How often have you heard the phrase “Children are our future”? Unless you don’t believe in linear time, it’s a hard statement to argue with. But there’s also of course an undeniable warm fuzziness to it, an optimism, a hope that young people will change things for the better. Less common than the use of this phrase is a practical discussion of how we get young people to engage in the decision-making processes that shape not just our shared futures, but the right here, right now too.

Large parts of our young population are all too often dismissed as apathetic and uninterested in getting involved with social issues. But what if those who aren’t engaging just aren’t being given the right opportunities to do so?

Digital democracy inevitably has a major role to play here. Below are three examples of how local authorities are using Citizen Space to engage in meaningful engagement with young people.

Falkirk Council: Children’s Survey

“If you had a magic wand, what would you change?” That’s the question at the heart of Falkirk Council’s Children’s Survey, which seeks to get young people’s views on the public areas and environment near them and to involve them in the planning process.

Through a series of simple questions, bolstered by multiple prompts, the survey strikes a good balance between demonstrating a clear desire for meaningful feedback and keeping the tone accessible and breezy. The queries centre around issues such as transportation and getting to school, public safety, and the quality of shops, schools and libraries in the respondent’s local area.

Throughout it all, young people are repeatedly asked what they would use their magic wand on, giving the activity a coherency while also encouraging the kids to dream big.

WHY IT’S GOOD: Colourful illustrations, emojis, and straightforward language are the hallmarks here, creating a user-friendly, easy-to-follow activity that banishes the stodgy, technical connotations that often come with the term ‘city planning’.

Northern Ireland Government: Race Relations Order, Children and Young Peoples Questionnaire

Equality legislation and tribunals are not always the stuff of children’s reading time, but given how important the views we form when we’re young can be, and given the impact of such policies on young people, it’s vital that their opinions and feedback are sought on such measures.

The Northern Ireland Government’s child-centred activity for gauging views on its planned reform of the Race Relations Order is a masterclass in unpacking some complex issues and tricky terminology and making it accessible for young people. It’s kept to five multiple choice questions as well as an open ‘tell us anything’ call at the end, meaning young respondents are less likely to become overwhelmed by the queries and get a chance to air their views on a hugely important subject.

WHY IT’S GOOD: This activity takes a very serious issue and potentially confusing policy and breaks it down into language that people of all ages can understand. It engages and explains without patronising.

Government of Jersey: Have Your Say on Your School and Other Public Buildings

As part of its review of public buildings, the Government of Jersey isn’t overlooking the fact that these spaces – which include schools, youth clubs, sports centres and markets – are well used by people young and old. Conscious that young people’s input on their plan for how these structures will be used for the next 20 years is vital to their future relevance, the government is specifically seeking feedback from Jersey’s younger generations to ensure that “these buildings support you to achieve your best”.

Respondents are asked to share their views on all aspects of specific buildings overseen by the government, with questions on everything from air quality and natural light to the layout of the space and how they feel about its facilities. The survey is explicit in asking young people how well the given space helps them to reach their full potential.

WHY IT’S GOOD: Plain English and straightforward multiple choice questions are deployed to get an insight into what young people think about the buildings they use (or are put off from using). It’s quick and easy, but each question comes with the option for respondents to elaborate and really speak their minds if they wish.

These are just some of the activities using Citizen Space to engage with younger generations, people whose futures will inevitably be shaped by the decisions we take today. They’re an important reminder that when looking to harness the immense potential of digital democracy, and it’s crucial we consider how to involve as many voices as possible.

Citizen Space is a citizen engagement platform trusted by government around the world. Government organisations and public bodies use Citizen Space to connect with more citizens, increase engagement and improve processes.

To learn more about what Citizen Space can do for your organisation, book a free demo and we’ll walk you through it.