Ale Influence Square
Influence Square is a physical meeting place between young people in the municipality and decision makers and is a key to the entire work with young people’s influence in Ale municipality. The local youth council are the ones who plan and implement the project with the support of coordinators for youth influence, youth coaches and teachers responsible for the student council.
The Influence Square gives young people the opportunity to sit down with decision makers and take the next step from surveys to developing dialogue. The entire local youth council and all student councils from the municipality’s schools attend and that it is an open forum for more young people to sign up and participate. The Influence Square is also the kick-off for a year of young people’s participation in development issues as well as a source of inspiration for involvement in local and global issues. The goal is to continue to round off each year with an Influence square that increases and strengthens young people’s participation and influence in the municipality.
There are many challenges in developing and maintaining a sustainable society. It can be about creating security, taking care of nature or how the municipality’s service to all residents should look like when Ale grows and gets bigger. Participating citizens and citizen dialogue are what is required to deal with complex issues and challenges. To be able to manage the challenges, we need to formulate, be ready to evaluate innovative approaches and solve problems together.
Influence Square is a forum where young people can formulate their opinions and raise these directly to decision makers. Politicians and civil servants in turn get to evaluate their thoughts and ideas against an important target group and listen to how young people think about the municipality and its areas of operation. The results of the youth survey LUPP, which is conducted a couple of months before Influence Square, form the basis of the discussion material on the forum’s talk stations. During the Influence Square, the young participants also vote on who will be the new representatives in the Youth Council next year.
Goals with Influence Square:
- To strengthen the basis for all decisions that affect young people in the municipality.
- To increase young people’s participation and influence.
- To strengthen contact between young people and decision-makers.
- That young people can raise issues that are important to them.
- That young people gain an insight into and understanding of the local democratic structure and democratic work.
- Establishing contact between the youth council and the student councils in the municipality.
- To take the results from the LUPP youth survey further in a process that leads to real development of the municipality, in continuous collaboration with the young.
- That the young people who participate in organizing Influence Square use and increase their skills through organized non-formal learning.
The project has aimed at the goals found in the European strategy for youth policy such as supporting the active citizenship of young people. It is also about spreading information about our rights and obligations in the EU and that young people should become active citizens in our democracy. An important aim is that young people’s opinions should be used to create a better youth policy. Young people must have the opportunity to improve their skills in various areas, for example democracy, language, or digital media. The use of digital tools and social media as well as collaboration are valuable skills that increase the competence of young people and make them more employable.
All young people who are 13 to 20 years old and live in Ale are welcome to participate in Influence Square, plus all of Ale’s student councils and the youth council participate. It is the youth council that plans and implements Influence Square, with the support of youth coaches and teachers responsible for the student council. Politicians from the municipal board and various committees are present during the day. Also, civil servants; for example, managers, principals and other decision-makers who work in the municipality are included. This means that young people can ask questions and express opinions about most things that concern young people’s everyday life and future.
During the day, Influence Square participants will also listen to and can ask questions in a debate between various political youth associations. The debate is about Influence Square overall theme “Leisure” as decided by the youth council. The Youth Council will broadcast Influence Square live via the municipality’s social media. During the live broadcast, short interviews are conducted with participants, both young people and politicians. The live broadcast is saved and after the forum the film is posted on various channels, for example the youth council’s social media and the municipality’s website.
The outcome of Influence Square is summarized in a report whose purpose is to be a basis for further work and discussion both within politics and in administration. The outcome is also the basis for the continued work on the influence of young people, for example, the youth council’s annual planning.
All young people who are 13 to 20 years old and live in Ale are welcome to participate in Influence Square. They register via e-mail or on Ale municipality’s website. Marketing for Influence Square goes out via the website, social media, the schools’ intranet, posters and from various professions that work with young people in the municipality. Extra effort is made to reach young people who usually do not take part in such contexts, for example young people with lower socio-economic conditions and new arrivals.
In Ale municipality, there are special efforts/activities for young people who, for assorted reasons, usually do not go to school. The officials in those activities are interviewed and invited to Influence Square and work to bring the young people to the forum. If the young people cannot, or choose not to participate, they can send thoughts and questions to the forum via officials; it is important that their thoughts and ideas come through in the project.
