Civil society in the southern Baltic States has not yet become a significant force in the shaping of active youth attitudes and related social processes. Without well-organised and determined leadership and targeting our actions, local youth institutions will continue to work individually, on a smaller scale. This is why we have created an international network that brings together local and regional actors and aims to form coalitions to solve what are more often wider international problems.
South Baltic Youth Core Group Network is the result of an international project of the same name. The aim of the network is to connect institutions and people (administration, NGOs, local government institutions, youth organisations, young people, etc. ), which have the potential to strengthen and support civic engagement of young people.
The Youth Core Groups Network consists of informal cooperation and is based, on the one hand, on the exchange of information and experience and, on the other hand, on jointly undertaken actions and activities in which all or only an interested part of its members may become involved.
The network operates on two levels – local and regional/trans-border.
LOCAL STRUCTURE, where we invite you to debates and meetings within local communities – municipalities, local governments, etc. The aim of these activities is to bring together, meet and join forces of representatives of different environments – authorities, offices, institutions, organisations (NGOs and others) and young people to increase the influence of young people on decisions made in these environments. We worked, among other things on the subject of scholarships for young people, public transport, city parks or the activities and program of local community centers. As an example of local activities, we propose the so called “round table” method, which is developed by the project SBYCGN (2018-2020). More on the method in the Annex.
REGIONAL/TRANSBORDER STRUCTURES, where we recommend organizing forums for representatives of several local communities. These forums serve primarily to exchange experience and good practice (e. g. developed in the framework of Network meetings at local level). The forum is an opportunity to learn about issues that have proven to be important in other communities and countries and that can inspire similar ones in your local community. The forums are also an opportunity to discuss common topics, training and initiatives (e. g. projects) in a broader sense more so than just local coalitions.
PORTAL sbycgn.eu collects, on the one hand, information about the activities of the South Baltic Youth Groups Network and, on the other hand, knowledge and experience gained from the Network’s activities to date (and beyond).
Form of activity:
At local level, meetings concentrated around chosen topic take place in form of “round table” debates. The main purpose of such meetings is the debate of representatives of local authorities (political representatives, administration and subordinate units) with young people.
Round table meetings take place in accordance with a specific scenario and include workshops and a discussion section in which 20 to 70 people can participate.
Who, apart from young people, can join or take part in Network activities?
1. Diagnosis and topic selection.
At this stage, it is very important to remember that the subject selected for the debate should meet several conditions:
a) The topic should be interesting and concern young people. If the topic is completely unrelated to the everyday life of young people in a given community, it will be difficult to encourage young people to participate in the debate and express their opinion (because they may not even have one).
b) The topic should be accepted by the decision-makers and should concern a subject or area that is or will be subject to change and the voice of young people will be taken into account. The most important thing is that the chosen topic and the decisions following it have real potential for implementation.
c) The topic should be well formulated, concrete.
In other words, already at the stage of choosing a topic, there should be cooperation between the authorities and young people. The assistance of the Youth Council, which is close to the needs of its peers and is a valuable intermediary between young people in general and the authorities, is particularly useful here. Another way is to make a social diagnosis.
Examples of topics implemented in the project are: setting new rules for youth scholarships, equipment and location of „pocket parks”, adjusting public transport to the needs of residents.
2. Organisation of the debate
2.1. Selection of local organizations.
At the beginning, it should be considered which local youth institutions and organisations would be worthwhile to include in the debate, especially with regard to the chosen topic for work. It is good to involve different communities – especially young people – as well as to ensure the participation of different groups: young people from informal groups, people from the city council, but also other organisations and media.
For example, the project roundtables were attended by such circles as a youth orchestra, the Polish Red Cross youth group, school authorities and pupils, NGOs, sports clubs, local cultural centres, representatives of municipal transport companies, etc. These were often institutions directly involved in the topic.
2.2. Selection of date and place for the round table
The representatives of the authorities (in cooperation with the youth council) choose the place and time of the event. We recommend choosing a free form, outside the office, in the afternoon (2 PM is a very good time), after lessons, but still during the office hours. It is also good to consult the deadline with the municipality’s calendar so that it does not turn out that representatives of the authorities cannot come because of other obligations. It depends on the place and time of the debate whether the young people will come and how free they will feel to express themselves.
