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Youth-Led Civic Spaces – The Research Report

Youth-Led Civic Spaces – The Research Report 2560 1707 our civic space

The reason we started this partnership was because we could see that on so many levels civic spaces for young people were being challenged or claimed by others. This was the case in politics, but also in education, public spaces, etc. Therefore, for the partnership it was important to find out exactly to what extent the situation was pressing for the organisations in question and their partners, as well as for the youth and youth workers. In order to gather this insight and create the report, a three-tiered process was followed. 

  1. First, background research had to be done on the information available on the theme in existing literature, based on which ICDI provided an extensive analysis.
  2. This literature research was then followed by the partners through gathering national insights to create a baseline of the context of Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic and the Netherlands – as well as some information from Mali and Kenya. Also, each partner provided a case study in which they described a best practice from the field, on how civic spaces were created or maintained within their organisation. 
  3. The final step was for the partners to have conversations with youth and youth workers about their view on the (lack of) civic spaces around them. By doing this, we ensured their involvement in the process and managed to get their thoughts on how to improve the civic spaces, to learn from them and to think about solutions – together. The aim was to learn from them and use this knowledge for the fulfillment of the report.

By gathering all this information, ICDI was able to produce an extensive report on the context of youth-led civic spaces, and came up with several recommendations on how to tackle this problem yourself – whether you are a youth, a youth worker, or just want to make a difference (for the youth) in your community. Want to know more about the report, read the recommendations or the ideas that we gathered from the youth and youth workers? You can read the report here.

Want to join the dialogue on civic spaces and how to make them (more) youth-led? Go to our chat and share your thoughts!

Written by ISA

Improving civic space in the Czech Republic

Improving civic space in the Czech Republic 900 600 our civic space

How work-camps and fair-play football contribute to improving civic space in the Czech Republic

INEX-SDA can be considered as a platform for voluntary initiatives, which organises different types of activities for the development and empowerment of youth. In our case study we will focus on 2 concrete activities: workcamps and the league of fair-play football. 


Work-camps are local and international stays that provides manual and non-manual support on a voluntary basis to local communities. The regular season of work-camps is usually from May to September and is coordinated among different organisations around the world. INEX-SDA coordinates the sending of Czech volunteers to work-camps abroad and also the implementation of work-camps in the Czech Republic for international and local volunteers. Around 2000 work-camps are organised abroad and 35 in the Czech Republic. The work-camps last from 3 days to 3 weeks and offer a variety of themes from community development, restoration of historical landmarks, social projects to environmental projects. Every year around 450 volunteers are sent abroad and on average we host also 350 volunteers in the Czech Republic. 

The league of fair-play football 

The league of fair-play football is another initiative which focuses on local youth and especially on young people between the ages of 10 to 18 years who are more at risk of social challenges. We organise this league in cooperation with around 30 local youth and social centres in 6 different regions of Czech Republic. The clients of those clubs are young people, who spend their free time and after-school time on a voluntary basis in those clubs. There they can receive support and consultation with regards school, health or other types of challenges they may face. It is also a place where they can meet and play with other young people alike in a free and safe environment. In addition some of those clubs take part in our league of fair-play football, which is played from September to June, once per month. This league is based on the principle of self-determination by players. That means that each game is played according to the rules that both teams need to agree on before the matches. So each match is preceded by a discussion, where players discuss and agree on the rules they want to apply for that game. Afterwards they play and once the match is finished the teams meet again and debrief about the match. They discuss if the rules were respected, if there was any unfair or controversial situation, they point out the positive aspects of the match and eventually they award each other a number of fair-play points in accordance with the point system defined for each league. So each match ends with points for the match and points for the fairness of the game. This process is facilitated by mediators who help the players to come to an agreement and also reflect on the games. This supports the development of important competence among the players, such as how to express an opinion clearly, group speaking, decision making, compromising and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. 

Civic spaces and INEX-SDA

Civic spaces are connected with democracy and a space for expression and sharing opinions, but also simply a place where to meet. An important element is that a civic space should have the function to do something beneficial for society. Also, a civic space should include a diverse mix of people. Most of INEX-SDA’s youth are and take part in the activities of NGOs on a voluntary basis. Most of those activities involve the gathering of young people who share the same values or interest (ex. Czech-German culture or language or a social cause like helping migrants). In a majority of cases, the trigger for youth to be engaged in civic spaces was the experience with other international young people, either through a university, a school exchange programme or a youth exchange. The reference from another person or friend was also mentioned has triggering the first step into civic spaces. To be surrounded by other active young people encourages them to also take part in similar activities. 

In terms of obstacles to become engaged in civic spaces, INEX’s youth stated the lack of initial information and the need to find the information by your own. The access to information is a big challenge for youth to become engaged. Additionally it seems that there is a lack in diversity in the civic spaces, which creates opportunities for the same type and profile of people, eventually creating a bubble of people that has access to the same civic spaces. Financial needs often also prevent youth from taking part in civic spaces. Finally, in general cities offer many more opportunities than villages or rural areas. In terms of improving this, the school can play an important role in raising awareness about those possibilities – at the moment it is not doing it enough. A more progressive educational system is required. A system where pupils are presented with options to get involved in civic spaces but also a system that asks them to develop their critical thinking. The second path is also the awareness made by the media, which remains low. Internet advertising is also something which could help young people to find some more opportunities. 

  • Work-camps: The work-camps provide space for gathering of people from different social horizons and that is a space for sharing and inspiration to be active further after the work-camp ends. Also, work-camps help into enlarging the target group and access as it brings people from different social and geographical backgrounds together. 
  • Football fair-play league: an advantage as opposed to work camps, is that the participants learn the values while accessing and participating in the fair-play league. They don’t necessarily have the values of civic responsibility in them, whereas at the work-camps the expectation is that you would already share those values and hence you would take part in the work-camps. It also builds an inclusive bridge between different target groups (young people at risk and not at risk, local communities, social workers, students, etc.). 

Written by INEX