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Ways of participation - connecting to Europe

In a bid to enhance citizen engagement and foster deeper connections with Europe, JEF Europe recently organized a workshop in Brussels aimed at gathering insights from experienced youth activists. Held with the intention of sharing best practices and exploring novel methods of citizen involvement, the event drew participants from across Europe, all aged between 21 and 30 years old.

At JEF Europe

The workshop served as a platform for participants to exchange ideas and discuss various strategies for engaging citizens. Among the plethora of approaches discussed were simulations, surveys, strikes, campaigns, political hearings, deliberation sessions, group art projects, the photo method, community bonfires, human libraries, social media actions (including 'ask me anything' sessions and takeovers), consultations, involvement with political parties, trade unionism, meetings with decision-makers, and self-administration.

Throughout the discussions, it became evident that different participatory methods resonate differently with various contexts and target groups. Participants engaged in a nuanced exploration of how these methods could be tailored to specific situations for optimal effectiveness. 

A notable focus of the workshop was on Europe@School, a longstanding program of JEF Europe. Participants highlighted collaborations within this program with stakeholders such as prisons and care homes, emphasizing the importance of reaching out beyond traditional avenues to engage diverse communities.

Simulation games emerged as a particularly effective tool for demystifying complex decision-making structures, with participants agreeing that they provide an accessible and enjoyable means of understanding institutions like the European Union and the European Parliament. Many shared specific examples of these games from the JEF network, highlighting their availability for replication and use by others.

Moreover, there was a recognition of the significance of integrating art and politics, with participants emphasizing the power of artistic expression in fostering collective decision-making and dialogue. The workshop underscored the value of creating art collaboratively as a means of bringing people together and encouraging shared expression.

Participants ultimately concluded that both thematic engagements on specific issues and general discussions about the importance of citizen participation are essential. They emphasized the need to tailor engagement approaches based on the target group and context at hand.

The workshop served as a testament to the commitment of youth activists to innovative and inclusive forms of citizen engagement. As Europe continues to navigate complex challenges, initiatives like these offer promising avenues for fostering a more connected and participatory society.