The largest participation project with children and young people in Vienna’s history involved more than 22,000 young residents. The main objective was to create a cross-sectoral Children and Youth Strategy for Vienna based on the expertise and the realities of children and young people. Everyone between 4 and 19 years living in Vienna was invited to participate and - unlike other similar projects - they were truly free to set the agenda and decide on priorities.
Background and Objective
Through Werkstadt Junges Wien, we have developed a strategy with 193 specific measures in nine thematic areas, based on the expressed wishes, suggestions and priorities of children and young people. This strategy was agreed upon by the Vienna City Council and thus is a binding commitment for the whole city. The Viennese children and young people have commissioned the city government in this unique project to further improve the city according to their needs.
Scale: others: Neighborhood, Commune, District, Municipality and Province/Region
In 2018, almost every fifth Viennese citizen was under 19 years old. Over the past 50 years, Vienna has developed from a shrinking and aging city into a young and growing one. It was about time to listen carefully to children and young people and ask them how they imagine the city in 20 or 50 years. In a growing city, where in 2019, 29.5% of the voting age population are not allowed to vote due to the lack of Austrian citizenship, it is crucial to create meaningful participation opportunities for everyone.
Enabling children and young people to experience democracy in a positive, hands-on way by showing them that their opinions and ideas matter, creates a feeling of self-efficacy. Small-scale participation offers that are limited in time and content, such as micro-budgets for projects or local re-design processes of a playground, of course exist in Vienna. However, with Werkstadt Junges Wien the city is aiming for a more structural, long-term and large-scale approach. The objective is to put social inclusion of all children and young people living and growing up in Vienna at the heart of policy-making and city administration.
The overall goal is to make Vienna the most child- and youth-friendly city in the world. This is an ambitious goal and we are lucky that so many of them showed their interest and, above all, readiness to contribute to reaching that aim. Looking at the wishes and concerns they raised, all residents of Vienna will benefit from the measures implemented through the Vienna Children and Youth Strategy.
We have already seen one benefit of the process - we have experienced how much we as adults can learn from dialogue and collaboration. It did not only empower children and young people, it also empowered the city government and administration. At first, we wanted children and young people to think about their city, but in the end, the city is now thinking about children and young people. There is an entirely new awareness that goes beyond the conventional ideas of democracy.
The innovative process (described further below) enabled children and young people of all age groups and backgrounds to connect to the process. In 1,309 workshops 22,581 children and young people freely articulated their ideas, which gave us the opportunity to raise enormous potential.
1,309 workshops with 22,581 children and young people were held by approximately 1,000 educators, youth workers, teachers and volunteers. By relying on existing relationships of trust, it was possible to include children and young people with diverse backgrounds. This result was achieved mainly through engaging all relevant stakeholders right from the beginning and entering into partnerships with kindergartens, schools, youth work, youth organisations, special needs interest groups and diverse departments of the city.
Werkstadt Junges Wien had a budget for the development of facilitation material, the analysis of results and the production of strategy documents. But there was an immense amount of working hours invested by partners, who helped in promoting the process, facilitating workshops, reporting results, collecting measures for all nine topics and many other actions that supported this idea. Therefore, we can say that the Vienna Children and Youth Strategy was truly co-created by the whole city.
Outcomes and Impacts
We have developed a strategy with 193 specific measures in nine areas that were most important to children and young people. The strategy has been adopted by the Vienna City Council and thus is a binding commitment for the whole city. It provides a clear road map for improvements to be made in the coming 5 years. The process brought about a new awareness for the interests of children and young people in all parts of city administration.
We are in the process of implementing a monitoring system for the 193 measures described in the strategy, which allows not only politicians but also children and young people to track progress – the diverse array of indicators among others ranges from the number of new water fountains to a more participatory culture in schools. The team of our coordination office will collect all relevant data and make it public in a child- and youth-friendly way.
On top of the aforementioned monitoring system, we are installing a city children and youth parliament that will share the task of monitoring the implementation of the strategy with the city’s independent office of child and youth advocacy. Among the defined measures are some strategic instruments that further foster the continuous involvement of children and young people via youth mainstreaming, youth budgeting or youth advisory board systems for city departments.
The consultation process was launched in February 2019 after holding extensive stakeholder interviews. A workshop concept was designed to ensure a child- and youth-friendly approach. All materials needed for the Werkstadt Junges Wien workshops were compiled in a tool box which also contained a facilitator’s guide. The tool box was provided to schools, kindergartens, after-school care clubs, socio-educational group homes, adult education facilities, youth organizations and other associations working with and for children and young people in Vienna.
Yes, in terms of age - adressing only children and young people. Within the age cohort - no, it is explicitly meant for all children and young people living in all areas of Vienna.