The local youth council consists of 23 young people aged 13 to 20. The Youth Council is a representative group voted for by the young people in Ale to be a reference group and work to raise the voices of young people in democratic contexts. The members of the youth council are elected once a year and represent young people from various places and ages. The Youth Council plans and implements Influence Square, and they also participate in all aspects of the forum.
All the municipality’s student councils also participate. The student council consists of selected student representatives from all classes in the schools. In Ale municipality, there are four junior high schools and two high schools, one of which consists of two introductory programs; for those who need to read up grades or learn Swedish. Since Influence Square takes place during school hours, the student councils get permission from their schools to participate, and the teachers responsible for the student councils go along.
Local politicians from the municipal board and all the municipality’s committees participate. In addition, managers and coordinators from the municipal administration’s sectors participate. Teachers and youth coaches also participate to help and support the event. That all these adult representatives should participate in Influence Square is a decision taken by the municipal council and the administration’s management team.
Representatives from the political youth associations participate in a debate that takes place under Influence Square. They are also welcomed to participate in all aspects of the forum if they wish to do so. The youth associations are linked to Sweden’s parliamentary parties and consist of committed young people between 15 and 25 years old.
The young people (including the members from the youth council and student councils) are between 13 and 20 years old.
Politicians and civil servants are of all ages with a predominance of older people.
The representatives of the youth associations are between 15 and 25 years old.
Participation is based on interest and voluntariness, and we hope that there will be an even gender distribution. In the work with the youth council and student councils, the ambition is for them to be representative groups, also regarding gender distribution. When inviting decision-makers, a good distribution is also desired.
The members of the youth council who organize Influence Square:
• increases their experience and knowledge in project work, from planning, preparation, implementation, evaluation, and follow-up.
• increases their ability to cooperate in groups and develop in democratic contexts.
• increases his experience of hosting a forum with around a hundred visitors.
• increases their ability to communicate in public contexts and social media.
• increases their overall knowledge of how their municipality works; everything from politics to administration.
• networks with young people from various parts of the municipality as well as local politicians, managers, and other officials.
The representatives from the youth associations participating in Influence Square:
• get to practice formulating their opinions and representing their political party in a public debate.
The young people who participate in Influence Square (including the youth council and youth associations):
• increases their ability to formulate their opinions and ideas to politicians and civil servants.
• networks with young people from various parts of the municipality as well as local politicians, managers, and other officials.
• gain increased knowledge of the municipality’s structure and processes.
• gain increased knowledge of the municipality’s platform for young people’s influence; how they can be involved and influence.
• be inspired to become interested in development issues and become (more) actively involved in the municipality’s platform for young people’s influence.
• gain increased knowledge about the political youth associations and how one can become a member.
• get an outlet for their desire to be involved and influence issues in which they are interested.
• gain increased knowledge of how politicians and other young people think and reason.
The decision-makers (politicians, managers, and civil servants) who participate in Influence Square:
• get inspiration and increased knowledge
• gains increased understanding of/knowledge of/insight into the situation of young people.
• get a better basis for decision-making and ideas about/suggestions on how the municipality can develop to improve the situation of young people.
• can evaluate their thoughts and ideas against an important target group and listen to how young people think about the municipality and its areas of activity.
• get to practice communicating with and listening to the young people.
• networks with committed young people and other decision-makers.
We will use the national method ELD (Experience Learning Description) to recognize competence and make learning visible in the process the youth council members go through when working with Influence Square. ELD is about putting competence-descriptive words on one’s actions in real situations. The ELD method results in the young people reflecting on their own and their colleagues’ demonstrated competence and that they receive a certificate; a “letter of competence”.
Planning and preparation
The local youth council are the ones who plan and implement Influence Square with the support of coordinators for young people’s influence, youth coaches and teachers responsible for the student council. Already now, in connection with this application, the planning process has begun. The Youth Council has decided that the overall theme for Influence Square will be “Leisure”. Leisure is one of seven areas in the youth survey LUPP, which was conducted in 2020 before Influence Square. These areas are leisure, school, politics and society, security, health, work, and the future. The youth survey is strongly linked to Influence Square as it is the results of the survey that provide the basis for discussion at the forum’s talk stations.
