Provide balanced information

Provide the young participants with balanced and easily accessible information 

You need to consider when and what kind of information the young participants should receive before they participate in the project and its deliberations. The answers highly depend on the purpose of your project. In some cases, a brief flyer that sets the scene will do; in other cases, a bit more background information is needed. To give an example: A project asks the young people to give input to a political strategy on youth housing which the city council is drafting. In order to give substantive and well-considered responses, the young people should receive balanced information in order to understand the issues already debated among the local politicians. But what exactly is meant by ‘balanced’? It means that competing views on the topic should be presented. The material should describe both pros and cons of different options according to different stakeholders. This is the principle of providing both expertise and counter-expertise to the issues discussed. It is important that there is agreement on the disagreements which are presented in the information material. In order to ensure this, setting up an independent advisory board can be very useful. This is especially the case if the topic to be debated is politically sensitive. The composition of the advisory board should of course be balanced too. For instance, this means that if you invite a left-wing politician you should invite a right-wing politician as well.   

In general, the information material should bring the young people closer to a common starting point for the deliberations. This means that the material should be equally understandable to all young participants. Therefore, think a great deal about the format of the information material and let the young representatives review it before you distribute it! The information does not have to be provided in text. It can just as well be communicated in a short film or podcast. If you use text, supplement it with graphics which visualise the main arguments which the young should have knowledge about. If the young participants receive the information material before the deliberations, then they have the opportunity to do some homework and show up at the meeting or log in to OPIN well-prepared.