Youth eParticipation

The concept of participation implies that young people choose to actively participate in, and contribute to, decision-making at different levels (i.e. school, local, regional, national and European).  In the case of eParticipation (also called digital or online participation), this involvement and participation in decision-making takes place electronically through the use of online information and internet-based technology. 

In a political sense, the term expresses the fact that many aspects of the everyday lives of citizens are determined by political processes. Essentially, eParticipation is interactive online policy-making in action.

What is the difference between eParticipation and smart participation?

Smart participation refers to utilising technology to increase effectiveness and productivity compared to the more traditional, offline ways of enabling participation, i.e. reaching out to more young people; increasing opportunities to develop youth creativity, self-initiative and cooperative activity; reducing the potential for the exclusion of young people; and increasing engagement among young people and supporting their active participation in communities and decision-making. Not every attempt to use technology is necessarily an example of “smart” youth participation. Merely using a computer to replace what you have been doing offline before might not create any advantage or change.

Farrow (2018) notes that a separation should be made between the focus of participation and the channels that articulate where and how participation happens in practice. For example:

  • E-voting or online participatory budgeting are mechanisms for public participation
  • Online platforms often facilitate social movements/identity communities
  • Digital technology provides the greater individual personalisation of services and is a mechanism for expression and consumer choices

Rupkus (2018) outlines some principles that guide youth eParticipation:

  • eParticipation is always process-based
  • There can be no successful online participation without a parallel offline component
  • There can be no participation without relevant and accurate information
  • There should be no participation for the sake of participation; and there can be no participation without any impact
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.