• The Youth Council forms a working group which is tasked with planning Influence Square during at least four meetings.
• The high school students are introduced to the upcoming LUPP youth survey to be conducted in October.
• The new student councils are introduced extra at their meetings when they start in September.
• The working group has its first meeting where they plan the Impact Square.
• The Youth Council has a general meeting, and the working group gives feedback on how things are going.
• The Youth Council’s steering group discusses the plan for Influence Square with the municipal councilors and feeds back to the working group.
• Coordinators for the influence of young people have meetings with various activities where collaboration takes place to bring in young people who do not usually go to school or participate in similar contexts.
• The working group has its second meeting about Influence Square where they plan further.
• Feedback takes place at the youth council’s general meeting.
• The Youth Council’s steering group discusses the plan for Influence Square with the municipal councilors and feeds back to the working group.
• The working group produces discussion materials for Influence Square various stations.
• The Youth Council has a general meeting and processes/approves the discussion material produced by the working group.
• Invited participants (decision-makers and student councils) take part in the discussion material to prepare.
• The working group has a meeting with the municipality’s communications department to plan and prepare the live broadcast they will conduct via social media during Influence Square.
• The Youth Council conducts a campaign where young people can be nominated for the new Youth Council for the year 2023. The vote on which nominees will get the seats takes place during Influence Square.
• The Youth Council’s steering group makes a special review of the discussion material and the plan for Influence Square with the municipality’s management.
• The working group has its fourth planning meeting where they put all the final details.
• All orders for work materials and equipment are completed.
• Practical preparations are conducted; drive materials and equipment to the venue, arrange tables and chairs in the venue, build the stage and set up instructions.
• Influence square is conducted according to planning.
Influence Square is a school activity that will be conducted in Bohushallen, which is a sports hall run by the municipality. Participants get there via local transport, walking and/or car. The young people who go there with their school are guided by their responsible teachers. Others are driven by their parents or get there on their own just as they would to get to school on a normal school day.
The in-house services sector provides support in driving equipment and setting up the practicalities of the stage and technology required by the forum. The youth council and the youth coaches set up conversation stations with tables, chairs, and the like.
Impact Square will be broadcast live via the municipality’s social media. The Youth Council’s working group prepares all the practical things in the days leading up to and in the morning before the forum starts, with the support of the municipality’s communications department. It is about setting up a station and arranging the technology.
Influence Square is approved according to the safety rules of the police and the fire authority.
Activities during Influence Square
The Influence Square forum itself will take a day to complete. The Youth Council gathers all participants before the square begins to divide into groups and prepare the conversation process. For two hours, the groups rotate between conversation stations with different themes that the youth council developed from the LUPP youth survey. After lunch, all participants gather for feedback from the stations’ interlocutors. The Youth Council here also organizes a debate on the overarching theme between the political youth associations, which is interactive for the participants.
All conversations between decision-makers and participating young people are documented at each station by an official from the municipality. The documentation is compiled into a report that summarizes the discussions, together with specific suggestions, questions, and views from the young people. Written opinions can also be provided separately for young people who are not comfortable speaking in front of the group.
07:00 – Practical preparations
The entire youth council, with the help of youth coaches and internal service, is helped to build up the square according to the youth council’s plan in Bohushallen. Bohushallen is a sports hall run by the municipality, which is adjacent to Bohusskolan junior high school. This means building a stage and a station for the live broadcast (as well as technology for these), setting up and completing all call stations, fixing the voting booths, arranging tables with fruit and drinks and fixing entrance tables where the participant list is to be filled out.
08:30 – Meeting for briefing
Everyone who works on the event (the youth council, youth coaches, teachers, and other officials) meets for a final briefing before the event starts.
09:00 – Admission
All participants are admitted. The Youth Council takes care of the entrance and fills in a participant list.
09:15 – Introduction/group division
From the stage, the youth council welcomes everyone, talks about the day with the help of a PowerPoint and divides the participants into groups. The live broadcast of the event begins and continues until lunch. Both planned interviews with prepared questions and spontaneous interviews with participants are conducted here.
