How to Mobilise Young People: Recommendations for NGOs and Civic Organisations

This source preferred by Roman Gerodimos

Authors: Gerodimos, R.

Start date: 1 April 2008

Publisher: Political Studies Association

This paper draws on the key findings of a study of youth civic attitudes and internet user experience, and considers the challenges facing civic institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) aiming to mobilise young citizens. Based on young participants’ own narratives, two factors emerge as instrumental to the current mode of youth civic engagement, i.e. low levels of efficacy, and scepticism about the relevance of many public affairs to people’s everyday life. While the evidence concurs with previous descriptions of Britons as “atomised citizens” (e.g. Pattie, Seyd and Whiteley 2004), it was found that young people are willing to engage with issues that are close to their lifeworld as long as they are provided with accessible and effective tools of participation.

The paper then considers young people’s evaluations of four NGO websites related to environmental issues and global poverty. It is argued that young people’s use of the internet is mostly functional and habitual, as opposed to creative or experimental. Subsequently, and in the context of an increasingly fragmented public sphere, factors such as mass media coverage and organisational reputation become even more important in attracting the (segmented) audience’s attention. Based on these findings, the paper puts forward ten recommendations for organisations promoting issue campaigns. These criteria are then used to evaluate the effectiveness of two recent animal welfare campaigns.

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