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SMS panel

Who

Västerås stads Gymnasie- och vuxenutbildning

Why

To simplify the influence process so that a large number of young persons get to participate and have a saying in the political decision process. This is a way to ensure that all youth regardless of political interest or awareness get to have a say in the process of local political decision making.

What

SMS-panel (Short Message Service-panel)

Young persons, most of them between the ages of 12-20, answer questions that are sent from the municipality to their cellphones.

The method is designed considering the second step in the latter of participation (the Swedish version) which is consultation. On this level of participation the individuals have a limited influence on the subject.

The questions are often designed so that the young are given the possibility to choose between a set of fixed answers. They can also be asked to answer on a scale from 1-10 how much they appreciate something or agree or disagree in a matter. These types of answers are possible to compare in a quantitative survey. It is also possible to ask open questions but text messages don´t allow too long answers.

How

Young persons answer questions sent from the municipality using their cellphones.

To reach out and collect phone numbers we use the method young2young by involving Youth Consultants. They approach the adolescents where they meet, trying to catch their interest. They are asked if they want to be involved in, and have the possibility to 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 persons are unique and needed to build a sustainable society.

We use specially designed cards and ask for their cellphone number, year of birth, gender and residential area. This gives us the possibility to ensure that we have a mixture of ages, genders, cultures and backgrounds.

The data is saved in a web based service called Pixie. This is a web service that offers the possibility to send out text messages (SMS) to a large group of recipients. It is also possible to receive answers via Pixie, and to view and analyze them in an Excel file. This makes it possible to compare the different variables registered to each participant.

The SMS-panel is managed by a professional, whose responsibilities include handling the data and delivering the results to the responsible official. The professional also publishes the results on our website and sometimes also in social media or communicates the result directly by SMS to everyone in the SMS-panel.

Youth Consultants are trained during a summer project of 3 weeks. The first week is training where learning about the SMS-panel is one thing amongst others. They are supervised during the three weeks of work by professionals.

It is straight forward to implement an SMS-board/panel. Once you know that the municipality is interested in listening to the voices of youth, you can start collecting participants to the SMS-board. This project is replicable and can be adapted to different environments.

When

This method can be used at the beginning of a youth dialogue process to increase the commitment amongst youth and to ensure that we reach a diversity of adolescents.

Effect

About 1000 young persons are contacted through SMS approximately 10 times a year. About 35% of them answer each question, which gives us about 300 answers on every question. Within 20 minutes most of the answers are delivered. After one day no more answers appear, so It´s a very quick and effective method. Each time the SMS goes out it is also assessed by the different variables. The effect is instant. A stronger assessment would be to ask the politicians how effective they think the method is to them, but that is yet to be.

We show that it doesn’t have to be complicated to participate in the society and be part of the decision making process. It’s a first-step-in which involve even those with a very low level of political engagement.

Assessment

Effectiveness:

High degree / regularly

Gender sensitivity:

High degree / regularly

Culture sensitivity:

High degree / regularly

Doable (practical):

High degree / regularly

Participatory:

High degree / regularly

Replicable and adaptable:

High degree / regularly

Assessment/evaluated:

Minimal / low

Type of good practice

Practical tool

Themes

Democratic dialogue, Social inclusion, Youth civic participation

Duration

Continuously

Type of activity

Group activity

Resourses

‘Youth consultants’, professional, Cards, Pixie.se, Excel, Project methodology manual, Evaluation report.

Contact

Marika Hämeenniemi

Sweden