social change.

New Power in Youth Strategic Partnership (NPiY)

New Power in Youth is a Strategic Partnership between National Agencies for Erasmus+ & European Solidarity Corps and SALTO Resource Centres. Its main aim is to foster youth participation in democratic life and it contributes to three specific objectives: 1)Introducing Erasmus+ & ESC Youth Participation Strategy and supporting youth participation projects through E+ & ESC programmes; 2) Supporting the strategic development of youth participation in democratic life on local, national and European levels; 3) Enhancing the partnership between the non-formal and formal education sectors in order to better support youth participation in democratic life.