Child Participation Case Study

Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue

How young people contributed to the development of a new EU Youth Strategy 2019 – 2027 through Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue

Background Information

Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue (Young Voices) creates opportunities for young people, bringing them into the policy-making process at a national and European level, which has the following objectives:

The initiative on which we involved young people in decision-making

Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue


The topic on which we wanted their views

The EU Youth Strategy – input into the development of the new EU Youth Strategy 2019 – 2027


The reason we wanted their views

The EU Youth Strategy should contribute to realising the vision that young people have for Europe.  Young people should have an influence on the policy affecting their lives.

The decision-makers that facilitated and listened to their views

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) leads the engagement of young people in the EU Youth Dialogue process in Ireland, overseen by the National Working Group on EU Youth Dialogue.  This working group is chaired by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCECIY) and includes young people, NYCI, Leargas and Maynooth University.  Young people from this process at a national level went on to form part of the delegation from Ireland to the EU Youth Conference during cycle 6 of the EU Youth Dialogue process.  This delegation included representatives from DCEDIY and joined delegations from all member states in Europe and young people from INGYOs.  The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs joined the young people at the EU Youth Conference.   Together the young people and decision-makers developed recommendations and input, such as the EU Youth Goals, for a new EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027.

The decision-makers responsible for acting on their views

The recommendations from the EU Youth Conference went to the Youth Working Parties who prepared the draft policy for the European youth ministers who adopted the EU Youth Strategy, including the recommendations developed through the process by young people, in the form of the European Youth Goals.  At a national level the young people engaged in the EU Youth Dialogue process presented to the policy consortium on Children and Young People, as part of the implementation structure of the Children and Young People’s youth policy framework Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures (BOBF).

The age profile of the young people

15-30 years old.  In terms of the young people who were involved in the consultations, we were mindful of the importance and value of engaging with a range of young people that reflected the picture of youth in Ireland.

Other relevant information about the young people (e.g. disability, ethnic background, social disadvantage, etc.)

We worked closely with the equality and intercultural programme in NYCI and used communication channels such as these, available to NYCI and the pre-existing positive profile of Young Voices ensuring that our invitations to participate are met with enthusiasm across a wide spectrum of young people in Ireland. 712 young people participated in all the consultation events, focus groups and surveys in Ireland. Of these, 471 young people participated in large consultation events and focus groups and 241 young people completed the online survey. In relation to gender, 416 (58.5%) participants were female, 263 (36.9%) were male, 3 (0.4%) identified their gender as ‘other’ and the gender of 30 (4.2%) young people was unknown. As regards age, 36 (5.1%) young people were aged 15 years and under, 288 (40.4%) were aged 16 – 18 years, 164 (23%) were aged 19 – 25 years, 39 (5.5%) were aged 26 – 30 years and the age of 185 (26%) was unknown.  young Travellers, young people from ethnic minorities, LGBTI+ young people, rural young people, young people with disabilities, young students, young people in care, young refugees and asylum seekers, undocumented young people and, overall, a diverse and dynamic range of young people living in Ireland.  The young people that went on to represent the consultation process at the EU Youth Conference were young people who had experience with a physical disability, and alternative pathways to education and the selection process of the EU Youth delegates ensured a gender balance and geographical representation.

How we gave space, voice, audience and influence to young people’s views


How we ensured a safe and inclusive space to hear the views of young people

Things we considered What we did
The space or setting where we got their views (this may include online settings)
  • We worked together with young people and youth workers to set up the space as a safe place to share experiences and engage diverse voices.
How you identified the children and young people to be involved
  • There were open calls to attend a Youth Event to NYCI member organisations and through NYCI’s social media and e-bulletin communication channels, with 4,890 subscribers.
  • We also engage young people that have been involved in the project in past events and work closely with the NYCI equality and intercultural programme.
  • We reached out to non-organised youth,
  • We partnered with the Making Links project to ensure that we were engaging the most marginalised young people.  The National Youth Council of Ireland’s (NYCI) Making Links Network brings together minority ethnic youth group leaders with little or no engagement with, or access to, the mainstream youth work sector in Ireland.
How you involved those who were directly affected by the topic

We used varied methodologies such as larger events and smaller focus groups, an online survey and training/upskilling opportunities for young people.

