Junge Menschen im Gespräch

Strengthening Young People's Voices in our Democracy

Democracies thrive on the willingness of their citizens to participate in shaping their society. This willingness cannot be taken for granted; each new generation must have the chance to learn the proper functioning of democracy and must have the opportunity to become a vital part of society.

The best way to achieve this is for young people to experience democracy at an early age, to see that their voices count and that they have a chance to help shape society.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is therefore working on ideas and concepts to make our democracy more diverse and inclusive. We would like to empower people to get involved in politics and civil society to help shape the future of our country.

Our goal is to have engaged citizens and a vital democracy based on a strong social cohesion. We would like to contribute to this by strengthening the opportunities of the younger generation to participate in politics and society.

The project "Strengthening Young People's Voices in our Democracy" advocates reforming the legal framework for exercising the right to vote and participating in a voluntary year. We encourage to lower the voting age in Germany to 16 so that more young people have the opportunity to participate in shaping their future. At the same time, we want to help ensure that more young people have the chance to benefit from a year of volunteering. The project aims to increase the participation opportunities of those who are socio-economically disadvantaged and less likely to have access to voting and a voluntary year.

Our two approaches – voluntary year and "Voting at 16"- contribute to the consolidation of social cohesion and the resilience of our democracy and they create opportunities to strengthen young people in their individual development. Both approaches promote the development of the transformative competencies which are considered to be essential by the OECD.  The young generation needs these future skills, especially taking responsibility for themselves and their environment and gaining the ability to deal with dilemmas and conflicts, to shape a better future in the 21st century.

Voting at 16

We want to encourage young people aged 16 and over to vote in elections where possible. They have the right to vote in local elections in eleven states and in six states they can  vote the state parliament. Recently, they have been given the right to vote in the European parliament elections. In model projects we cooperate with school and non-school partners as well as stakeholders from state politics, to test civic education measures to increase the participation rate among first-time voters.

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Voluntary year

Furthermore, we want to help ensure that young people have more and better opportunities to get involved in society. Therefore, we are working on improving the framework conditions for participation in a voluntary year. We are particularly interested in reducing social disadvantages regarding promoting young people´s involvement in society and exercising the right to vote.

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