Sweden, Västerås stad, Ungdomsdialog
To ensure that all youth regardless of political interest or awareness gets to have a say in the process of local political decision making.
UNIK is a method used to involve vulnerable young people in foras for democratic dialogue. It has been devised by Youth Dialogue, which is an activity financed by the city council of Västerås. It is thereby well imbedded in the organisational structure.
The method is based on studies of young people's different political engagements by Professor Erik Amna, University of Örebro. He says that it is usually the politically active young people who are asked when politicians want dialogue with young people. Since they only amount to 6% of the youth population, the three other groups amounting to 94% are mostly forgotten and have no say. Youth Dialogue has chosen to focus on forming a group with a representative selection, recruiting from groups that do not usually speak up, using the UNIK method.
The main tool is very simple and consists of four postcards. On one side there is a short text describing the engagement type and on the backside there is a form where the youth can register to join UNIK. Young people who do not usually identify with concepts like politics read the description of the different political engagement groups, and see that the material applies to them regardless of how they identify themselves.
To reach young people we approach them where they meet, trying to catch their interest. We ask if they want to be involved in and influence local politics. Usually the answer is no and they start to walk away. Our answer to that is: that's good: in that case you're just the one we want to talk to! This gives us an opening to make our point; that all young people are unique and needed to in order to build a sustainable society. We show that we accept that young people have different levels of political engagement, and that their opinion still counts.
With the information on the backside of the cards we have created a panel of over 300 young people spread in Västerås and surroundings. The group consists of an even mixture of genders and backgrounds. This is also reflected in the young people who attend our meetings.
Each year we have about five workshops where important issues that concern young people are discussed. To make all participants equal they are divided into groups, independent on what group they originally belonged to. The message is reinforced by the material showing what the colours represent, giving each participant an identity.
To reach young people we (Project Manager and UNIK Consultants) approach them where they meet, trying to catch their interest. We ask if they want to be involved in and influence local politics. Usually the answer is no and they start to walk away. Our answer to that is: That's great! In that case, you're just the one we want to talk to. This gives us an opening to make our point; that all young people are unique and needed to build a sustainable society.
Pre-training Information meetings are held.
We show that we accept that young people have different levels of political engagement, and that their opinion still counts.
The project is managed by a Project Manager, whose responsibilities include coordinating, facilitating and record keeping. 14 ‘Youngster’ UNIK Consultants are trained in the project methodology and active listening skills. 440 ‘Youngsters’ are being supported by UNIK Consultants and professional staff through regular voluntary meetings/workshops.
This is an effective project based on youngster’s feedback, an increasing number of attendance at the meetings and a greater diversity of engagement groups amogst the particpants. Numbers have increased from an average of 2-3 to 30-40.
This method can be used at the beginning of a youth dialogue process to increase the commitment of young people and to ensure that we reach a diversity of young people.
Postcards, posters and roll-ups.