Particular attention is given in Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue to the inclusion and engagement of diverse youth voices in decision-making.

“It’s shown me the channels in youth work where young people can influence policy and bigger decisions. But even then, coming from a working-class area shows that, just because you are from a working-class area doesn’t mean that you can’t travel to different parts of Europe and have your voice heard as well.” (Youth participant)

The presence of people whose circumstances were very different to their own, led to specific outcomes and in some cases, raised a new level of understanding and awareness on inclusion.  For example, one young person said that “I would really tie the presence of young refugees and asylum seekers at Young Voices to the Second Level Students Union (ISSU) picking up that issue, and then running regional events for about two years on that issue. So, like, it’s very good at highlighting minority issues to other young people”. (Youth participant, aged 23)

How early in the process they were involved in decision-making

Young people were engaged in the process from planning to implementation.  Young people are involved in the oversight committee of the young voices – EU Youth Dialogue and there is a smaller core group that we worked with over the years who co-design and co-facilitate at the events.

When I came to Young Voices, and I mean that is the best way possible. It made it be ours. It was our process; structured dialogue actually became something that I would tell people about because I felt a certain ownership over it”. (Youth participant, aged 20)

How the process was inclusive and accessible

We are very mindful of inclusion and accessibility in young voices, working with the NYCI Intercultural and equality programme and incorporating, the 8 steps to inclusive youth work resource, ensuring quality inclusion practice into the process (

Along with reaching out to the youth work sector, we engaged young people through the NYCI Making Links programme to engage youth and community leaders from minority ethnic backgrounds who are not engaged due to capacity issues with the youth sector.  We reached out to organisations working with young people with disabilities.

“So, for me, it was just absolutely mind-opening meeting people, I would have never ever interacted with in my social bubble.” (Youth participant)

We developed a report from the consultation that went to the Steering committee for the EU Youth Conferences and the EU Youth Dialogue process, but also a more accessible, youth-friendly version of the report.

We made sure the participants felt safe to express their views by engaging with youth workers, youth leaders and community leaders so that they could engage with the young people on the topic before attending an event or focus group.  We used a variety of methodologies and spaces to engage the young people, from larger events to smaller focus groups for those who wouldn’t feel comfortable engaging in a large event.  We also had an online survey.  Also, the methodologies during the events and focus groups given were varied so that young people could engage in smaller groups, individually, using online activities using their mobiles such as Kahoots.  We used a variety of methodologies also to take into account varied literacy abilities, using creative methodologies to collate the voice of the young people participating.  There was a graphic harvester, who captured the consultation with young people in a more visual and creative way.

We continued to involve them throughout the decision-making process. It wasn’t just a consultation – we also developed a space for young people to grow and develop the capacity to influence.  Upskilling of Young people – facilitation training at a changemakers academy.  These young people went on to co-facilitate at the youth events during the consultation.  Supporting with presentation skills.  We facilitated young people throughout the process to take the report from the consultation to the implementation stage.



How we gave young people a voice in decisions

Things we considered What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views

We did outreach prior to engaging the young people, engaging youth workers and youth leaders/activists and community leaders in the process. We also have a dedicated website with all the information on the Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue process and the topic of the consultation for information.

How we made sure they knew their views would be taken seriously

Young people are engaged in the process from the steering group at a European level to the National Working Groups and are part of the delegation to the EU Youth Conference, where they work together with decision-makers from youth ministries and the EU commission to develop recommendations.

At a national level, the EU Youth Dialogue process is written into the implementation process for the Children and Young People’s Policy Framework and young people from the Young Voices process can feedback to the Children and Young People’s policy consortium, chaired by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The National Youth Council work to ensure young people have an opportunity to add their voice to decisions that affect young people, their youth organisations and their future.

