Models for democracy education and participation

Are you wondering how to strengthen societal participation or improve the democracy skills of the youth? On this page, you can find different examples of the activities already implemented in the youth sector!

At Allianssi, we coordinate the Council of Europe Youth Campaign in Finland. As part of this, we have compiled examples of measures and concepts related to democracy education and activities in the youth sector. The aim is to enable the spreading, recording and scaling of good democracy practices among the youth.

Practices: 

Formal ways of influencing

Youth councils strengthen young people’s own voice in decision-making. In order to ensure participation and influencing possibilities for every young person, each municipality must establish a youth council or a similar youth influencer group and take care of its operating conditions. The youth council can also be a shared council of several municipalities. Usually, the members of a youth council are aged 13–18, but the age range varies. 

Youth councils are tasked to make the youth’s voice heard, take a stand on topical issues as well as bring forward initiatives and issue statements. The members of youth councils influence municipal bodies – youth councils may have a right to speak and be present in boards, the municipal council and, at best, even in the municipal government. Youth councils promote dialogue between the youth and the decision-makers and engage the youth in the joint decision-making process. Youth councils also arrange different meetings, campaigns and events.

Learn more: http://www.nuva.fi/inenglish 

Pupil councils of comprehensive schools are a way to learn democracy skills in the children’s own growth environment. A pupil council refers to all the children in the school. The board of a pupil council is a democratically elected body which represents all the pupils in the school. The democratic operating culture represents strong democracy education to which all the children and youth are exposed for several years.

Learn more: https://omaoppilaskunta.fi/in-english/ 

The Youth Parliament operations comprise regular activities arranged by the Parliament and Opinkirjo. In school parliament clubs, children familiarise themselves with society through topical themes and learn how young people can influence and participate. The Youth Parliament culminates in a plenary session in the Parliament arranged once every two years. In spring 2022, it was arranged as a remote meeting which was followed by more than 12,000 pupils in the ninth grade, nearly one quarter of the age group. More than 200 young people, more than 100 teachers and nearly half of the Members of Parliament participated in different discussions and interactions of the event. Under the Youth Parliament concept, different meetings with the Members of Parliament and other activities which inspire societal discussion and thinking are developed every year.

Read more: https://opinkirjo.fi/toiminta/harrastaminen-koulussa/nuorten-parlamentti/ https://www.eduskunta.fi/FI/NuortenEduskunta/NuortenParlamentti/Sivut/default.aspx https://opinkirjo.fi/nuorten-parlamentti-valmistautuminen-istuntoon-2020/ 

The voting age for the church elections was lowered to 16. The voting age in churches was lowered at the legislation level starting from the 2010 election. In addition, each church must have a youth’s influencer group.

Read more: http://nuortenaanikirkossa.fi/ 

Digiraati (Digital Panel) is the online service of the Ministry of Justice where you can participate in discussions about topical issues. The aim of the service is to offer young people under the age of 29 an equal opportunity to make their voices heard in societal issues. In Digiraati, the participants discuss pre-determined topics for 2–3 months. The issues are debated in writing under a pseudonym in the service’s own, closed net forum. The aim is to create a final statement on the discussed topic, which will be forwarded to the decision-makers and published in the service. A trained instructor guides and monitors the discussion and ensures that the discussions progress and are safe and smooth. Panels can be arranged, for example, by the ministries, municipalities, wellbeing services counties, other authorities or civic organisations. The use of the service is free of charge for the panel organisers and participants.

Read more: https://digiraati.fi/

Youth delegates are delegates appointed by Allianssi who represent the voice of their generation, engage in dialogue, highlight the thoughts and wishes of the youth in discussions and influence political processes in Finland and abroad.

The delegates cooperate with each other and with other young people, youth delegates and stakeholders at different levels: nationally, in the Nordic countries, in Europe and globally. The term of the youth delegates lasts two years: the first year in the role of a junior delegate and the second year as a senior delegate supporting and mentoring the new elected delegate. Delegate posts are: UN youth delegates, youth climate delegates, EU youth delegates, NORDBUK youth delegate, UNESCO youth delegate and youth nature delegate. 

