Home > Engaging urban youth: community, citizenship, and democracy.

Chaskin, Robert J and McGregor, Caroline and Brady, Bernadine (2018) Engaging urban youth: community, citizenship, and democracy. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway.

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It is well known that disadvantaged youth in urban environments often experience marginalisation and disenfranchisement that can lead to serious consequences for them, their families, and the wider society. Such disenfranchisement is reinforced by negative media portrayals and punitive policies that treat certain urban youth as threats to be controlled rather than as young people with the agency and potential to contribute effectively to society. At the same time, it is also well known that successfully engaging young men and women in the institutions, communities, and contexts in which they live and building their capacity as social actors can be a critical factor in their positive development as individuals, enhance their future role as citizens, and promote their current positive contribution to these same contexts and institutions. Concerns about the extent to which young people – especially young people at the margins – are increasingly disengaged from civic and political life have been prominent in contemporary discourse and are an increasingly common impetus for youth policy.

Building on the foundation of a comparative analysis of policy frameworks generated by the UN, EU, and national governments in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England (Chaskin et al., 2018), the current analysis explores the perspectives of policy professionals, NGO leaders, and front-line practitioners seeking to promote youth civic and political engagement in three cities – Dublin, Belfast, and London – through government policy, programme development, and a range of strategies working with youth. It also examines the perspectives of young people themselves in these cities on their status in society, their ideas about citizenship and civic and political action, their experiences with efforts to promote their engagement, and their ideas about how to address the barriers and constraints to their more effective engagement. The key research questions that guide our analysis are:

  • What are the key ideas, rationales, and assumptions that lie behind efforts to promote youth civic engagement?
  • What are the major strategic approaches to encouraging youth civic and political engagement in these contexts? What opportunities and constraints do they provide?
  • What is the role of government, civil society organisations, and others in this field, and through what practical strategies (programmes, processes, supports, activities) do they play out?
  • What is the role of technology, such as mobile communications and social media, in shaping opportunities and strategies for youth engagement?
  • How do young men and women see themselves as civic and political actors in their current lives, and what are their expectations and aspirations for the future?
  • Which youth get engaged? How, why, around what issues, and towards what end? To what extent do class, gender, and ethnicity play a role?
  • How does the nature of the wider cultural and sociopolitical urban context impact on youth participation?

In pursuit of answers to these questions, we draw on data collected over the course of 18 months of field research in the three focal cities as well as contextual data on each context and a comparative analysis of selected policy frameworks at the supranational, national, and local levels in each of the jurisdictions that are the focus of the study.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
General / Comprehensive, Prevention, Harm reduction, Crime prevention
June 2018
106 p.
UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland Galway
Place of Publication

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