09:45 – Group exercise to get to know each other
The Youth Council conducts a planned exercise with the groups of participants for them to get to know each other.
10:00 – Call stations/voting booths
The participants circulate at five conversation stations, one each for leisure, health, security, school, and society. Another station that the participants pass is a voting booth where they vote for who will sit in the new youth council for next year (2023). Each group stays at a station for 20 minutes before changing.
12:00 – Lunch
The participants are guided to Bohusskolan, which is connected to Bohushallen, and eat lunch in the school’s canteen.
13:00 – Feedback from the decision makers
A politician from each group gives feedback on their thoughts on the day and the impressions they got from the young people.
13:15 – Debate between youth associations
Youth associations have a debate on stage based on Influence Square theme “Leisure”. One of the youth council members is the moderator and the council has prepared some questions. There is plenty of space for the participants to ask questions of the representatives of the youth associations.
14:15 – Evaluation via Mentimeter
All participants may use their mobile phones and a code for an online survey (via Mentimeter) which they fill in on the spot. The result is displayed on screen in real time.
14:30 – Election results
The Youth Council presents the election results for who will sit on the Youth Council next year.
14:45 – 15:30 – Closing and finishing work
The Youth Council thanks you for the day and together with the staff there will be cleaning and a check-out where everyone gets to say a few words about the day.
Effects of Influence Square
The municipality’s management, current committees, sectors, and operations gain increased understanding of/knowledge of/insight into the situation of young people. The outcome of Influence Square is summarized in a report whose purpose is to be a basis for further political work and discussion. This strengthens the decision-making basis for the municipality’s decision-makers but also for the student councils and the youth council in the continued work of meeting and managing development issues. Politicians and civil servants can evaluate their thoughts and ideas against an important target group, young people, and listen to how young people think about the municipality or region and its areas of activity. Politicians and civil servants must practice communicating with and listening to young people.
Influence Square informs young people that they can influence and how they can go about getting their voices heard by decision-makers. They gain increased knowledge about the municipality’s processes and about the platform for young people’s influence that is available to them. For example, they gain increased knowledge about the municipality’s youth council and student council.
Influence Square inspires young people to become interested in development issues and become active participants in the municipality’s platform for young people’s influence. The young people also get to practice formulating their opinions and thoughts in an official and public context.
Influence Square contributes to developing resource-rich communities and a competent local society by highlighting young people’s special knowledge, insights, and abilities. Through this, a wealth of local resources is created that provides capacity for action and change.
Influence square creates permissive conversations and meetings where people feel listened to, seen and confirmed. In this, trusting and mutual relationships are built. The municipality takes advantage of the diversity of personalities, knowledge, talents, and strengths and enables the creation of a competent local community. By developing the local wealth of resources and social capital, active co-creative people and competent local communities are created who own the power to their own change and positive development.
The Youth Council meets the municipal councilors 6 times a year and invites politicians and managers depending on which issues are current. This means that suggestions and questions that have come up during the influence square are followed up and worked on throughout the year. Politicians and decision-makers are also continuously influenced by having regular contact with the youth council.
The work after Influence Square 2021 progresses as follows (clear plan):
• The student council evaluates Influence Square with the support of a survey.
• The participating officials and politicians evaluate Influence Square with the support of a survey.
• The members of the youth council who planned and implemented Influence Square complete their processes with the ELD certificate.
• The Youth Council evaluates Influence Square during their closing big meeting for the year.
• The live broadcast from Influence Square is posted as a video on social media and linked on Ale municipality’s website.
December – January
• Coordinator compiles the notes from Influence Square.
• The new youth council that was voted for during Influence Square starts.
• With the support of coordinators, the youth council produces development proposals based on the results of Influence Square.
• The Youth Council prioritizes the development proposals and presents them to the municipality’s management.
• The Youth Council chooses their focus area for the year 2023 based on the results of Influence Square, leisure, school, security, health or society.
• The result is presented to the student councils and via Ale municipality’s website, current social media and in the young people’s own newspaper Made in Ale.
• The Youth Council forms a working group to plan a Dialogue Forum where their focus area will be the theme.
