YouthUp is an open-source campaign to build a more inclusive politics in Europe

There’s a growing belief among young people that the formal structures presented as the only way to ‘do’ politics simply aren’t working. When parties trade power and voting doesn’t seem to change anything, casting a ballot feels ineffective and disempowering. When democracy is reduced to a darkened, solitary polling booth once every five years as opposed to real opportunities to effect change, young people opt out.

Faced with a political system that doesn’t respond or reflect them, young people are trapped in a vicious circle of disengagement. When young people don’t vote, politicians feel they can be ignored, and policy reflects this – right across Europe, responses to recent economic crises have disproportionately affected people of lower age. Disenchantment and mistrust increase further, and the result is a system where young people’s perspectives simply aren’t considered. Our exclusion from decision-making rises, and the legitimacy of our democracy is undermined. How can the will of the people be represented when such a large part of society simply isn’t accounted for?

Far from being apathetic or disinterested, young people are rejecting out-dated formal political structures in favour of more direct action, such as campaigning for causes that matter to them, volunteering and social movements, online and offline. When we look beyond parties and elections, we see that young people are just as likely to be a member of a youth organisation, protest, petition, or advocate for specific changes. We see young people leading the charge for marriage equality in Ireland, resisting austerity in Spain, or lining up to say yes/no to independence in Scotland.

It’s not that young people aren’t political – they’re just sick of structures that don’t deliver. Democracy needs to be rethought in response. It needs to #youthup.

To meet this critical challenge, the European Youth Forum is leading a Europe-wide reflection on the future of politics in Europe. #youthup is an open-source, youth-led campaign with three main priorities:

1. Crowdsourcing & researching the best ideas

  • Workshops are being run right across Europe asking young people, activists and experts: how can we ensure the future of Europe is sustainable, participatory, inclusive, rights-based, healthy and peaceful?
  • The campaign is open-source: toolkits are freely downloadable so that anyone can take charge and contribute by running their own Youthup workshop.
  • Detailed empirical research on young people’s relationship with democratic life is available to support these workshops and advocacy work.

2. Building a community

All across Europe, citizens are working on common causes with a lot to learn from each other – we want to bring them together. Join the #youthup network!

3. Proposing concrete actions for political change

The best ideas from #youthUP feed into a common youth vision for the Future of Europe, to be used by the European Youth Forum for specific advocacy actions towards high level decision makers when they discuss post-Brexit Europe