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Constructing AcTive CitizensHip with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CATCH-EyoU (Constructing AcTive CitizensHip with European Youth: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Solutions)

Période du rapport: 2016-09-01 au 2018-09-30

The CATCH-EyoU project aims to identify ways and means by which we can help cultivate a new generation of young European citizens, in a complex historical period, characterized by unprecedented challenges to the EU political project (e.g. UK vote to exit from the EU, growth of populist and racism movements). It is a context in which a strong and cohesive EU would be urgently needed in order to address emerging social and political issues that member states are struggling to address on their own (e.g. refugee crisis, economic crisis, youth unemployment, increasing inequalities, radicalization).
The current generation of European youth was born in the EU; however, the extent to which the EU is a real and concrete entity in their everyday life experience and awareness is still not clear. What does being member of the EU mean to youth? How do young people engage as active citizens in EU issues?
Clarifying the meanings and significance of active EU citizenship, beyond the “normative” existing conceptualizations that inform policy and educational efforts, seems necessary in order to build a different, more inclusive and equitable EU, towards the variety of its different citizens, including those ones who currently resist or oppose it.
Through a consortium of nine partners from eight European countries, (Coordinator University of Bologna, Italy), representing different disciplines(Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, Media and Communications, Education, History)the CATCH-EyoU project addressed the nature and processes of construction of active citizenship among European youth, including an analysis of the multifaceted factors influencing young people perspectives toward the EU, their sense of EU identity and membership and the different forms of youth active engagement in European politics at various governance levels. It aimed to offer policy makers, professionals and young people themselves new “conceptual lenses” and instruments to better understand the factors that decide how the EU can be brought closer to its young citizens. These aims have been addressed through a multi-methodological approach, and including young people as partners, in order to ensure that youth’s own perspectives and concerns are fully incorporated.
Project activities were implemented as planned and allowed to identify the complexity of the factors and processes that, at different levels(macrosocial/societal, contextual/interactional,individual psychological) explain the forms and profiles of youth engagement in the context of the EU.
The work performed in the project included different activities: (a) performing a broad integrative review of the multidisciplinary literature on youth participation and active citizenship, and subsequently updating it, based on the empirical findings, into a final integrative model; (b) examining empirically three key contexts that are assumed to influence the construction of youth active citizenship in the EU (youth policies, the media environment and civic/citizenship education); (c) investigating young people’s views on, and experiences with, the EU and active citizenship within different situations and contexts, and examining influencing factors and processes at different levels of context (societal or macrosocial, contextual-interactional and individual psychological). This activity was performed using three methodological approaches in combination: quantitative (analysis of existing research data as well as collection of cross national and longitudinal data on a large sample of 15 to 30 years-old young people from all consortium countries), qualitative (focus groups with high school students and ethnographic case studies on youth organisations to examine successful practices of youth participation) and the implementation and testing of a school-based active citizenship educational intervention.
Results indicated that we may need to open the room to different ways through which young people can be (and become) active citizens in the EU, if we aim to ensure a committed active citizenship capable of reinvigorating democratic structures and processes to address current challenges faced by the EU. Current conceptualisations need to incorporate also critical and dissenting forms of citizenship, besides trustful and dutiful orientations, to ensure representation of the full variety of the youth population; moreover, we need to go beyond the assumption that sustained engagement is to be expected as a norm from all youth. The analysis of the three contexts (youth policies, media environment, school curricula) converges in indicating that the ways they socially construct young people tend to generate exclusionary mechanisms towards some groups of youth. Similarly, the view of the EU that they contribute to shape mirrors the vision of the EU as a distant, patronizing, bureaucratic entity that is still prevalent among the majority of young people that were surveyed in the empirical studies (both quantitative and qualitative). Empirical studies, as well as the intervention results, indicated that influencing factors and processes on forms and profiles of EU citizenship should be examined at different levels (from the macrosocial/societal to the individual psychological) and taking into account their complex patterns of interactions among these levels; some consistent patterns of associations have been found both cross nationally and longitudinally (e.g. concerning trust in the EU, political efficacy, identification, citizenship orientations), that are further supported by qualitative data analyses and the outcomes of the intervention with students.
Overall, the empirical findings indicate that attempts to engage young people should start from the construction of a more fair and balanced representation of this population – and particularly the more vulnerable and excluded groups - within youth policies, in the media and in the educational policies. Moreover, bridging the gap between young people and the EU rests upon providing youth high quality information and developing critical thinking and awareness. Further, building trustful institutions is a precondition to develop young people’s trust toward them.
The research conducted within the CATCH-EyoU project significantly contributed to advancing the state of the art in the topic of youth engagement and participation, including a specific focus on EU-level forms of citizenship and the factors and processes (including developmental changes) that influence the forms and profiles of EU youth citizenship.
The project produced an extensive multi-disciplinary literature review on the topic of (youth) active citizenship, which informed a range of studies, using different methods (e.g. cross-sectional and longitudinal, qualitative ethnographic, intervention). This triangulation of methods allowed to reach both a broader and deeper understanding of the phenomenon and its influencing factors and processes, as well as to offer evidence based guidelines to enhance youth active citizenship through interventions. This original methodological approach represents a major achievement of the CATCH-EyoU project.Moreover in different parts of the work, the project engaged young people in a process of co-construction of the knowledge and in the development of solutions for improving the dialogue with institutions, in terms of recommendations, tools, proposals of best practices.