Active Citizenship in Europe

Article published on May 27, 2008
Article published on May 27, 2008
Art enthusiast may know Urbino for its affiliation with great Renaissance artists such as Raphael, others may know the city for its peculiar population rate (more students than actual inhabitants.
) Lately, however, Urbino has been put on the map by a series of successful international meetings on youth policies where youth from all over Europe regularly meet to discuss important themes such as European integration and active citizenship. Now at its fourth consecutive year, this meeting (IV International Meeting on Youth Policies) was created with the aim of providing an opportunity for mutual exchange between young people, administrators and youth organizations. The focus this year was on languages and tools that can be used to promote the values of active citizenship and the emphasis was mostly on the ‘how’: how youth associations collaborate with local governments, how to communicate successfully with younger generations, what methods and strategies are employed by youth organizations to engage students and more. The organizers were particularly interested in projects based at the local and European level, and wanted to encourage the creation of a sustainable net of relationships among those involved. TakingITGlobal was there to represent young people from all over the world, and to discuss how its Web 2.0 tools can be a valuable asset in the promotion of active citizenship.

The meeting itself included three days of debates, presentations and workshops and was populated by enthusiastic groups of Italians and Europeans. Day 1 started with a mini-documentary by Pietro Conversano in which Chiara, a 16 year old from Pesaro, investigated the state of youth involvement and active citizenship in her region. At first, the documentary presented a bleak vision of today’s society, one that reinforced the same stereotypes about youth: that they are apathetic, uninvolved and informed. It then ended on a positive note- highlighting what was also the underlying theme of the conference: the need for an ‘active citizenship curriculum’ and more resources to allow youth to get involved.

Day 2 was the most interesting and dynamic day of all, the day where young people were given the opportunity to lead the actual debates through the use of the Open Space Technology (OST). This model was created with the idea that the most interesting conversations/projects occur during ‘unofficial’ moments of a conference (like coffee breaks) because that’s the only time when the participants have a chance to discuss what really interests them. With the OST model attendees are asked to generate the meeting agenda, and people participate by leading small group break-out sessions during the meeting time. It was a very successful model for this type of conference because it gave youth a chance to explore a wide variety of themes related to active citizenship- and to do so in several languages. At the end the results of the various workshops were collected in a book of reports that was printed that same night.

Day 3 saw youth and local authorities discuss issues important for youth and ask challenging questions to the authorities- with the European delegates sharing their experiences as well. One of the most important outcomes of this meeting was the general call for better tools to interact with authorities and for youth organizations to share important resources. Most of these tools are already part of the Web 2.0 family, but do not yet enjoy a wide recognition everywhere in Europe. Instruments like blogs, wikis, and podcasts, however, can do much to inspire information-sharing and cross-cultural action. Now that Europeans are increasingly interconnected as a result of European integration policies, using the Web 2.0 for social change is more than a utopia- it offers a real possibility for international involvement and personal participation. TakingITGlobal’s work is precisely that of providing these tools for free to young people so that they can be inspired, informed and involved- at the European level and beyond.

To know more about the conference: IV International Meeting on Youth Policies, May 13-17, 2008 in Urbino, Italy.

To find out more about TakingITGlobal: