There is a pressing need for governments—especially local governments—to develop and implement effective youth engagement initiatives which can: remediate a growing disconnection of young people from other parts of society, government, and conventional representative democracy; build skills, knowledge, networks, and relationships; support cultural diversity, tolerance, and integration; and provide decisions which are relevant to needs and wants of young people. Despite the increasing levels of rhetoric and action and much speculation about potential costs and benefits of youth engagement by local government, there are substantial gaps in the knowledge of the nature about the nature and effect of initiatives in practice. As a reaction to these gaps on our knowledge, this paper presents a case study that interrogates the context, the ends (objectives and outcomes), and the means (structures and processes) of innovative youth engagement initiatives at a Swedish local governments that faces large challenges in economic and community diversity terms. Such an exploration of a relatively new phenomenon can assist in informing practice and further research. The study identifies and describes the context, means and ends of a range of innovative and bold youth engagement projects, and the findings stress the need for local governments to be very clear and explicit when designing and implementing youth engagement, as to how much its role is as a “democracy actor”—seeking better government and better communities—and how much encapsulates being a “service delivery” actor—aiming at better decisions about policies, programs and services.
|Keywords:||Youth Engagement, Local Government, Economic and Social Diversity|
Senior Lecturer, College of Business and CTSR, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Educational Consultant, Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Professor, Goteborg Research Institute, University of Borås, Sweden