• The municipality starts a summer project where approx. 30 holiday workers will work on development issues for 3 weeks (v. 25 – 27).
March – June
• The development proposals are discussion material for the spring’s Debating Clubs, which are open forums for young people and decision makers.
• The Youth Council conducts a Dialogue Forum where young people and decision-makers meet with the development issues regarding their chosen theme.
• Holiday workers work in groups with smaller projects where they produce proposals for practical solutions (which can be implemented in autumn 2021) based on the development questions from Influence Square.
• The Youth Council forms a new working group for Influence Square 2023. Which is also a new LUPP year.
In 2023, the process will be started again with a new LUPP survey. Each stage (annual cycle) looks the same; deepened and developed according to evaluations.
Influence Square is the key to the entire work with young people’s influence in Ale municipality. Thanks to the project, young people in large numbers can sit down with decision-makers and take the next step from surveys to developing dialogue. The entire youth council and all student councils attend and that it is an open event for more young people to sign up for and participate. Influence Square is also the kick-off for a year of young people’s participation and inspiration for involvement in local and global issues. The goal is to end each year with an Influence square that increases and strengthens the young influence in the municipality.
The Youth Council continues to work on the issues that have come up during the influence square.
• The main purpose of Influence Square is to take survey results further in a process that leads to real development of the municipality, in continuous collaboration with the young residents.
The municipality’s work with citizen dialogue, influence and participation is one of the most important keys to success in the development of a sustainable society. Ale conveys these working methods and municipal structures in established national networks through KEKS (national network for youth work with a focus on participation) and MUCF (the authority for youth and civil society affairs). The municipality has a high ambition to also convey this on a European level and has recently been approved for an EU project with this purpose; the SAYouth project aims at learning between organizations that work with young people’s influence and participation.
Dissemination of the project’s results
All notes and proposals from Influence Square are collected, compiled, and delivered to relevant committees, sectors and activities as well as to the youth council, student councils and other local influential groups. This both through verbal presentations and written documents.
The result is the basis for the youth council’s annual plan for 2023, and for the student councils’ continued work in developing their school environments. The Youth Council processes the results and produces more concrete development proposals which they present to the municipality. The compilation of notes, development proposals, project plan and project evaluation are open to all interested parties, even non-local ones. The Youth Council’s own prioritized development proposals are presented both on Ale municipality’s website, in social media and the young people’s own newspaper “Made in Ale” (a newspaper produced by young people in Ale).
The Youth Council selects their (according to them) most important development issues and sets up a dialogue forum in the spring after Influence Square. There, the youth council, and other participants (open to all interested young people and decision-makers in the municipality) dive deeper into the questions to find answers to how the municipality can develop, in cooperation with the young people.
The youth council participates in a network with other youth councils in neighboring municipalities. The network conducts meetings where experiences and knowledge are exchanged. In this network, the youth council will show their successes with Influence Square and the results from there.
The project in its entirety will also be presented on Ale municipality’s website and the municipality’s intranet, which reaches approximately 2,500 municipal employees. As well as in the networks the municipality participates in; The GR network that works with the LUPP youth survey, MUCF (the authority for youth and civil society issues) that arranges the survey and the KEKS network for work with young people’s influence (which Ale municipality initiated in 2019).
During the summer of 2023, Ale municipality plans to employ young holiday workers in order to, guided by the results of Influence Square, develop development projects with the aim of being launched in the summer or autumn of the same year, in a collaboration between young people and decision-makers.
The main purpose of Influence Square is to develop Ale municipality through citizen dialogue, participation, and influence so that the situation of young people improves. It starts with the youth survey LUPP, through which young people give the municipality a picture of the current situation of young people. Influence Square kicks off a three-year project where young people participate in developing the municipality. When the youth survey is conducted again in 2023, the work will be evaluated as we can see how the situation of young people has changed.
The Influence Square forum itself is evaluated through:
• An on-site evaluation via Mentimeter; a survey tool where participants answer online with their mobile phones/computers.
• Conversations in the student council groups after Influence Square.
• Survey and conversation in the youth council.
• Survey to all politicians and civil servants.
• Conversations with the group of service personnel who supported the youth council through the process.