Video: Establised Ways of Youth Participation (Daniel Moxon & Cristina Bacalso)

There are numerous ways how Youth Participation can be implemented in practice. Some ways are more established, meaning that there is a longer tradition and history behind these approaches, and they are generally also more commonplace.

One of the ways to categorise participation is through the approaches used in implementation:

  • The formal approach

    is a more structured and usually longer-term way of involving young people in decision making which is typically executed through formal policies (elections, student and youth councils etc).

  • The informal approach

    uses mechanisms that have a ‘loose’ structure or no structure at all, is ‘casual’ in its tone, requires limited planning and resources, is quite often short-term and is usually not executed through formal policy (such as project-based participation).

Structures and mechanisms

Youth Participation is often implemented through the creation of structures and mechanisms which are set up to advance youth participation. These can be developed for institutionalising youth participation in decision-making processes that affect young people, such as establishing youth advisory committees, youth and student councils, and youth networks for positive civic engagement, etc. They exist because young people cannot often participate in the work of organisations and governments nor elect them because of their young age (e.g. they are not old enough to vote or become members of organisations). They are underrepresented in decision-making processes and participatory structures aimed specifically at involving young people in the process of making decisions that affect their future. 

These Youth Participation structures are prime examples of formal participation, however, some structures can also be present in the case of the informal participation approach (e.g. project working groups).

Youth Participation structures can be set up almost everywhere: in local, state/regional, or national government, schools, universities, international organisations (such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the European Union etc.) but also in non-profit and community organisations, private or public companies, sporting clubs, youth organisations and services. Depending on the aims and objectives of involving young people in decision-making processes, youth participation structures can be either set up for or by young people. They can be youth-led and consisting of young people only OR have joint membership with adults (e.g. involving young people within existing committees etc).

Youth Workers have an important role to play in advocating for the creation, facilitating and funding of such structures.


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.

You may also like