Photo is illustrative. Jens Johnsson (Unsplash)

Moxon et al (2019) have described the emerging area of big participation as “a strategic long-term approach to youth participation, which aims to create large scale change in the way a defined population of young people are able to engage within and influence societal and public decision making and discourse. This means using a range of interlocking programmes, tools and initiatives that together can affect change in populations with upwards of 100,000 young people (such as all young people within a specific city). These programmes and tools can be targeted at young people as well as other actors, such as public institutions, community members and decision-makers.”

With the existence of big data sets and the opportunity to reach large numbers of young people via digital means, there are a number of advantages for the quality of decisions that are being made. However, big data itself, without the explicit consent and participation of the young person in question, cannot achieve many of the aims of a genuine participation process. Participation is much more than just finding out young people’s views on certain questions – it also needs to involve young people in the process of decision-making and be a two-way process that includes providing information and feedback, which anonymous big data sets alone are unable to achieve.

Therefore, when talking about big participation, it is imperative that the usual principles for meaningful youth participation are followed, which include the active participation and consent of the participants. One of the main advantages of big participation is the ability to involve large numbers of young people – something that is much more difficult to achieve through many of the traditional structures and ways of youth participation.