“Young Voices has consistently been a safe space for debate and input on matters related to youth within Ireland and the EU. It has made me realise that my voice matters when it comes to discussing policies and youth issues. Not only this, but they have facilitated these conversations with policymakers and government officials. I was kind of surprised about how interested they were at the beginning, but they wanted our inputs. It made me think differently about my future. It made me feel as if I had a greater stake in policies and potentially implementing policies at a national level on an EU level.” (Youth participant)

How we informed them about level of influence they could have on decision-making

We made information about the process available and explained the process using visual, youth-friendly graphics and videos to show the journey that their views/voice would take and their role in the process.

The methods we used to get their views

The questions for the consultation process were developed by young people at an EU Youth Conference at the beginning of the cycle.  Three young people attended this as part of the delegation from Ireland, selected from an event exploring the topic of the theme for cycle 6 of the EU Youth Dialogue process “Youth in Europe, what next?”.

For the consultation we varied the space and setting, engaging young people through large events and smaller focus groups and an online survey.  The nature of the spaces and groups consulted had an impact on the approaches to the consultation questions. For example, the delivery of a consultation at the SDG Youth Summit with over 200 young people in the Aviva Stadium differed compared to a consultation in a youth centre with 15 young people. The key challenge was to maintain the integrity of the questions while at the same time support young people to connect with them and offer answers, insights and analysis based on their own understandings, perceptions and lived experiences.

Key consultation methodologies used included:

  • 3 large youth events
  • Small group discussions
  • Focus groups with young people
  • Large group discussions
  • Kahoot poll
  • Timelines, e.g. past, present and future job competencies needed
  • 5-point plans, e.g. on how digital technology will increase participation of young people in politics Sticky dot voting on a statement, e.g. using the Likert scale
  • Postcard writing exercise, e.g. “Dear Europe, in order to cope with stressful situations and times of crisis we need…”
  • Letter writing exercise, e.g. writing to politicians, policymakers
How we made sure they could identify topics they wanted to discuss

The EU Youth Dialogue process includes an exploration, consultation and implementation phase.  In the exploration phase young people identify the topics that they want to discuss and young people from this phase from all over Europe go to an EU Youth Conference to develop the guiding questions for the consultation phase of the process.

Please describe the topics and issues they raised

The European Youth Goals came about through the EU Youth Dialogue process. They are the outcome of the sixth cycle of the EU Youth Dialogue – Youth in Europe: What’s next? which took place in 2017/2018. There are 11 youth goals, which were chosen by young people from across Europe. The 11 European Youth Goals identify cross-sectoral areas that affect young people’s lives and where they feel that change is needed. The 11 Goals that emerged cover a diverse range of thematic areas such as connecting young people to the EU, mental health and wellbeing, gender equality, rural youth, and quality employment. The Goals represent the concerns and issues of priority for young people from across Europe. 50,000 young people, including young people from Ireland, participated in a collaborative consultation with policymakers.

 Summary Report Youth In Europe What Next Sd Cycle Vi Consultation Report Summary – National Youth Council of Ireland

The themes identified by young people in the Structured Dialogue Cycle VI were:

  • Coping with stress and times of crisis
  • Overcoming discrimination and inequality
  • Getting the knowledge and skills we need from education
  • Preparing for future types of work
  • Influencing democratic and societal decision-making


How we made sure that there was an audience (decision-makers) for young people’s views

Things we considered What we did
How we developed a report or record of the young people’s view

We captured the young people’s feedback during the consultation both in person and online and developed a full report which went to the European Steering Committee and influenced the agenda for the EU Youth Conference, where the young people developed the EU Youth Goals which were included in the EU Youth Strategy.

 We also developed a youth-friendly summary report


We did an evaluation at the events and worked with young people from the process on an Evaluation report of the young voices process.

How we checked back with them that their views were accurately represented

We continued to engage young people beyond the consultation phase into the Implementation phase.  Young People look at the outputs from the cycle, the recommendations, in this case, the European Youth Goals and prioritise what they would like to work on achieving and we work with the young people on the implementation stage, an ongoing process.

How we involved the decision-makers who are responsible for influencing change (other than yourself)

The opportunity to directly engage with policymakers has been a strategic focus for many young people in building confidence in using their voice, reflecting again the commitment of young people to affecting change, something that the Young Voices programme explicitly recognises and channels.

