There are numerous ways to define youth participation. Youth participation can be understood as one of the youth rights, also youth involvement in certain processes can be seen as sort of a partnership between youth and adults because they consult on the objectives, goals, roles, responsibilities, decisions, etc.
This publication follows a definition provided by the Council of Europe, which states that youth participation is a civic right of the young people to be included in the daily life and decisions which influence their life. The revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life claims – “participation in the democratic life of any community is more than voting or running for election, although these are important elements. Participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space and the opportunity and where necessary the support to participate in and influence decisions and engage in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society”.  Youth participation is often used in the following areas: economic participation, especially related to employment and occupational activities, economic development, the fight against poverty, a stable economic society; regional or youth situation improvement; political participation, related with the executive government, public policy; resource allocation, etc. social participation, including involvement in local community life; raising awareness about local issues; cultural participation, related to the different forms of art expression.
One of the most important youth policy objectives is to create favourable conditions for a young person’s personal development and assist them with successful integration into society. So the objective is to develop a young person’s consciousness, active participation, creativity, independence and ability to take responsibility for their actions. Youth participation is a prerequisite condition to reach these objectives. Meanwhile the principles of the autonomy, independence and voluntary participation are understood as freedom of choice.
Youth participation is important because:
helps institutions to formulate and implement evidence-based policies;
helps institutions responsible for youth policy to develop skills needed to effectively work with young people;
to make the decision-making process legitimate young people must be involved;
target group offers new ideas and ways to solve local and regional issues;
discover talents and develop potential of young people;
it helps youth to understand how democracy works and how to participate in democracy;
has a positive impact on the lives of young people;
allows society to hear the voice of the youth better;
encourages young people to develop new skills and gain more confidence;
creates a space for young people to use their talents and abilities for the benefit of the whole society or organization.
Management theory claims that personal decisions to participate or motivation emerges once 3 core aspects are ensured. Firstly, personal connection with the activities must be ensured. The person has to feel that they own the idea and understands, that they have a voice in the decision-making process, and that decisions will affect them directly. Secondly, participation should be challenging for the youth person. This activity is new for them and constantly changing, therefore this task requires effort, which fascinates young people. Lastly, that tasks or activities should be within the area of competence of the young person. If the challenge is too large active participation is impossible. Yet when all 3 aspects are met, the person is motivated to participate in the activity and complete the task.
Chart 2 „3 P Model” (source: Z. Gozdzik-Ormel „Have your say! “)
Analysing youth participation in the decision-making process in the context of Cross-sectorial cooperation, it is important to mentione youth participation structures such as youth councils at local and national level. Similar structures exist on an international level.
Another form of participation in decision-making is consultation. This form of participation is widely used by EU and member states to better understand youth issues and listen to the youth voice. Existing structures for youth participation in decision-making create opportunities for cooperation. It is important that those structures should actually work and should be youth-friendly.
Cross-sectorial working groups are a broadly-used structure of youth participation in decision-making. Cross-sectorial working groups are created in order to tackle different issues or to share information, and coordinate activities in a specific field. Relevant issues are effectively addressed by this form; it also helps to gain experience in cooperation with other sectors.
Non-formal cooperation is another popular form of youth participation in decision-making. It can be defined as a strong personal connection with representatives of other organizations. In practice, we often see evidence of active cooperation between representatives of NGOs and representatives of public sector. A common reason behind it is interpersonal relationships that were build over time.
Finally, the Revised European Charter on youth participation distinguishes 3 main groups that are essential in order to ensure that youth participation structures are operating efficiently: youth, youth organizations and local governmental structures.
Youth is one of the most important groups of local communities, yet their role and opportunities to impact local affairs is limited. The Charter offers many specific ideas about how to increase the involvement of youth in decision-making processes at local level.
Youth has to be prepared for active participation in structures. It is necessary for young people to develop needed skills and learn how to form and present an opinion. It is important for young people to understand that their voice matters, that other society groups respect it and listen to it and that decisions which have been made matches their expressed views. If youth is not given this possibility, they could find difficulties in the future to participate in structures, and local community life, and would not contribute to improving it.
All organizations, both youth and organizations working with youth, have opportunities to involve youth in activities and decision-making processes. The organizations have to find ways to advocate youth interests, so that the government would take into account the proposals and needs of young people. This is an effective way, especially at municipal level, when government has close communication with citizens.
Organizations also have to apply youth participation principles in their daily activities; in this manner they will become more transparent in cooperation with youth and will be able to take into account their needs and opinions better. Partnership is when roles, tasks and responsibilities are shared among young people and people working with youth. Young people not only criticize and offer their solutions, but also take responsibility and actively participate in implementation.
Local governmental institutions and municipalities shape local policies. They also manage local resources and seek for ways to improve the quality of life of local communities. That is why they are extremely important in creating conditions for the young people to participate in the decision-making process. Besides, local governments being familiar with local situation, they can support youth participation in various activities through youth-friendly means. Municipalities should be obliged to support youth participation in public governance processes at the local level, but also in social environments such as school, youth centres and organizations. Therefore, local governmental institutions have the power to create youth participation opportunities.