Open Government Partnership
Causing ‘Good Trouble’ in democracy | Open Government Partnership Youth Town Hall conversations
Attending the online Open Government Partnership (OGP) Youth Strategy Town Hall session last month was an insightful opportunity to hear directly from young people around the world as to what they want to see from their governments in the coming years. Often considered a harder to reach audience in gaining views on government, this conversation was something special.
Beyond the ballot box
This was a key theme echoed in the session, which saw young people calling in from a wide range of countries, including Ghana, Italy, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, the USA, the UK and beyond, to passionately discuss what the new youth strategy should focus on. The outcomes of this conversation will be what the Open Government Partnership will positively advocate for governments to address.
Expertly moderated by OGP committee members @aeyakuze and @blairglencorse, the session kicked off with a discussion into democracy and open government- are the two different or the same? A resounding consensus was met on the two being almost unquestionably interlinked- ‘can we really have democracy without open government?’ As an Open Government policy officer, this was music to my ears.
Mentimeter boards clustered ideas and aspirations for the future of countries by 2030, with suggestions including:
- free of corruption
- green powered
- most digitally innovative
- more self-aware
Strong and decisive ideas of what they want to build their countries to be.
But how were these visions going to come about, and where and how could young people better participate?
From the conversations that unfolded, the following key actions were drawn up by the young people on the call into how to better enable and empower them to participate in shaping democracy:
- the need for a focus on electoral integrity,
‘is my vote being meaningfully counted?’
‘we elect leaders but individuals have their own itinerary’
‘safe spaces are needed so young people know their views are being listened to and that this is not done in a performative way, which it often has done’
‘1. Engaging youths on policy making process. 2. Sharing relevant data with the youths to build trust and patriotism. 3. Providing rooms for youth to speak out their views in policy making’
- the need for civic education and a focus on rights
‘young people need to be adequately informed of what their rights are’
‘need to develop skills and capacity to advocate for those rights (youth rights, women’s rights, disability rights etc.)’
‘we may have knowledge but are not sure how/or which processes to follow’
‘young people need to run for elected office- the age barrier needs to be de-mystified’
‘Imbed as part of school education or curriculum. Debate, deliberation and dialogue should be encouraged in education to cement critical thinking’.
- the centrality of digital governance
‘it is what citizens interact with on a daily basis’
‘need to be making use of tech and digital spaces where young people spend a lot of their time’
‘technology should be used for engagement, monitoring and reporting’
‘young people should create platforms, portals or channels to capture ideas and proposals’
- the connection of open government to movements
‘Creating global movements of young people on selected key issues that affect them; for example some of the barriers to joining leadership because of age. Curating digital initiatives that bring together young people on various strategic areas’.
Curators of ‘good trouble’ was a stand-out slogan. Young people have ideas of changing systems and solving problems, and can collectively mobilise extremely effectively (Greta Thunberg’s Climate Strikes an important example). Strength in numbers, knowledge awareness, sharing, and understanding are positive incentives to youth led activist movements. Yet young people on the call wanted more, because although connecting activism movements worldwide can be difficult, the results are rewarding.
Where Open Government can help?
In the face of democracies declining throughout the world in recent years, the new OECD report into trust in governments, and with the discussions that unfolded at the Youth Town Hall session, what has been apparent is that participation has come out from each as a champion route of action. Where Open Government initiatives and principles can come in is through:
- engaging with youth activist networks;
- supporting in educating young people on their rights;
- being transparent in ways in which to engage with Government and;
- supporting in enabling spaces (digitally or physically) to more deliberatively hear young people’s opinions, ideas and solutions.
‘Giving youth voices the same weight as that of someone much older – oftentimes youth feel as though they are being patronized by older adults & their voice doesn’t matter’