Idea phase

The early phase of a participatory project is often mistakenly underestimated and under-prioritised. If you have a clear picture of the purpose of the project, and the impact you want to achieve from the outset, the odds are that the input throughout the project will be much better. In turn, this will increase your likelihood of successfully achieving the goals of the project. 

Set realistic goals for your project 

You should ask yourself the following question: What do you want the project to achieve? In sum, this has to do with impact. The more clearly and realistically you can define these goals, the easier it will be for you to successfully outline the needed steps of the project to reach the desired end result. 

Sketch the process of your participation project from A to Z

You should now have a clear idea about the purpose of your project, the impact you want to achieve with it and the budget available. This means that you are ready to make a rough sketch of the process from A to Z that should of course fit into the decision-making process.  

Making a short project description of 2-3 pages is a good starting point. In this description, you could include:

  • The background of the project
  • The project idea and its objectives
  • The method 
  • The budget
  • The timeline 

12 Helpful tips you should keep in mind during your idea phase

  1. Take participation seriously!
    Never ask a question that you don’t want an answer to! When you have the answer, you are obliged to try and make it count in the decision-making process.

  2. Keep the young people at the heart of what you are doing!
    This means that you should always include and have young people’s perspectives in mind when making decisions about your project.

  3. Be clear in your purpose(s) from the outset 
    In order to properly define the purpose of your project, you should understand and map the decision-making process in which you wish the young people to intervene.

  4. Set realistic goals for your project 
    The more clearly and realistically you can define your goals, the easier it will be for you to successfully outline the needed steps of the project to reach the desired end result.

  5. Be clear about your own role
    As a facilitator, e.g., of a youth eParticipation process, you should act as an “honest broker” and not seek a particular result. As an honest broker, you should be unbiased in the eyes of both the young people and the decision-makers.

  6. Map your young participants 
    Another highly important issue to consider is whether the group of young participants should be representative of all young people in, let’s say, your municipality. Having a representatively balanced group of young people participating in your project will make the results more politically legitimate.

  7. Map your endorsers with decision-making power
    Even when the decision-making power has endorsed your project from the onset, it is still highly relevant to map who your true endorsers are.

  8. Secure funds for your project 
    Securing funds is a context-specific challenge. One very useful way to start is by contacting your National Youth (Information) Council. It has expertise in giving advice on these kinds of matters, and no one will know the environment for youth participation in your country better.

  9. Involve the young people in your project idea
    You should test the initial project idea on your target group, let them challenge it and ask for their input. This is a way to avoid having an unappealing idea and instead of coming up with a project that young people would actually take part in when it is being realized. 

  10. Invite the decision-making power on board 
    You should also test your idea on your endorsers with decision-making power and give them the opportunity to provide feedback.

  11. Update the sketch of your project 
    And talk about it with the young representatives and the decision-makers. Firstly, it ensures transparency in the process, and secondly, both groups can – hopefully – see that you have listened to them.

  12. Integrate evaluation in every phase of your project
    This is especially the case if the project will run over a longer period. The main questions to ask yourself (and your team) are: What went well? What could have been done differently?