“It was that whole idea of sharing the space with policymakers, that I was very interested in that, rather than just sitting, and talking with other young people, because I had done that a lot more”. (Female youth participant)

“The big factor for me was the discussions that we would have on impact on a governmental level. And that’s huge. I suppose, from my point of view and in the situation as somebody who has a disability, I suppose, I feel like this has grown from my involvement with Young Voices and I’ve become aware that I am in a position that I can speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves. The phrase I like to use is chasing progress, so you always know that it’s kind of progressing somewhere, and like it’s given me experiences, that I’ve never had before”. (Youth participant, aged 23)

At what point we involved decision makers other than yourself in the process

The decision makers were involved in with young people in the co design of the process at national and European level and young people came together with decision makers at the EU Youth conferences to develop the recommendations for the EU Youth Strategy together.  The decision makers adopted the EU Youth Goals that were developed by the young people into the EU Youth Strategy at the Council of Ministers meeting and also met with the young people to discuss the implementation of the recommendations and the EU Youth Strategy.

How we and other decision-makers showed our commitment to listening to, and acting on young people’s views

The National Youth Council of Ireland leads out on the implementation of the Young Voices programme and engagement of young people in the EU Youth Dialogue process on behalf of the National Working Group on EU Youth Dialogue, chaired by DCEDIY.

Young Voices-EU Youth Dialogue is a process that actively engages with young people’s capacity to influence decision-making spaces under the framework provided via Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures National Policy framework for children and young people (BOBF) and the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027, which aims to “Engage, Connect, Empower” young people.  It is not just a consultation with young people but goes further bringing the decision-makers and young people together to work on recommendations on policies affecting young people together.  These recommendations can be adopted as resolutions by the council of youth ministers at a European level.

Decision makers from DCYA (now DCEDIY) engage in the process, chairing the working group and joining the delegation with young people to the EU Youth Conferences…“Yeah…cause you start to see the impact it makes especially when you have the staff of DCYA asking what we think as young people on the piece of work that they’re hoping to do in the future. I think they come, they listen but they also hear what you have to say and take that on board going back because they recognise that a lot of the young people that will be at the Young Voices will also be young people that will be at their local youth clubs that’ll be using the different funding streams or programmes that they’re developing. (Youth participant, aged 22).”

How we supported young people to play a role in communicating their own views to decision-makers

We put a lot of emphasis on Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue being a space to grow and develop the capacity to influence and a place where key skills are fostered and developed for young people. The Young Voices team have implemented a focused approach to training for young people, specifically offering facilitation, advocacy, social media and technical skills and mentoring training in both in-person and online contexts. Supporting skills development in this way is seen as a key strategy in building the capacity of young people for meaningful participation in decision-making space.

We developed a space, where individuals recognised a process of personal development and a space to foster key skills in this area, as well as a growing appreciation of the responsibility to engage with wider social and political issues.

“Where I’ve implemented change is with the facilitation training. I got the chance to facilitate a group myself in [ a regional town] last September, which was amazing and such an amazing opportunity and I have a meeting tonight with Jigsaw27, for the mental health consultation, where Jean Marie28 recommended me to co-facilitate as well. I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity if I hadn’t been for Young Voices and so yeah, they definitely helped a lot in terms of my own personal life and making change and implementing change”. (Youth participant, aged 20).

“Public speaking would have been something I was really afraid of. And I remember going in and somebody or a few people from the group would have to get up and present, ….it used to terrify me. And then as I went to more meetings, I became more comfortable with this and it kind of became natural and normal to talk about what we’ve been discussing and stuff. So that was a big skill”. (Youth participant, age 20).


How young people were given updates at key points in the development of the plan

Things we considered What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views

There were regular meetings with the young people that were representing the output from the Young Voices events at a European level.  We had Young Voices events where young people were updated on the process and the young people presented what had happened at the EU Youth Conferences.  Young people involved in the process were given the opportunity to apply for the EU Youth Conferences and were updated by email with a youth friendly report and invites to follow up events.

