Co-producing Youth Inclusive Digital Urban Governance (YUP)

Multiple cities
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Young people’s role in urban governance is critical, both to ensure that their perspectives and priorities as urban citizens are factored into the planning and management of their cities and to foster their civic engagement as future city leaders. However in many contexts, young people are disengaged from formal urban institutions, and where they do pursue urban politics, they often do so through their own insurgent practices, acting independently of, or in an adversarial approach to, local government. Such independent youth initiatives have an important role in urban governance, but there is also a need for young people’s meaningful collaboration with urban governance institutions. 

Given their high use of digital media and technological skills, digital platforms have been proposed as a fruitful approach for fostering young urban citizens’ involvement with urban governance institutions. However, our research proposes that strategies to involve young people in inclusive digital urban governance platforms need to be based on a deep understanding of the existing nature of young people’s engagement in urban governance in order to better understand the extent of and reasons for their disengagement from formal state-led spaces for participation. 

Accordingly, our research will focus on four small to medium-sized cities in Indonesia and Lebanon where our local consortium members have observed that, in the context of these exclusionary power dynamics, there is limited youth engagement with urban government-led invited spaces of participation in urban governance. Rather, in both countries, those young people who are using digital technologies to address urban issues tend to do so independently, through autonomic and/ or ‘insurgent’ planning approaches.

To understand, and engage in this context, our research will start by documenting the factors underpinning young people’s modes of engagement in urban governance in the four case study cities through a research phase working with young people as citizen scientists. This will be achieved through documenting and critically analysing existing youth- and state-led urban platforms in our four case study cities, as well as conducting a wider quantitative survey of 4,000 - 5,000 young people’s engagement in urban governance processes across the four cities.

This basic research phase will act as a basis to co-produce and pilot inclusive collaborative urban governance platforms between a range of young people and city government actors. The policy domains addressed by the pilot interventions will be identified through the collaboration of youth activists across the four cities and the design of the pilot interventions with young participants will explicitly address power dynamics among different groups of young people and municipal actors.