Youth involvement

Focus Groups for the Here To Stay programme

Focus Groups for the Here To Stay programme 800 533 our civic space

Focus Groups for the Here To Stay programme

This story will focus on an incredibly important step when it comes to improving civic spaces: having a discussion with the audience you are targeting. This story will give an overview of the focus groups that were held with both young people and youth workers in light of the Here To Stay (HTS) programme. These focus groups were held in all the four countries that took part in this programme. They were generally small (less than eight people) mixed with both male and female participants and they took not much more than a few hours each. Yet, they provided the HTS programme with some important new insights and understandings of what the important aspects are when talking about civic space.

Young people
The focus groups with young people showed that, when taken seriously and listened to, lots of good ideas are being produced. Young people can see what is needed and they have realistic views and wishes. Young people have an eye for their peers and those who are in vulnerable positions. They are sensitive to changes in their environments and can easily come up with measures that need to be taken. They want to bring life to unused spaces and are very capable in using the internet to create civic spaces. They also do not like to be ‘left alone’ but like to be part of a group, community and society, and don’t want to be left out, isolated or ‘locked up’ in their own often ethnically or socio-economically defined bubbles.   

When it comes to improving youth involvement, something that was often mentioned by young people was raising awareness for it. This would help young to identify better the opportunities to get involved in society. Information plays an important role in this respect. Media should highlight good things done by young people as well as bad things. Furthermore, schools should play a greater role into speaking more about active citizenship and thus creating more awareness about the different options that are available to be actively engaged as a young person. 

Below, some interesting quotes that came from different focus groups with young people are mentioned. 

“We would welcome opportunities in which we learn to express ourselves better, to make it easier for us to find work, to shape our social relationships.” – Focus group Hungary

“Although we have turned parks, pubs, or pedestrian areas nearby city attractions into gathering spots, there is a lack of spaces specifically designed for us. We are thought to go there, because we have nowhere else to go to, not because the environment could offer opportunities for personal growth and  development.” – Focus group Romania

Youth workers
Youth workers who took part in the focus groups know what is good for young people and can express their wishes in clear statements that can easily be translated in both effective and feasible local practices and policies. It seems that this knowledge has its foundation in their special personality and commitment. They are genuinely interested in ‘helping’ young people and also know how to listen to them and respect them. In their turn, local governments would be wise to listen to- and respect youth workers.

Below, some interesting quotes that came from different focus groups with youth workers are mentioned.

Organised activities are not always wanted by the youth. And there are not so many opportunities for ‘non-organised’ activities/places or sometimes they are reducing those opportunities. For example, a bench would be removed if groups of youth would gather around and be a bit noisy or messy.” – Focus group Czech Republic

The online world is the space they occupy. They are there all day. They use a variety of spaces online and live in another world. Online, you have to communicate very quickly, differently, catch them in a second or you’ll lose them in a second. Grab and keep their attention and you can discuss ‘wider’ things concerning their well-being and ‘space’.” – Focus group The Netherlands

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Written by ISA