How to create a supportive environment within the municipality for involving young people in decision-making?

In the Democracy Reloading Partnership activities we always ask municipal youth policy officers about the general attitude of the municipal authority towards giving a voice to young people in municipal decisions, and we provide these four statements above. Those youth policy practitioners who join our activities tend to stand with the statements 2. and 3. However, we assume that there are a very significant number of local municipalities that have not yet any attempts to share some parts of their decision-making power with young people of the local community. The reasons usually being either not understanding why it would make sense and what benefits it would bring to the decision-makers and to the community at large, or not knowing the ways and methods of doing it safe and meaningful. In an ideal municipality, if such a thing exists, the political representatives understand the importance of sharing their power with diverse local citizens in order to create a more participative and active democracy and they – or at least a critical majority – support the idea if involving representatives of the new generations in making more appropriate decisions for the community. Of course the reality is more colourful in most cases and this ideal condition is not provided. Below, when elaborating competences, we will look into what can be done to get closer to this ideal. On the image below you can read the two principal aspect of an ideal organisational environment (or the collective culture).


The other condition of the municipal environment is that the staff of the authority is motivated and trained to work on strategic and structured involvement of young people in municipal decisions. Without motivated civil servants, who also understand the reasons and potential impact of youth participation it is very hard to reach quality results. Not only do they have to be motivated, but they also need to be competent, that means they should have the adequate attitude to youth, the relevant knowledge for the job, and the necessary skills on how to make it happen. Let’s see what specific attitudes, knowledge and skills are needed for the internal staff of the municipal authority in order to have a good basis for involving young people in municipal decisions, and create a system and structure for it to happen. 



Values and attitude

We are looking for the spreading and reinforcing of two supporting attitudes of the staff and of the decision-makers: to believe that youth can and should contribute, and to challenge existing stereotypes about young people. What arguments can help you in advocating for youth participation and in convincing your colleagues, your politicians and your hierarchy.

  • A well-functioning local democracy cannot be achieved without recognising the right of young people to fully participate in society.
  • Sustainable and meaningful youth participation is essential for open, democratic, inclusive and sustainable communities and democratically elected representatives are accountable for this.
  • Local municipal decisions are the closest to citizens that it is the best school for practising democratic citizenship.
  • Engaging young people in local public discourse has a positive impact on the quality of decisions as well as on the wider local public.

The stereotype that young people are ignorant, incompetent and even dangerous to be involved in ‘serious’ issues must be challenged as it is obviously not true. It all depends on who we want to involve, how we want to involve and how we prepare and empower them to be ready to be involved. Instead of common places and prejudice we must base all conversations on facts and figures that are coming from research and studies about young people of the local community. It is important that we create a space for learning ​​and we change the inadequate behavioural patterns inside the municipal authority. These can be done through good examples and practices of other municipalities, and through collecting evidence and data from the local youth. We must remember that young people are a very heterogeneous demographic group that is an easy subject to stereotyping, prejudices and discrimination. This is heavily affecting their involvement in society, in education, in public life as well as in the labour market. Until they do not have sufficient voices in the municipal organisation some of us must advocate for it, and pave the way to their adequate and effective involvement.


There are two main elements here: knowing the books, and knowing the people. There is a great deal of knowledge that is available and can be used as starting points and building blocks for a more youth participative decision-making culture. Mapping the relevant legal frameworks on local, national and European levels is an essential starting point in all scenarios. Having a good understanding of the legal context is the pure basis of all actions. Without knowing it in depth no strategy will be successful. It is also very important to understand that local youth policy is on one hand reaching out to young people directly with the help of youth workers and youth organisations, but also involving other services and policies that target young people, such as public education, sport, culture, social affairs, housing, environment etc.

As a starting point it may help to map all the potential partners and “stakeholders” in the local context and see who is on our side, and who has to be convinced. A next step can be to find out how we can bring more stakeholders to be supportive or at least neutral. Understanding their motivation and their interest can always help to speak their language through which we can change their views on youth participation.

Skills to change the attitudes

We know how hard it is sometimes to change the doubtful opinions of some politicians and some civil servants, but this should not refrain us from making efforts and give them the chance to see things differently. Public servants can be strong supporters of youth participation and advocates of its value, but without the support of elected representatives no significant progress can be made. Elected politicians (mayor, deputy-mayor, councillors) need to understand the importance, values, potential and practices of youth participation and active citizenship in order to align public policies and the administration (public servants) with them. They need to be aware that if, for instance, young people are engaged in decisions, there will be greater responsibility, accountability and commitment by all stakeholders. Without political support it is not realistic to consider that public servants will advance youth participation. As municipal changemakers we need the courage to speak up for youth participation and we need advocacy skills to convince others, to keep on arguing on all levels and to talk to each potential stakeholder with passion and with relevant argumentation. We also have to remember that it is not enough to bring the majority stakeholders on our side, but we also need to maintain this critical mass inside the municipal authority by showing the results and the impact on the young people engaged but also on the wider local public.

A municipality officer who wants to establish an effective working environment needs to map all the internal and external actors that could support their work. The mapping exercise needs to be followed by formal and informal exchanges (emailing, face-to-face or online meetings) with all the relevant actors that have been identified as potential partners. There needs to be a transparent exchange of information regarding the strategy, plans and activities that the municipality wants to develop in order to foster young people’s participation in decision-making and regarding the contribution that the other actors could bring to support the municipality’s plans.  And last but not least we should never forget that youth is not (only) the future but also the present, and they have to be involved today as tomorrow may be too late!

For more interesting resources regarding the Democracy Reloading Key Task 1 you can visit the Democracy Reloading website, register and log in, click on Dashboard and choose Municipality: 

You can also register for a set of four Webinars each focusing on one of the four Democracy Reloading key competences: 

The first webinar will address this key competence: Creating a supportive environment within the municipality to involve young people in decision-making