How their views were acted on by the appropriate decision-makers (what happened to their views)

We captured the young people’s views through a national process and developed a report which in turn influenced the agenda of the EU Youth Conference, where the young people were joined by decision makers and together, they decided to develop EU Youth Goals which were included in the EU Youth Strategy.

Whether we continually checked back with children and young people about the ways you used their views with decision-makers (if possible or appropriate)

Some of the young people developed the EU Youth Goals together with the decision makers and fed back to all the young people involved by email and through presentations at the follow-up Young Voices EU Youth Dialogue events.   The young people then got an opportunity to join an implementation group to continue working on the EU Youth Goals implementation at a national and European level.

How they were given full and age-appropriate feedback explaining how their views were used (or not) and the reasons for decisions taken

Through follow-up events and disseminating a youth-friendly summary report  and a dedicated website on the young voices – EU Youth Dialogue report.  A young person involved in the process was interviewed for a written case study in an evaluation report and also for a video on their experience by Leargas

How we enabled them to evaluate the process throughout

We did evaluations at the events and also through interviews with young people involved in the process.

What young people said in the evaluation

Recommendations by young people from the Evaluation A place at the table: Young people see themselves as having a key role in policymaking and therefore, need channels and platforms to facilitate this as at a national level, linked to existing and emerging platforms of representation. For example, their strategic engagement with Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures was an acknowledgement of their expertise and right to be consulted on policies directly affecting them. As work is ongoing on a successor strategy to Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, young people from Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue should be consulted on the framework development and the strategies emerging from the framework on participation and youth work.

Maintain status within BOBF: A related recommendation is that the Young Voices-EU Youth Dialogue process should remain in the implementation infrastructure of the new Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures framework. This is to ensure a meaningful dialogue between Young Voices and policy-makers – namely The Children and Young People’s Policy Consortium and the BOBF Advisory Council.

Value the contributions at national and EU levels: The relationship between the Irish and European policy arena realised through the EU Youth Dialogue forum, is considered by the youth participants as a vital mechanism to ensure youth issues are represented. It is also a space to build connectivity and wider social and political capital. The value of the EU Youth Dialogue space should be formally recognised as a successful model of youth democratic engagement within the Irish context.

Model of effective practice for participation: The participation strategies within the Young Voices space are seen by participants as a key strength of the programme. It is a space that recognises the necessity of consulting with the specific expertise of young people and understands them as having a key political role to play. The model should be adopted by other networks and fora, particularly in terms of a democratic participation model, as a framework for youth work engagement and for broader participation objectives.

Model of effective practice for inclusion: Understanding the lived experience of inclusion was cited by many of the young people consulted as a feature of their engagement with the programme. This model of inclusive engagement should be adopted by other networks and fora, committed to targeting the inclusion of those who are vulnerable or affected by discrimination, including intersectional discrimination. The need for dedicated youth participation spaces that progress policy issues for minority ethnic groups were also identified.

Outreach to youth groups: For young people who might not be accessing the Young Voices space, outreach has always been a part of the approach, specifically in a relationship-building context. Participants see the potential for this to be built on and enhanced, with further potential to equip the youth-led dimension of the programme. This corresponds with a commitment to continuing to build a responsive inclusion practice.

Resourcing the evolution of Young Voices: Young people participating in this evaluation see Young Voices as a unique platform to facilitate the youth voice. Dedicated long-term funding and a dedicated programme to support Young Voices to continue to build a youth-led space, would support an evolution to an independent youth-led space over time, offering a unique and dedicated.


What changes were made because of young people giving their views?

Young people were directly involved in the development of the EU Youth Strategy and policy that affects them. They created the EU Youth Goals in the EU Youth Strategy; they were able to set the agenda for what policymakers should be working on.  The EU Youth Dialogue and the work of the youth ministry representatives at the EU level are now based on what the young people felt was important.

