Political Participation of Youth in Rotterdam (Part I)

Politics and the City: Political Participation (or lack thereof) of youngsters in local elections



Start: 23.03.2022
End: 23.03.2022


Municipality of Rotterdam , Local Politicians , Young 010 (youth organisation) , Chance to Influence (youth organisation)

Essential to a democratic country is the right to elected and to vote. In the Netherlands we have several rounds of elections, the national elections and the municipal elections being the most important. According to the Dutch bureau of statistics (CBS), in 2019 just 40% of the youth between 15 to 18 is interested in politics. And while that number goes up once these youths are allowed to vote (44% in age groups 18-25) it is still a verry low number compared to the population between 55 and 65 years.

On March 16th all Dutch residents that are entitled to vote can exercise their right to vote for their local representatives. From prior experiences and the data collected by the CBS, we can be sure of a few things, (1) that response rates of municipal elections are lower than those for government elections, (2) the numbers are even lower among young people. But why are young people not engaged? And why are they not visiting the voting booths to exercise a human right so many have fought for?

During our pop-up city lab, we want to have a dialogue regarding this topic and establish what the reasons are young people do not vote. What is keeping them from participating in the elections? Is there a reason they do not feel included or represented? And how can they be reached better by political parties?

38 participants: 5 politicians, 2 youth leaders/trainers, 11 youngsters, 4 researchers, 4 students, 2 social entrepreneurs, 2 municipality staff, 5 university staff and 3 local residents.

During this event we used a human centered approach to initiate a dialogue between the several actors. Service design is a holistic approach to understand the different needs and wants of the audience. To kickstart this session we engaged the group through an icebreaker to create a safe space for all participants. After a short introduction the group was split up in smaller teams. All teams were asked to share their experiences, stories, and issues around voting. The stories were used as input for the personae for every team. After discussing the pains, gains, wants and needs all teams started with formulating the prior gained input into a problem statement. The problem statements form the bases for the next session.

Identified problems were:

A lack of understanding regarding the voting procedure;

A lack of trust in politicians (as a result of broken promises);

Disconnection between the target audience and politicians;

A lack of interaction between politicians and their constituents;

Some of the attendees mentioned the lack of representation.


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