Young people participate!

30/03/2021 - 21:02

Participation process. Until now, the participation of young people was conducted through Barcelona’s Public Hearing for the City’s Children. Since 1994, this was the participation forum in which the city’s children and teenagers were able to present proposals to the City Council.

The Adolescent Citizens Process is debating! In this way, Barcelona’s teenagers are able to affect policies in the districts and the city.

The 2020-2021 academic year was all about reformulation: the Public Hearing has now been transformed into the Adolescent Citizens Participative Process.

A change of name… even more participation!

The new process is being jointly promoted by the Municipal Participation Area, The Barcelona Institute of Education (IMEB) and the Barcelona Education Consortium, and there are various basic differences in regard to the previous version, the Audiència Pública als Nois i Noies [Public Hearing for the City’s Children]. 

As its name indicates, the first difference is that the forum, created 26 years ago, “used the Public Hearing format, which is a formal meeting with politicians to deal with a specific subject, where a document, or manifesto, was presented: one for each district and one for the city as a whole. The difference with the Process is that the district and city full municipal meetings were involved”, explains Jose Cano, the head of the Citizens and Education programme, run by Barcelona’s Municipal Institute of Education.

Cano continued to explain the other differences: “Now, the subject is presented by the adolescents and the platform is used to structure the process and the participants can use the resources available on this digital tool. Furthermore, now the project lasts for an entire school year and the following term, in which a well-defined, specific response is given to each of the proposals presented”.

There has also been a demographic change: Adolescent Citizens is a process exclusively for secondary-school students, while the participation forum for Barcelona’s primary-school children will become the Children’s Proclamation at the Santa Eulàlia Festivities, which will now be extended to sixth year primary-school pupils.

The transformation of this participation forum involves an organisational change to improve participation by teenagers studying compulsory secondary education, as well as their schools. 

And what do the teenage citizens think of the change?

The change has brought positive features, but also challenges for secondary-school classes in Barcelona: “Last year, the activity was optional and there were fewer of us. Now it’s more chaotic, because the whole class is working on it, but there are also more ideas”, explains Joana, who is studying the third year of compulsory secondary education (ESO) at the Escola Sant Felip Neri in the Barri Gòtic. Her classmate Fred adds: “Last year you worked by yourselves throughout the school year, and now we’re doing it with organisers, but it’s also true that the website’s resources have improved the project”.

Both students are very pleased that they can choose the topic: “That’s very important. It’s better to work on something you’re interested in. We’ve chosen the environment for the Barcelona process”, says Joana, “and for the neighbourhood, public spaces (safety, lighting, etc.). It’s a really big subject and we can then deal with more subtopics”, concludes Fred. 

In favour of active, participative young people

Yasmina Santiago, who is studying the fourth year of ESO at the Institut Escola El Til·ler, sums up her participation by stressing “for us, it’s a chance to explain what we want to improve and for our voice to be heard. And to have the chance to speak to a city council that listens to us”. 

Joana and Fred totally agree: “You feel more included in how the city works, you know that your are contributing your ideas”, says Joana: and “it gives you advantages”, adds Fred, “you can find out what is coming in the future, you know a little more about how things work”.

What do the teenagers do during the process? The stages

Firstly, secondary schools that receive public funds can register for the process. This year, 33 schools have registered, which is about 10% of Barcelona’s state and subsidised schools. 

Once they have been told about the project, the students choose a topic for each district and one for the city as a whole, in sessions worked on by class groups, with the help of contracted organisers (from the companies that coordinate the project, the Estel cooperative, Descoberta, Nadal Villena, Urbanins and Espai Coneix). 

A total of 62 proposals were compiled on, and they were voted on during the winter. The finalist topics focus on the environment, sustainable mobility, sports activities and well-being and health, among others.

Now, the city-wide topic and each of the district topics are in the debate stage, which will conclude with a list of improvement actions. This will be published on at the end of March 2021.

Between April and June 2021 the improvement proposals resulting from the participatory process will be presented at the district council meetings, and also at the Full Council Meeting. Barcelona’s political representatives will respond to the teenagers about their proposals during the first term of the 2021-22 academic year.

The entire process benefits from the drive of our young citizens who, as Roser Garcia, the logistics coordinator for the process, confirms: “They are really keen to connect the city to their lives, make it their own and, at the same time, a richer place”.