Globally there is increasing dissatisfaction with democracy, in particular among young people. Economic and social exclusion is compounding frustration in governments seemingly unable to take action on growing crises, including environmental collapse. Less than half of young people across OECD countries express trust in their politicians.
As populist and authoritarian leaders re-emerge, there is a downward trend in youth participation in institutional politics (parties, voting). This is leading to a common misperception that young people have become politically apathetic.
These findings are echoed in our work at Cumberland Lodge, including workshops with young people discussing ‘The Future of Democracy’. These revealed observations, such as:
- ‘we face a more difficult future than our parents’;
- ‘there’s a lot of corruption in politics’; and
- ‘action on climate change is too slow’.
Our Youth & Democracy project
To address these challenges, Cumberland Lodge has launched the Youth & Democracy project. We will bring young people together from across the country. We will listen to their concerns, and develop their skills in political debate, media literacy and ethical leadership. The project will culminate in a Youth Assembly, where young people will re-imagine what the UK’s political system could look like in order to revitalise our democratic institutions.
We believe the freedoms and protections associated with democracy cannot be taken for granted. Young people have a crucial role to play in safeguarding its future. They are far from being politically apathetic. They are demanding better opportunities to have a genuine say in the way they are governed. We want to harness the desire of young people to participate in democratic life. Our challenge is to create practical interventions to encourage and energise youth engagement with democratic systems, from local to global scales.
Aims of the project
Our Youth & Democracy project aims to do this through:
- establishing a network of youth organisations across the UK to listen to the key concerns of young people
- convening workshops at Cumberland Lodge with young change makers and emerging leaders
- developing their skills in areas such a political and media literacy, and providing opportunities for critical thinking underpinned by principles of ethical leadership
- cascading these skills and knowledge through peer-to-peer learning back into young people’s communities, as participants engage with key issues and others in their area to build their own networks for action
- creating an online learning centre with resources and discussion boards to support political literacy and action for change among young people nationally
- stakeholder briefings bringing together emerging and existing political leaders, policy makers and researchers, creating space for young people to voice their concerns on the issues that affect them
- convening a youth assembly at Cumberland Lodge to re-imagine politics and political systems for the UK that will generate better democratic outcomes in the future.
We aim to empower young people with the skills to lead challenging conversations. We want them to engage effectively through democratic processes and institutions in their communities. The project will be driven by the concerns and views of young people, including those from marginalised backgrounds, to ensure they are heard. We will take an evidenced-based approach informed by the latest research,