1,309 workshops with 22,581 children and young people (51.7% male, 48.2% female, 0.1% other).
56 workshops for children and youth with disabilities
1,000 stakeholders participated actively as workshop facilitators
70 departments and enterprises of the city were involved
All participants, their families, and their communities will benefit from the outcome and the measures undertaken to implement the strategy.
Sustainability and Scalability
The adopted Children and Youth Strategy contains measures that aim at the sustainability of the changes such as the children and youth mainstreaming procedure. Further efforts will include the development of a child and youth budgeting scheme and preparing practice guidance for reviewing all budget estimates on their relevance to children and young people.
Gender and Social Inclusivity
Relevance of the initiative to the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda
(1) Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1: End poverty in all of its forms
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Target 1: Access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
Target 2: Access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all
Target 3: Participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management
Target 4: Safeguard cultural and natural heritage
Target 5: Reduce deaths and number of people affected by disasters with particular focus on the poor and people in vulnerable situations
Target 6: Improve air quality and manage municipal and other wastes
Target 7: Universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, in particular of women, children older persons and persons with disabilities
Target 9: Improving resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters and implement holistic disaster risk management
Target 10: Support least developed countries in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions for all
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
Relevance of the initiative in relation to the goals
The various chapters of the Children and Youth Strategy directly address the SDGs. Detailed information can be provided.
Relevance to the targets of Goal 11:
The measures defined in the chapters of the Children and Youth Strategy address the targets. Detailed information can be provided.
(2) New Urban Agenda
Provide basic services for all citizens
These services include: access to housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, nutritious food, healthcare and family planning, education, culture and access to communication technologies.
Ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination
Everyone has the right to benefit from what their cities offer. The New Urban Agenda calls on city authorities to take into account the needs of women, youth and children, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, older persons, indigenous people, among other groups.
Promote measures that support cleaner cities
Tackling air pollution in cities is good both for people’s health and for the planet.
In the Agenda, leaders have committed to increase their use of renewable energy, provide better and greener public transport, and sustainably manage their natural resources.
Strengthen resilience in cities to reduce the risk and the impact of disasters
Many cities have felt the impact of natural disasters and leaders have now committed to implement mitigation and adaptation measures to minimize these impacts. Some of these measures include: better urban planning, quality infrastructure and improving local responses.
Take action to address climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions
Leaders have committed to involve not just the local government but all actors of society to take climate action taking into account the Paris Agreement on climate change which seeks to limit the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Sustainable cities that reduce emissions from energy and build resilience can play a lead role.
Fully respect the rights of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons regardless of their migration status
Leaders have recognized that migration poses challenges but it also brings significant contributions to urban life. Because of this, they have committed to establish measures that help migrants, refugees and IDPs make positive contributions to societies.
Improve connectivity and support innovative and green initiatives
This includes establishing partnerships with businesses and civil society to find sustainable solutions to urban challenges
Promote safe, accessible and green public spaces
Human interaction should be facilitated by urban planning, which is why the Agenda calls for an increase in public spaces such as sidewalks, cycling lanes, gardens, squares and parks. Sustainable urban design plays a key role in ensuring the livability and prosperity of a city.
Relevance of Actions to the Each of the Selected Commitment(s):
The measures defined in the chapters of the Children and Youth Strategy address the commitments. Detailed information can be provided.
Werkstadt Junges Wien was a revolutionary initiative since it was the biggest participation project with children and young people in Vienna’s history. It was also the first time that children and young people not only could have their say, but were truly free to set the agenda and decide on priorities. Only after they made their choice, experts were invited to analyse and add on to the results. Strategy development processes often start with an expert outline, which participants can then comment. We started with the needs and wishes of the youngest residents, which was only possible because politicians were ready to give them the lead and accept the outcome.
Vienna is for the first time bundling efforts from all policy areas, departments and enterprises of the city and aligning them with the shared vision of making the City of Vienna a better place for all children and young people who live in the city. Some Departments need to learn and gain experience on how to address younger target Groups.
There certainly is also an evolutionary aspect to this project since Vienna aims at putting people in the centre of all policy development. Long-term plans such as the Smart City Wien Framework Strategy provide necessary guard rails for this development.
We would, of course, be delighted if other cities followed our example, and we are ready to share our learnings from the project and reflect on the shortcomings to support others who are interested in entering into such a dialogue with their youngest residents. Our educational material and the strategy itself are available in English and can be downloaded and used for free. We are currently telling our story in various settings and hope to inspire and encourage many like-minded cities.
We think that all modern metropolises have to involve their citizens for creating innovative solutions – no matter what topic, age group or gender is to be discussed. It mainly needs political willingness and a good network across different institutions. Once that is ensured the method we used to address our target group can be replicated to other target groups.