This is the official website for the #ASK project, which is funded by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency under the Erasmus+ Programme.
According to Eurostat, by 2050 youth under the age of 25 will account for a quarter of all working age persons. To tap into the full potential of this rich source of social dynamism, politicians and policymakers must make sure they take the thoughts of young people into account. The European Commission recognizes this fact in its 2010-2018 EU Strategy for Youth’ as does the Council of Youth Ministers which adopted a 2009 resolution promoting the active citizenship, social inclusion and solidarity of all young people. This resolution is supported by Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that young people have a right to have their views taken into account, and adults have a duty to provide them support.
Unfortunately, over 5 years later the goals of the EU Strategy for Youth remain unfulfilled. Recognising the growing use of ICT amongst young people (87% have basic ICT skills, 95% basic internet skills, over 60% have personal social media profiles and tend to use the internet over TV and printed press ), policy makers initially invested in designing online platforms to engage youth. Despite these efforts, less than 1/4 of young Europeans participated in online political discussion forums. Moreover, recent findings show that almost half of young distrust the EU and its political directions. Consequently, whilst well-intended, it is simply unrealistic to expect youth to use formal EU-funded platforms to freely express views.
The roll out of specialised platforms rarely scale and don’t reach a large amount of users – as the recent history of eParticipation shows. Yet, young people ARE engaging in lively political debates other using free, easily accessible and popular social media tools.
Project #ask is designed to address Erasmus KA3 Strand 2 (Youth), Priority 7 – using eParticipation as an instrument to foster young people’s empowerment and active participation in democratic life – by turning the traditional model of stand-alone eParticipation platforms on its head. Instead of expecting youth to search for and find pre-existing discussion platforms, #ask will go directly to the conversations that young people and politicians are already having – in isolation from each other – on the popular online social media network Twitter – which has been described as “the SMS of the Internet’’ and boasts more than 284 million users.
Whilst a growing number of politicians/policymakers use Twitter, they rarely intersect and engage with young people. Stuck in the traditional top-down communication mode, they tend to ‘push out’ views – often in large and difficult to digest formats. At the same time, whilst young people use Twitter, their discussions are often fleeting and unstructured, responding to issues as they arise rather than feeding into and informing policy discourse.
#ask will overcome these obstacles by acting as a ‘broker’ between the formal content pushed out by politicians/policy makers and the more informal content spontaneously generated by European youth. It will do so by using 1) communication experts and youth organisations to reformulate structured policy documents and Tweets into more engaging formats 2) sentiment analytics and visualization tools to translate unstructured youth discussions into opinion ‘snapshots’ for politicians/policymakers 3) the promotion of #hashtags to stimulate exchanges between these two groups.