Virtual Meeting Platform on Political Participation in Youth

During this event we discussed the topic of political participation of youth with experts from the UNIC alliance, external stakeholders and the audience.

Virtual Place



The aim of this event was to exchange experiences with researchers, students and city stakeholders from the Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Oulu and University College Cork about the political participation of youth in our respective cities. We discussed the reasons and behavior that underly the interest in politics amongst young people and how this could be positively impacted.

The event was divided into two parts. We started with a panel. First Yara Toenders, postdoctoral researcher at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, gave a presentation about a study that was done in the Netherlands on Societal Contribution in Adolescence and Early Adulthood. Then Iida Laurila, Youth participation expert at The Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi, gave a presentation about the experience and insights she gained while working in the Youth Council Allianssi in Finland. Lastly, Mair Kelly, President UCC Societies Executive, gave a presentation about the situation on political participation of youth in Ireland.

After the panel we continued to the second part of the event: open discussions with the audience. First an Erasmus University student, Jits Brower, explained the importance of increasing trust in politics amongst youth. Subsequently, all panellists and participants started an open discussion, sharing ideas and coming up with solutions on how to increase political participation of youth in our cities. Participants compared the differences and similarities of the initiatives and organizations that exist in their cities that focus on youth and getting youth involved in politics or contribute to society.

12 participants: 2 students, 9 staff members, 1 societal stakeholder, 6 returning participants

We found that one of the main reasons why political participation of youth is low, is because young people often do not feel taken seriously or feel like that they are being heard. In all three cities (Rotterdam, Oulu and Cork) youth often feels that they do not have the opportunity to contribute to society. And even though youth seems to be more interested in politics over the last decades, their voting rate is still very low. One of the reasons for this could be that young people feel that voting does not feel like contributing to society. But it does. Therefore, one of the solutions might be to make them more aware of this.

Political participation is more than just voting. However, when young people are asked to get involved in political related events to participate or give their opinion, they feel like nothing is done with their input. Youth would appreciate hearing back what has been done with their input and participation.

Furthermore, many students also do not feel like getting involved into politics because they feel that politicians and political parties are not trustworthy. Also, the information about politics and political parties often times is difficult to find and to understand for youth. A solution to this could be to provide political information in more easily accessible and understandable language specifically aimed at youth.

It also seems to be difficult to get in touch with a specific age group of young people. Rotterdam, Oulu and Cork all share this challenge: how do we reach youth? One of the things that can be done, is getting young people involved before they are 18. When they turn 18, they suddenly have the right to vote, but if they have not been informed and introduced to political related topic and the importance of it by their family, school or society before they were 18, it’s logical that they will not feel the need or have the information and resources to get politically involved. Schools could therefore organize shadow elections, which is already being done in Finland where they make use of fake voting papers and voting booths. This is a good way to get young people introduced to the concept of political participation and voting.

Another challenge that was identified, is the fact that young people think their voting or political participation does not make an impact. This challenge can for example be tackled by politicians reaching this target group by addressing topics that are important to youth, such as climate change and mental health. These topics could be used to move young people to vote. Also, it could work to have young people address these issues to help engage youth. This makes it more relatable to youth and creates less of a gap between politics/politicians and youth.


UNIC CityLabs


Diversity and Inclusion

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Organizing unic universities

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