[Translate to English:] Gesichter junger Menschen

Next Generation and Society – Sustainable. Digital. Engaged.

Today’s young people need better opportunities to help shape a sustainable future. Many of them are worried about the future and the burdens older generations will pass on to them. Young people are calling for sustainable, intergenerational policies and economic systems that do not diminish their and other future generations’ opportunities for a decent life. In line with our project objective, “Empowering Youth for a Sustainable Future”, our activities aim to encourage young people from all backgrounds to work together to become more active as changemakers, to catalyse efforts towards a more sustainable future.

Foto Marek Wallenfels
Marek Wallenfels
Foto Anja Langness
Dr. Anja Langness
Senior Project Manager
Foto Regina von Görtz
Dr. Regina von Görtz
Senior Project Manager
Foto Susanne Bendicks
Susanne Bendicks
Senior Project Assistant
Foto Monika Diaz
Monika Diaz
Project Assistant

Next generation’s voices are underheard and underengaged!

Young people will be particularly affected by the lack of sustainability today. They will experience the negative effects of our current failures – the consequences of which we are only beginning to see. Yet, largely due to demographic factors, young people’s capacity to influence this development is limited.

The impact on the next generation is compounded by the myriad crises we are currently facing, such as the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis it has fueled, and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Young people are particularly burdened by these crises and are worried about their future. This is especially true for young people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are much more affected by the various negative effects of these crises than their peers from socio-economically and educationally privileged backgrounds.

Irrespective of these differences, across the board, most young people feel that their concerns are not sufficiently taken into consideration and that young people are not being properly involved in efforts to address the ongoing crises.

Young people as co-creators of a sustainable society

We want to deepen the agency of today’s younger generations so that they can have a greater impact on sustainable social development. To achieve this goal, we have launched a new project:

Young People and Society – Sustainable. Digital. Engaged. 

The generation of those born since the mid-1990s (i.e., the next generation) – as well as society as a whole – can and should benefit from young people’s increased participation, their creativity and their engagement. Our aim is to increase young people's opportunities to participate in political decision-making processes and to strengthen their commitment to a sustainable future. Our project activities focus primarily on 16- to 30-year-olds.

Although young people have the right to play an active role in shaping society, they rarely have the opportunity to exercise this right in practice. This is particularly true for those young adults who, due to their socio-economic background and the lack of role models in their social and family environment, have had little or no positive experience of this kind of participation.

Our project activities 

Our project focuses on activating and engaging the next generation to help create a sustainable society:

  • We research (inter)national approaches that successfully strengthen this generation’s power to ensure a sustainable future. 
  • We explore the ways in which today’s youth communicate on socio-political issues and the platforms through which they are politically mobilized.
  • We develop tools and approaches, both digital and analogue, to help young people make their voices heard. 
  • We help young people engage with policymakers and business leaders to make their case for a more sustainable future.

In recent years, the next generation has lamented the fact that it has had little opportunity to participate in political decision-making processes and that it is far too often underrepresented in such processes. Current research suggests that there are far too few constructive opportunities for young people to participate in democratic and political decision-making processes.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung will use practical strategies to find out what works when it comes to strengthening the next generation’s ability to participate in sustainability issues. Young people need more opportunities to play an active role in shaping the social and economic frameworks in which they live, and to experience greater self-efficacy. We are therefore committed to ensuring that, moving forward, the rest of society pays greater attention to the concerns of youth and young adults in the future.