Youth engagement is the “Elephant in the room” for many CSOs and LAs working with young people on the 2030 Agenda.
There are tools that are mistakenly deemed to be a magic wand that CSOs and LAs can swirl in the air to get youth engaged. An example? Youth trending social media, such as Tik Tok or Instagram, are among the most inflated one to mention. Another common misunderstanding occurs when awareness-raising initiatives are wrongfully considered to pursue active engagement of youth. Indeed, launching a communication campaign to inform not always mean to gain the commitment of youth towards a cause.
Youth engagement: It’s complicated!
As CSOs and LAs-led projects display a varying degree of expertise towards the engagement of youth, Mindchangers had to find a tool which would have helped them measuring to what extent youth are engaged. Thus, Mindchangers has gone through the realization of a research on “How to shift from awareness to active engagement on Agenda 2030 for LAs and CSOs”: a joint effort involving six different universities belonging to the countries of the consortium.
The results of this research will be presented in a Practice Guide that is being revised and will be published soon. Along with many recommendations, the guide provides the “Pyramid of Engagement”: a tool suggested by the Dear Programme and used within the Mindchangers project.
 Image 1 Pyramid of Engagement
 “Youth engagement refers to the direct or indirect participation of young people in a variety of actions addressing issues of local or global interest. Engagement is a step-by-step process that allows for the manifestations of interests, beliefs and convictions, and that becomes a pattern of thought, experience and action – in other words, a way of living.”
It foresees three-macro level of engagement: “Indirect”, “Awareness” and “Engagement”. Each of these levels feature from one to four sub-level. Stepping up from the bottom to the top of the pyramid is hard as it depends on many factors.
The experience of “Quartier Circolare”
In the latest weeks we have had a talk with Ester Graziano, project manager of Quartier Circolare, a subgranted project in Piedmont. Ester gave us a glimpse into what factors and elements of a project might help an organization scales-up the pyramid.
“The path that led us to devise “Quartier Circolare” has its origin on a previous experience. Thanks to “Metti in circolo il cambiamento”, a global citizenship education project, we realized how crucial it was to make available to young people a range of tools and opportunities”.
A statement emphasizing the importance of giving young people a voice, allowing them to access actions they can build and develop on. In few words it is important to provide active means of participation with tangible outputs.
It has been the case of the “Ideas Challenge”, a one-day Hackaton held on the 16th of July. Four teams of youth challenged themselves in finding a solution that would have helped recycling and reducing the waste in a city district of Turin. Championing the circular design approach, the teams have been guided through a step-by-step process to develop four ready-made ideas. The Hackaton has been supervised by Andrés Ortiz, designer at Off Grid Italia, a project partner of “Quartier Circolare”, and the award-winning idea got 3000€ to its implementation.
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An activity like the “Ideas Challenge” allows youth to develop an idea from scratch. Thus, they feel themselves more engaged and not as passive as final beneficiaries or executors of something that had been decided by someone else.
Stefania, a team member of the “Esausti” group, explains in what consist the award-winning idea that will be implemented in the next months.
“Citizens will be informed through the placement of a booth during one of the events planned by “Quartier Circolare” project in September. We will invite citizens to bring their own waste oil, we are talking about vegetable oil, and through a tutorial will be explained how to dispose it properly.”
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Recommendations and tips such as the one mentioned by Ester Graziano will be soon available in the Practical Guide. If you are willing to skyrocket the engagement of youth in your future projects don’t miss it out.
“Quartier Circolare – Giovani protagonisti del cambiamento” is led by LVIA in partnership with Off Grid Italia and Legambiente Metropolitano. The project aims at engaging youth in actions of environmental citizenship to be developed in their own communities. The project targets two main groups of youth (age 20-30): one from a peripheral district in Turin and another from the Senegalese city of Mbao.