2.3. Sending out invitations
It is up to the organiser, i. e. the local authority, to decide on the way and form of the invitation. The most effective method of promotion in the project turned out to be slippery mail (i. e. young people invited young people) and personal invitations. You should invite at least two weeks in advance. It would be good to somehow promote the event to young people and potentially interested organisations. Contact with the media is best established by the office.
2.4. Organisation of the debate
The choice of the form of the meeting is up to the organizer. The SB YCGN project has developed a framework for debate using the world cafe method, which can be adapted to local needs (in annex). This method is mainly based on working in groups, to which topics are assigned. The participants are divided into groups and each works in turn at each table so that each participant has the opportunity to speak on each topic. It is worth making sure that the tables are moderated by people who know the topic of the meeting (e. g. from NGOs, youth organisations – depending on the subject), but not representatives of the authorities (in order not to intimidate the discussants). Examples of sub-topics to the subject of scholarship for young people include the award criteria, the form of payment of the scholarship, or taking into account the financial situation of the applicants.
This debate is not only a discussion of young people on a specific topic, but should also include elements of recommendations and working out conclusions for the future. It is important that it does not end with just a description of the state of reality, e. g. that no one talks to the youth, listens to them or takes them seriously at school. Moderators should therefore ensure that constructive conclusions are drawn, e. g. If there are arguments about difficulties, it is necessary to work with the group to reformulate these conclusions in order to resolve the situation.
It is crucial to ensure that every participant, regardless of age and function, has an equal voice in the discussion and can be heard.
3. Public hearing
Another element of the method is a „public hearing”. After passing the diagnosis stage, young people should be able to present conclusions and recommendations for further work on the chosen topic and their participation in the decision-making process to the decision makers. A public hearing may take place for example at a meeting of the Municipal Council or the Commission. The aim is, on the one hand, to collect and summarise the conclusions of the debate and to present them to the authorities, who can continue to work with them. On the other hand, showing young people that their voice is heard and important.
The last stage of the whole process is of course the implementation of the developed recommendations. The extent to which the voice of young people will be taken into account and the implementation of the decisions taken is of course up to the authorities. Nevertheless, it is very important to inform the young people about how and when their application will be handled further and about the results it has produced. Even if the recommendations are not accepted, it is important that young people are informed about the reasons for this.
The South Baltic Youth Groups Network is an open and informal structure. Everyone can benefit from the knowledge and experience gathered within its framework (e. g. through the portal). We invite all those willing to get involved in the network’s activities, young people, representatives of authorities and institutions, non-governmental organizations. The main objective of the Network is precisely to involve young people in the public decision-making process and to increase their influence in the communities.
2. Partnership and cooperation
The essence of the Network is partnership and cooperation. At the heart of this is cooperation in local communities – meeting young people with representatives of authorities, institutions and involved organisations and working together on specific decisions taken in the local community. Each party shall be kept informed of all stages of jointly initiated activities and their results. At the wider cross-border level, cooperation is based primarily on the equal sharing of experience, knowledge and advice, as well as on joint initiatives.
In our Network, every volume is equal. Whether you are a representative of the authorities, a school pupil, a youth counselor, a researcher or president of a non-governmental organization, a citizen of Poland or Sweden – everyone has an equal voice and everyone has the right to speak and be heard.
4. Education, awareness raising.
Knowledge sharing and training elements are inherent to network activities. Anyone can use the knowledge accumulated on the portal. . . One of the recommendations in organizing meetings on a wider – regional forum is to include training forms in them, so that they can become a source of inspiration and knowledge on how to introduce changes e. g. in their local communities. Thanks to the Network, more and more people (not only young people) have the opportunity to experience or learn how important it is to participate in public life.
The Network’s activities contribute to the integration of the local community through meetings and local cooperation. In addition, cooperation on a wider cross-border level enables partners with different cultural backgrounds to get to know and understand each other, thus contributing to cross-border and international integration.
6. Responsibility and transparency
Network partners working to increase the influence of young people on community decisions (local or international) are responsible for the commitments they have made. They shall ensure that all parties involved are informed of the consequences of joint actions, e.g.the authorities shall inform the participants in the local debates whether and how the proposals have been implemented.
7. Sharing of experience
The exchange of experience and good practices is one of the pillars of the Network. By sharing with partners (through a portal, meetings or other means), network members can inspire and learn from each other on both positive and negative examples.
8. Involvement of young people
Decisions and actions for or on behalf of young people should be taken with their participation. As the subject of the Network’s activities is to involve young people in decision-making and to increase their civic participation, they themselves should be involved in all the Network’s activities.