Toolkit of GOOD PRACTICES on Citizen Participation!


Youth Advisory Council for Under 14


Country: Italy

Context

Reggio Emilia is a town of 170.000 inhabitants divided into 5 districts. The measure concerns pupils between 9 and 13 years old attending primary and secondary schools of two of these districts. The north-eastern district is characterized by the highest density of industrial and artisanal companies; the southern district is mainly residential. The theme is active citizenship and education in taking part to city life. Children and young people developed some projects concerning the improvement of the everyday life environment (school, district, mobility, quality of life).

Measure

The Consiglio Comunale dei Ragazzi (CCR) is a system made up of primary and secondary school pupils and has consultative and advisory purpose with the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. It arranges its own activities within two working commissions.
Purpose:
CCR was created with the purpose of developing ideas, promoting pupils’ planning skills, increasing their awareness of being citizens and giving them the chance to be actively involved in their town’s public life. CCR is an educational project that tries to build a common consciousness among pupils, in order to make them become active citizens through a participation planning method and community actions that are publically useful.

Target Group

CCR involves 532 students attending the fourth and fifth grade at 8 primary schools and 1053 students attending three different secondary schools, for a total of 1585 students. Every CCR (one for each district) is composed by about 30 students elected by their classmates. Boys and girls of the CCR take into consideration all the projects and choose the ones to work on, together with their classmates. Each participating class contributes to the achievement of one or more actions that make up the whole project. The young members of the Council are selected through voting and remain in office for two years. The direct beneficiaries of the projects are the elected students and their classmates, while teachers, families, local administrators and citizens are the secondary beneficiaries.

Methodology

Methods and tools:
Active involvement of the schools participating in the project
Insights/in-depth analysis of the topics characterizing the projects that CCR will develop
Co-planning together with pupils, specialists and teachers
Discussion and exchange of views about different options at each stage of work. Sharing of decisions and tasks given with the group after discussion.
Transparency during each stage of work
Cooperative approach
Work in small groups (Commissions) with periodic moments of synthesis
Work with school classes on actions agreed with teachers
Building links and partnerships between different actors working on the territory
Worktables, periodic meetings, meetings for supervision and evaluation

Stakeholders

The stakeholders are: primary and secondary schools (headmasters, teachers), the municipal administration (council members, technicians), experts on issues concerning the project, local associations and partners.
Different stakeholders interact with the educational team and the CCR-participants through working groups committed to creation, implementation and evaluation of each project.

Assessment

Pupils of the classes involved have examined in depth the knowledge related to the themes of each project, have acquired skills.
In general, through any specific project, they have developed capacities about the ways to be active citizens, how to design projects and how to involve administrators and technicians, about how to follow the development of projects and show the results to citizens.
The achievement of these goals is also provided through photographic documentation, videos, and regular meetings between the educational team and the stakeholders.

Impact

Pupils of CCR have enthusiastically and regularly participated in the project. The expectations about the goals to be achieved have been totally satisfied (raising awareness about active citizenship, participating in activities of CCR, building collaborations with adults, achieving of the projects developed by the commissions, involvement of school classes in projects or part of them. There are various secondary beneficiaries. Families of the elected pupils worked together to create the conditions for a suitable participation of their children in the initiatives of CCR, often had an interest in the topics examined and were active in many situations. The involvement of the families of other classmates (who participated in just some actions of the projects) has been less effective. The municipality administrators were helpful and cooperative towards CCRís requests of attention to their work. Some projects made it possible to involve citizens, families and municipality workers.

Swot

1. Strengths (characteristics of the measure that give it an advantage over others):
The economic shortcomings often force to downsize the imagined project put forward by the members of the CCR. Anyway this aspect has its own educational value because it forces the kids to deal with reality, to consider all the unfavorable events that may occur (also those external to the group’s purpose) and to integrate them positively into their projects.
Educating children to active participation helps to enrich the civic culture of the students and, in the following years, it will be possible to verify that it has had a positive influence on the attitudes and behavior of young people regarding participation in local community life.
2. Weaknesses (characteristics that place the measure at a disadvantage relative to others)
CCR, during the activity period, did not have a sharp communication action in order to allow a widespread visibility on the territory, beyond the districts where the projects were carried out (schools, municipal offices, etc.).
It is often difficult to find the economic resources necessary for the achievement of the projects and this may bring to downsize the project.
In two years, CCR can develop and carry out only a limited number of projects.
3. Opportunities (elements that the measure could exploit to its advantage):
Building national and international partnerships with projects addressed to the same age group and that deal with education, participation and active citizenship
Giving greater importance to the means of communication to make many more citizens aware of the projects realized; enhancing student commitment; increasing awareness of the importance of participation in political and social life (not just local life).
4. Threats (elements in the environment that could cause trouble to the measure):
The awareness of each school (and teachers) about an idea of education on active citizenship in which students are active players and not only passive listeners
School programs are not flexible and it is hard to promote projects that go beyond school subjects in order to develop interdisciplinary knowledge
The unavailability of funds to support the CCR and projects to be implemented

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