Read more: https://nuorisoala.fi/vaikuttaminen/nuorisodelegaatit/ 

The Agenda2030 Youth Group supports the work of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development under the Prime Minister’s Office. Allianssi searches for Group members every spring and the composition of the Group is decided by Allianssi’s Board. The aim of the Agenda2030 Youth Group is to promote sustainable development awareness and implementation of the sustainable development goals throughout Finland and to participate in national discussion on building a sustainable society in Finland and globally, especially as part of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development’s work. The members of the Group are aged 15–28, and they work at grassroots level as well as spar with the decision-makers on sustainable development themes.

Read more: https://nuortenagenda2030.fi/ 

A local resident’s initiative is a local resident’s right to make an initiative for their municipality concerning its operations. A local resident’s initiative can also be made by a minor. All initiatives made in a municipality are processed without undue delay. Measures taken on the basis of the initiative are reported to the person who submitted the initiative. In addition, four per cent of a municipality’s residents who are above the age of 15 can make an initiative on arranging a municipal referendum.

Read more: https://www.kuntalaisaloite.fi/fi/ohjeet 

Bodies

Different organisational bodies, such as Board of Directors and councils, have youth delegates. There may be quotas reserved for young people in the bodies. This makes the youth’s voice heard in the organisational operations, teaches the youth about democracy and increase their self-trust as influencers. 

An organisation may have a separate youth body tasked with emphasising the youth’s own voice and visions in the operations. Some examples of such bodies: 

Seta’s national youth committee comprises ten activists interested in human rights and equality from across Finland. The committee introduces young people’s views on current issues, plans its operations, participates in the planning and implementation of Seta’s youth work as well as represents the organisation in different events and meetings – as well as internationally.

Read more: https://nuoret.seta.fi/nuorisotoimikunta/ 

Suomen Kylät ry’s youth future division prepares and makes proposal on current issues related to the local development and future direction, especially from the youth’s viewpoint. 

Read more: https://suomenkylat.fi/suomen-kylat-ryn-nuorten-tulevaisuusjaosto-aloitti-toimintansa/ 

The national youth committee of the Finnish Red Cross is an expert group appointed by the Finnish Red Cross’ Board dealing with matters related to the world of young people, youth work, youth memberships and young volunteers.

Read more: https://rednet.punainenristi.fi/node/12788 

The youth work group of the Family Federation of Finland acts as the young people’s voice in the Family Federation of Finland, introduces the youth’s views on different operations and projects as well as publishes an online newspaper on sexual rights. The youth work groups promotes the sexual rights and equality of young people. The group organises the annual Veckan Sex sexual education week, influences, gives speeches and lectures and carries out stakeholder work.

Read more: https://www.vaestoliitto.fi/vaestoliitto/nuorisotyoryhma/ 

Upper secondary school teams is a concept established in Lappajärvi Upper Secondary School for the school year 2020-2021. There are four teams: Well-being and sustainable development, Event, Space and Marketing. At the beginning of the school year, each upper secondary school student chooses a team in which they operate. The teams operate independently in accordance with an annual clock they have prepared and they are led by the Board of the student body. The upper secondary school has assigned tasks to the teams, and the teams can propose and orgainse their own activities, if they wish. Some teams have even their own available funds. Teachers help the teams to launch their activities and answer the questions that the teams might have. 

Read more: https://peda.net/lappajarvi/lukio/oppilaskunta

Events and theme days

The youth elections are national elections arranged in comprehensive schools, upper secondary schools and vocational schools. The youth elections are a learning and teaching event for the youth: young people get the opportunity to familiarise themselves with elections, parties and candidates as well as receive practical experience in voting. The youth elections are always organised in connection with the national elections. The candidates of the youth elections are the same ones as in the actual elections. The electoral district is specified by the educational institution’s address and all young people under the age of 18 are eligible to vote. The elections are carried out in Finnish and Swedish. Allianssi coordinates the youth elections. The most recent youth elections were organised in connection with the municipal elections 17–21 May 2021 in cooperation with Yle Uutisluokka and the Association of Finnish Municipalities. A total of 26,687 young people from 150 municipalities voted in these elections.
Read more: https://nuorisoala.fi/palvelut/demokratiakasvatus-ja-osallisuus/nuorisovaalit/ 

The Week of Politics is a national societal influencing theme week for young people arranged by Allianssi once a year. Any youth group, class, student body, youth council, scout troop or hobby team can participate in the theme week. The aim is to learn different ways of influencing both in the immediate environment as well as on the wider global stage and to learn about politics. The educational institutions and youth groups participating in the Week of Politics are offered high-quality learning material which can be used to discuss the annual themes with the youth. The materials are created together with the partners.

