This article is based on the testimony of :
- Katja Malzer, director at the Goethe-Institut in Montreal who launched the “24h Thinkathon” challenge.
- Guillaume Semene, Head of Events, BNP Paribas, jury of the Global Youth Challenge at the Movin’on international conference.
- Sana’ Khasawneh, leader of the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety, participant (team leader) of the Global Youth Challenge.
One in five people in the world is currently between the ages of 15 and 25. Yet institutions struggle to include young people in their decision-making processes. This segment of the population is more easily involved in more informal ways, through activism or civic engagement for example.
How can we reconcile youth with the institutions that surround them? How can we build with them the future that is theirs?
At Agorize, we are proud to regularly accompany different institutions on these issues and to help them create exceptional exchanges through our solution.
In this article, we give the floor to Katja Malzer, Director of the Goethe Institute of Montreal, who shares with us 7 essential points that made the success of the “Thinkathons”, a series of challenges organized by the Goethe Institute, ThinkYoung and the Carrefour de la Jeunesse NDG and funded by the European Union. Agorize intervened to organize and facilitate the whole process.
This Thinkhathon is about engaging youth in the creation of new regulations on a global scale and discuss social issues such as the place of digital in our societies and inclusion. It has succeeded in re-creating a real dialogue between young people and policymakers and on an international scale by bringing Europe and Canada together. Katja Malzer tells us about this challenge.
1. Building a long-term relationship
A basic principle for building trust is to be rooted in the long term. It is an ongoing effort that will create a stronger and more lasting commitment from the youth.
To meet this challenge, Katja Malzer built a hackathon over several months, in which young people from Europe and Canada proposed recommendations for legislation.
She started with a large ideation phase, accessible to all. Then, thanks to the intervention of political decision-makers, the participants were able to deepen their proposals.
Working over several months, she gave participants the opportunity to express their needs and problems. Based on these results, the dialogue became much easier to establish.
2. Finding a theme that brings people together
The obstacles to youth participation are often a lack of confidence in their knowledge, the technicality of the topics discussed and the complex decision-making processes.
In order to overcome these barriers, Katja Malzer sought to bring them together on issues that brought them together. The idea was to introduce the topic from an angle that was shared by all parties.
It is by getting involved in issues that concern them directly that young people will develop a political awareness and become actors in the institutions that interest them.
3. Provide opportunities for dialogue
In order to create dialogue, it is necessary to provide space and a clear framework.
To do this, Katja Malzer organized live exchange sessions. These sessions were preceded by ideation work by the young people to explore different categories of questions around the main issue. The session began with presentations by the youth and then opened the floor to questions from the experts.
A young participant of the Global Youth Challenge testifies in this sense. She also talks about the interest for participants to share their different perspectives in order to arrive at diverse and rich solutions.
Although the youth share many interests, the group remains diverse. It’s up to you how you want to define your sample. While the Goethe Institute targets 15 to 25 year olds in Europe and Canada, the Global Youth Institute targets 18 to 29 year olds around the world.
4. Choosing the right communication strategy for your thinkathon
Engaging young people means reaching out to them where they are, in their networks, at the institutions where they study, etc. To ensure the success of their campaign, the Goethe Institute relied on all of its partners and different communication strategies.
A communications agency and a press agency published articles and shared interviews with participants.
The other strategy was to rely on Agorize’s communities and communication strength. With an international community of several thousand students, Agorize launched an emailing strategy and dedicated newsletters to many French schools and universities. The deployment of these actions contributed significantly to the increase in participation and perfectly complemented the press communication campaign.
5. Choosing an Thinkathon format that matches your challenges
After having organized several face-to-face events, Katja Malzer testifies to the difficulty of gathering motivated young people in the same place and for a period of 24 hours (traditional hackathon format). Therefore, it was necessary to find a new format, attractive, and also corresponding to the young people’s living environment.
The digital and asynchronous format, for example, gave participants the flexibility to engage for longer periods of time and delve into topics on their own. For example, Citizenlab discusses the value of mixing online and offline modalities.
6. Communicating on your thinkathon's results
When addressing social issues and asking young people to get involved on their own time, it’s important to be transparent in return.
What may be clear to your teams is not always clear to the public:
So keep in mind that you need to be very clear about the objectives, the process, the expected deliverables, and the aftermath at all times.
7. It's worth the effort!
The task may seem daunting, and there is no magic bullet for including more youth. But the result is all the more impressive when you take the plunge.
It’s all about having a good team, surrounding yourself with expert structures like Agorize that facilitate all the logistics and we assure you that you are able to make history!