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In-depth case studies and first results

PARTISPACE has just entered the third year of its runtime. The end of the second year was marked by the production of reports for all 8 cities covered by the project. The reports for the first time drew together the results of 6 in-depth case studies on young people’s engagements per city. Here is a short summary of preliminary findings from these in-depth case studies.

case studies development

To develop our cases, 193 expert interviews and 96 city walks or group discussions with young people were conducted which permitted us to map the local situation in each of the 8 PARTISPACE cities.

Before this backdrop, 48 cases were selected according to the following criteria:

– Formal, non-formal, informal forms of youth participation initiatives

– Differentiating factors: age, social categories (gender, class, ethnicity, education), accessibility of group vs. commitment of individuals; private expressions and public claims; regular, occasional and episodic activities; different kinds of public.

The main results of the fieldwork can be displayed into three items:

  • What young people say about the meanings of participation: for them, participation is both something individual and something collective. They talk about self-development and empowerment, personal satisfaction, the run of their own future, but also about belonging, being recognised, being useful.
  • Issues and forms of engagement: Some of the practices are mainly concerned with appropriating space for youth cultural activities and coping with social control, others are engaged in spontaneous cultural or social issues. Only few young people are explicitly engaged in formal political activities while some political groups have formed own networks or organisations.

All young people, even those involved in formal forms of participation, tend to favour informal forms of participation which are associated with being closely connected to their needs and interest, more flexible and resulting in visible effects

  • The relationship with politics and public authorities: The findings confirm the picture of distance, distrust and alienation of young people from the institutions. Those who are engaged in informal political activities consider public authorities as their main opponent, those engaged in formal forms of participation tend to spend a lot of time and energies in appropriating structures which do not fit to their life styles and purposes.

Most of them refuse to have anything to do with politics whereas their activities are politicised (they are involved with migrants or vulnerable populations, they are concerned by ecology or health for instance).

  • Motives of participation rarely result directly from politics or social activities but from needs of belonging, visibility and recognition. A question to be further analysed is what makes young people ‘translate’ these needs into more abstract and public issues. This implies that forms of ‘everyday life participation’ – practices of young people concerned with coming along with the contradictory demands of everyday life – needs to be interpreted as political or social as institutionalised forms of participation.
  • Places of participation: young people reflect a lot upon their lack of free spaces and say a lot about what an ideal space of participation could look like. The overarching factors that make these spaces attractive are their compatibility with youth cultures and peer contexts and their potential to reconcile contradicting demands in their everyday lives