Read more: https://nuorisoala.fi/palvelut/demokratiakasvatus-ja-osallisuus/politiikkaviikko/ 

The future seminar for the youth, Church 2030, is an annual event during which young people can address topical themes related to the church and discuss what kind of a church they would like to have in the future.  Two confirmed representatives from each church and Christian organisation is invited to the seminar. At least one of the representatives should be under the age of 18. 

Read more: https://nuortentulevaisuusseminaari.fi/ 

The Youth Climate Policy Round Table is a discussion event which was organised on 24 May 2022. The themes of the discussion included the intergenerational fairness and youth participation in climate-related decision-making. The discussions emphasised the young people should be more strongly engaged in decision-making. In order to strengthen participation, long-term actions extending beyond the government terms and genuine opportunities for the youth to participate and influence were called for. Emma Kari, vice chair of the Round table on climate policy, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, chaired the event. The event organised by the Round table on climate policy and the Ministry of the Environment included young representatives from: Eurooppanuoret, Ilmastosoturit, Maaseutunuoret, Nyyti, Plan International Suomi – Ilmastotsempparit, the Union of Upper Secondary School Students, the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi, the Union of Local Youth Councils in Finland, the Guides and Scouts of Finland, UN Youth of Finland, the National Union of University Students in Finland and WWF Nuoret.

Read more: https://valtioneuvosto.fi/-//1410903/nuorten-ilmastopolitiikan-pyorea-poyta-keskusteli-oikeudenmukaisesta-osallistumisesta-paatoksentekoon 

The Influence! theme day is an event concept utilising gaming methods which aims to inspire and encourage young people to influence. The model was developed together with the youth. This theme day enables interaction between the youth and decision-makers as well as the collection of the thoughts and ideas of the youth to support the decision-making in municipalities and regions. The Influence! theme day is organised by the pupil board, youth council and decision-makers of the municipality in question as well as other cooperation partners. This theme day concept can be utilised in primary schools, lower secondary schools, vocational schools and different youth work environments. This is a diverse and versatile operating model including also organiser training. 

Read more: http://www.nuortensuomi.fi/vaikuta-teemapaiva/

The Are we listening day is an event organised by the City of Rauma during which the youth council, children’s parliament and student boards can ask questions from the city decision-makers and discuss with them. This is a permanent operating method which has been implemented since 2010. 

Read more: https://www.rauma.fi/ajankohtaista/lasten-ja-nuorten-kuulemispaivassa-keskusteltiin-vapaa-ajan-palveluista-ja-pitsiviikosta/ https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/88403/Parjanen%20Mirja.pdf 

The Vaikuta älä valita day (the Influence – don’t complain day), i.e. the V Day has been organised for the 8th graders in Hämeenlinna since 2004. The V Day is part of the democracy education which aims to promote the awareness, responsibility and cooperation of the citizens. The organisation of the V Day is a process during which the pupils familiarise themselves with different channels of influencing, discuss their influencing opportunities and make initiative which are presented to the decision-makers and officials in all lower secondary schools. After the V Day, each lower secondary school sends one initiative to the Youth Summit. In the Youth Summit, arranged since 2013, young people decide on the use of the appropriation (EUR 30,000) allocated to the implementation of the V Day initiatives. The appropriation has been used, for example, to renovate sports facilities, acquire sport equipment, erect walls for street art and organise different events.

Read more: https://www.hameenlinna.fi/varhaiskasvatus-ja-koulutus/nuorisopalvelut/nuorisotoiminta/nuorisotyo-koulussa/v-paiva/

Networks

The Participation Boosters network is a network of professionals working with and interested in the participation themes, which brings together people working in the field to discuss the societal participation of children and young people a couple of times a year. In addition to the meetings, encounters and information exchanges take place in the Facebook group Osallisuuden vahvistajat (Participation boosters) among its nearly a thousand members.

Read more: https://opinkirjo.fi/toiminta/hankkeet-ja-verkostot/osallisuuden-vahvistajat/ 

The Chairpersons network maintained by SAKKI is intended for the chairpersons of the student bodies in vocational schools. The network has its own discussion channel and arranges remote meetings and actual meetings in events organised by SAKKI. The aim is to offer an environment for peer learning and sharing good practices. 

