Youth in the drivers’ seat in 2022


Two young people in the sun holding up the EU flag

Image from European Commission press corner by European Commission press corner

The year 2022 is officially the European Year of Youth. There is no longer any doubt about the pivotal role that youth play in advocacy and in building better futures for all. In full acknowledgement of their power and potential, the European Commission is dedicating this year to spearheading actions that support young people.

Formally designating this the European Year of Youth opens the door for – and helps fund – the European Commission to coordinate a range of activities with youth organisations and young people to build capacity and strengthen the ability of young people to shape Europe and its future.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, Youth and Sport, explains, “We all understand the importance of putting young people in the spotlight and celebrating their resilience after two very challenging years… We want to make their voices heard and to [see them] inform the decisions we will make for their future. We want this Year to lead to concrete actions that will last well beyond 2022.”

The European Year of Youth will pursue four key objectives:

  1. Supporting youth to have positive future perspectives – despite the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 that young people face – including by highlighting how Europe’s green and digital transitions open up opportunities for youth.
  2. Supporting young people to acquire the knowledge, skills and experiences to become even more engaged European citizens.
  3. Helping youth to learn about and seize opportunities available at the local, national and European levels to help them in their personal and professional development.
  4. Mainstreaming ‘youth policy’ such that the perspectives of young people are considered in policy-making across fields and governing levels.

How CIVITAS helps meet these objectives

Youth perspectives are vital across all policy areas, and mobility is no exception. Transport and mobility decisions made now will impact Europeans for generations to come. Simply consider the walkability of your community to see the long-lasting impacts of policy and infrastructural decisions from decades ago. So how is CIVITAS working to raise youth voices in this space?

The clearest example of CIVITAS’ work with young Europeans is the Fresh Brains programme. Fresh Brains is a demand-driven programme to provide students with mentorship, guidance, and hands-on experiences, while also introducing new and fresh perspectives to help mobility organisations.

Organisations approach CIVITAS with a challenge for which student insights would be helpful, and then choose whether this challenge would be best addressed via an internship, hackathon, tactical urbanism activity, or an urban living lab (each explained in more detail here). The Fresh Brains programme then connects organisations with students perfectly suited to learn from and contribute to their work.

CIVITAS is also in the process of launching a university network to connect academic institutions, professors and researchers working in the fields of sustainable mobility and transport. This network will feature an online ‘hub’ on which to post opportunities for students across Europe. The hub will also promote exchange opportunities, match-making to connect students with mentors, and serve to connect students with the wider mobility world.

How young people have already contributed to CIVITAS

Young people are already part of the CIVITAS Community.

Just a few months ago, alongside the CIVITAS Forum 2021, youth delegates came together for the Mobility Powered by the Youth conference. The conference showcased the work of young mobility professionals to a large audience, promoted the exchange of views and knowledge, and connected these young leaders with representatives from the European Commission, including Dr. Octavia Stepan, Head of Sector, CINEA.

More recently, a youth delegation joined the CIVITAS Winter Course, which was an action-based course that explored active mobility, coastal city mobility, and mobility innovation. Memo Buijs was one of these young attendees, and recently reflected on his experience. Memo highlights how enriching this in-depth exchange was, and describes a “bus stop guerrilla activity” that the youth delegates took on during the course to transform a bus stop into a beacon of fun and positivity that showcased the potential of public transport.

A similarly hands-on and group-work driven course was hosted by CIVINET Slovenia-Croatia-SEE this winter for 22 students from the University of Zagreb. Students selected spatial challenges and analysed and proposed concrete improvement measures for specific areas in Zagreb. The solutions address short-, medium- and long-term planning, and provide local mobility leaders with doable and complex solutions.

In each of these cases, youth seized a learning opportunity as an opportunity for action – whether guerrilla action or advocating for potential mobility solutions.

Just the beginning

This European Year of Youth, CIVITAS is committed to continuing to bring young people to the table, providing youth with opportunities to learn, connect and act, while also integrating their perspectives into our work.

Ready to join us? Learn more about the Fresh Brains programme here, and contact us to get connected to young people ready to make more sustainable mobility and transport a reality.

Author: Adrienne Kotler


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