“Like as it was an 18-month process, but ultimately what it came down to was 10 people in a room per goal with all this data, from 18 months drafting the goal. So, to be able to look through that document and to realize that that conversation fed into this process, and I think the most rewarding part is to know that sentences that I’ve written are an appendix to a European Union document and that those sentences are things that they got directly informed from the Young Voices spaces”. (Youth participant, aged 23)


Being involved in the Young Voices – EU Youth Dialogue process was hugely impactful for the young people.  A young person who is differently abled and attended the EU Youth Conference as a representative for the young people involved in the process at a national level spoke about how his confidence has grown in the process and his understanding of his responsibility to advocate for others who are also left behind: “It did give me a sense of confidence. In relation to being heard and what I say does make a difference and it counts because it feels like people with disabilities are ghosts in society. And unfortunately, that’s still true. But being a part of something like Young Voices and the National Youth Council, because it’s something that I’m passionate about, it makes a bigger impact than just me and I suppose that’s what I’m all about. Like, if I can advance myself. Great. And that’s why I want to do it. But if I can do that while bringing other people with me, I will. Especially if they might be in similar situations as myself”. (Youth participant, aged 23)

Amplifying Youth Voice

A young person from a minority ethnic background sees the space as important as a platform for youth voice, and the necessity of spaces which actively support youth engagement:

“Well, I thank you guys for making something like that, because if it wasn’t for you guys. I will actually never speak up on media about the issues that young people are affected by, and I think it’s a really great thing you create because it is important for our voices to be heard and to have hope that things will change. So yeah, thanks.” (Female youth participant, aged 20)

A greater understanding of their role in bringing about positive change. The impact of the work of the NWG through the Young Voices programme cannot be understated. The uniquely dynamic approach to the work undertaken gives maximum potential to the impact on all levels.  A young person who attends a Young Voices event for the first time will be fully connected to the scope of the work and objectives by the end of the day. They will have felt that their contribution was valued and their participation worthwhile. A young person who has ongoing engagement with Young Voices will be presented with other opportunities that will link directly to the EU Youth Dialogue work but also may find its relevance in a government initiative or a local event in their own area.

“One of the events we had in Wicklow was a ‘Change Makers Academy’. We had a two-night retreat in Wicklow. It was more like we were challenged and inspired to be change-makers in our little spaces. I still remember that event, and it stood out for me because I remember them saying to us that ‘you are the change in the community, you are the change in your space. You don’t have to be the Taoiseach. You don’t have to be a Councillor to start creating that change. You can put the change in your little space’ those words actually are still with me for me that was really, really big. Because I constantly remind myself that, ‘you’re a change maker and you can create change wherever you are, with whatever you have’”. (Female youth participant, aged 27).

The learning for our organisation

The key learning for our organisation from the process and outcome of involving young people in this initiative

We need to give young people time for reflection on the process so that it can continue to evolve.


Looking back, how did the final outcome compare with our initial assumptions and those of other decision-makers involved in the process?

The final outcome was more tangible than my initial assumptions – policy development takes a long time so it was great for the young people involved to be part of policy development by young people, co-designing with decision-makers that resulted in something tangible in a relatively short amount of time.


What worked well?

Young Voices typically meets three or four times a year in full plenary where large groups of up to 100 young people gather centrally in Dublin. Alongside these are a variety of other supplementary and complementary forms of engagement such as residential and training opportunities for the young people involved.  Building a youth leadership model that can provide a space for young people to grow in confidence in skills over time has been a core strategy of Young Voices, using a youth work model and recognising the time that this takes, not having a structure to the process that is too constrictive, instead one that lets the young people engage when they can and if they aren’t able to make events for a while that’s fine and they are always welcome back works well.

If we were doing it again, is there anything we would do differently?

We would ensure more engagement at a local level and more outreach with youth workers so that they see their role in youth voice and youth participation and are inspired to get involved.  Capacity is always an issue but since then we have developed a youth empowerment youth participation resource that young people and youth workers can use and training to go with this.  The set of 42 cards serves as a tool for guiding the process of pursuing change and highlighting key elements along the way such as the importance of connection among young people, with the wider community and with decision-makers. The wonderfully creative deck of cards also shines a light on the action dimension of change-making and they remind young people about the value of empowerment, and representation and how the change you aim for should always be about making a real difference.

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