Read more: https://sakkiry.fi/verkosto/ 

Programmes and projects

The Art Testers culture education programme takes all 8th graders across Finland to one or two high-quality art destinations every year, for example, to the opera, a theatre, concert or art exhibition. These visits complement the goals of the curriculum, enable art-driven cooperation between different subjects and offer new learning environments outside the school building. The art experiences are always associated with pre and further assignments which are carried out by the pupils either in the art institution or in the classroom led by the teacher. Art is the cornerstone of a democratic, free and civilised society, which provides a safe arena for multivoiced dialogue concerning even the most challenging issues. The operations are coordinated by the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers. 

Read more: https://taidetestaajat.fi/en 

The Muuttajat! (Movers!) democracy education project increases the awareness concerning the different ways of societal participation of young people who have moved to Finland at the end of their school age and encourages them to participate in their everyday life. In this project, the raising the level of awareness is combined with active doing and the participation methods tailored for the project add value to it. The Movers! project acknowledges the challenges of the immigrant youth related to finding suitable places for participation. Young people who have moved to Finland as teenagers or nearly teenagers need support in participation and are rarely reached by the open youth participation forums. At an annual level, the project reaches approximately 400 young people.  

The Young Operators education programme for young people interested in societal influencing was established as part of the project in 2017. This education programme increases awareness concerning the different ways of influencing, promotes the self-esteem of young people and offers concrete influencing tools. 

Read more: https://plan.fi/tutustu-planiin/tyomme-suomessa/koulutus-ja-kasvatus/maahanmuuttajatyon-hankkeet/ https://plan.fi/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Demokratiakasvatuksen-reittiopas.pdf 

SAKKI organises discussion events for the students and personnel of vocational schools. In these discussions, SAKKI operates as an external facilitator. The discussion events enable the students and personnel to share their views and promote a common dialogue. The discussions have led to concrete development proposals that have been implemented within the educational institution. The operations are part of the Osallistu ja voi hyvin (Participate and feel well) project, which is part of the Oikeus osata (Right to know) development programme. 

The Municipality of Vaala participates in Sitra Lab – Sitra’s own future laboratory. The goal of the municipality is to improve the democratic participation opportunities of the youth, especially on the digital platforms that they are already using. The aim is to create a shared discussion arena and operating model for the municipality, municipal decision-makers and residents where everyone is equal. This lowers the threshold for participating in the decision-making for the youth and have their voices heard. In order to create an easy-to-use discussion arena and operating model that truly meets the needs of the youth and interests them, young people have been engaged in the creation process from the start and multiple means have been utilised to create dialogue. The goal is that other residents of the municipality could also be engaged with the model in the future. A joint democracy day was also arranged for the youth and persons in a position of trust in the Municipality of Vaala in autumn 2021.

Read more: https://www.vaala.fi/hallinto-ja-paatoksenteko/hankkeet/

Training

The Youth Influencer training is a training programme organised by Allianssi which aims to bring together the key actors of the young influencer generation and provide them with even better capabilities to act as the advocates of their generation in different influencing arenas. This four-day training offers the participants capabilities to represent the young generations and promote policy actions relevant for the youth in societal discussions, media and together with the decision-makers and other stakeholders in Finland, Europe and at the global level. A significant part of the training are discussions with experienced decision-makers. The aim is to open up views on politics that are easily overshadowed in the news for the participants. 

Read more: https://nuorisoala.fi/nuorten-vaikuttajakoulutus-saa-jatkoa-syksylla/ 

The three-part series of influencing training, Changemaker, (ABC of changemaking activities) is a training covering the field – from the basics of influencing to more advanced campaign planning. The training is designed for young people and young adults interested in influencing and global issues who are worried about the future of the world. The aim is to provide concrete tools for influencing the world around us and channeling the world-weariness into action as well as to increase the participants’ awareness on global issues, structural injustice and systems thinking. These training sessions are free of charge and have been arranged since 2019. They have been led by the Changemaker network volunteers and have had approximately 100–200 participants annually. Influencing expertise created through the training sessions has been channeled to the participants’ own activities and Changemaker network’s influencing activities for global fairness. 

Read more: https://www.changemaker.fi/ajankohtaista/uutinen/syksyn-vaikuttamistoiminnan-abc-koulutukset

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