Video: Emerging Ways in Youth Participation (Dan Moxon & Cristina Bacalso)

In many parts of the world we can observe that established ways and traditional forms of participation are decreasing among young people. Does that mean that young people are more disengaged, apathetic? Do they lack the information to adequately participate? 

Research suggests the contrary: young people are engaged, aware, and highly informed of the issues that affect their lives. What we’re seeing is young people engaging in a number of new ways that are emerging in youth participation.

The main driving forces of emerging ways of participation are:

  • The widespread use and influence of technology
  • Rising nationalism and populism
  • Lack of trust in formal political structures

Emerging ways of participation, in line with to Crowley & Moxon 2017, are characterized by informality, issue-based goals, horizontal organization, and intermittent and micro-level engagement.

These can be associated with: social/civic and informal settings. Notably, they often blur the line between public and private space, and the nature of these spaces is often claimed or created. Emerging ways of participation can be enhanced by technology, but do not exist exclusively online. Young people favour issues that are connected to the development of their own identities and self-determination. Examples include wearing t-shirts that communicate a political idea or statement, buying fair-trade products, eating vegan as an environmental stance, sharing political views on social media, and volunteering.

Some characteristics of emerging ways of participation include:

  • Focused on a single issue

    Such as environment, gun control, etc.

  • Often non-hierarchical grassroots movements

    Such as School Strike for Climate, etc

  • Use of online tools

    Such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Twitter, etc

  • Recurrence of street protests

    Such as pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, global climate strikes or March for our Live, etc

Levels of participation

Emerging approaches in youth participation are not only happening on the grassroot level – there are several examples of institutional approaches to participation emerging across the public and not-for-profit sectors. For example:

  • smart participation/eParticipation;
  • deliberative democracy;
  • co-management and co-creation.
  • As the world is rapidly changing, so are the ways that young people prefer to participate in decision-making processes and political discourse. One of the measures of the meaningfulness of a youth participation agenda is its adaptability to change. The more diverse opportunities for young people to be a part of discussions and decisions made about them are, the greater the likelihood that more young people will want to be a part of it.


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.