Giving the youth a voice! Managing demographic change!

Germany, like other industrialized countries, is strongly affected by demographic change. Population forecasts warn of an immense population decline and ageing of the population, which will have serious consequences for the economy and the provision of public services. The consequences of demographic change are already being felt, particularly in rural areas. Young people in particular are leaving rural areas. However, demographic change can be managed.


The Demographic Strategy of the Federal Government of Germany

In the Demography Report of 26 October 2011, the German Federal Government provides an overview of demographic developments and their interrelationships as well as of the measures taken by the Federal Government to date to shape demographic change. In order to deal with the forecast developments, the Federal Government presented the so-called Demography Strategy on 25 April 2012 and set up working groups in all ministries (under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of the Interior).

The working group "Youth shapes the future".

Since the effects of demographic change will affect young people and their living situation particularly severely, young people must be consulted on how to shape demographic change and must be able to participate in decisions about their future. The working group "Youth Shapes the Future", which was constituted on 30 October 2014 at the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), has been commissioned to integrate the concerns of young people into the Federal Government's demographic strategy. The ideas and proposals of young people are incorporated into the working group's recommendations on a demographic policy that is suitable for young people and into the Federal Government's demographic strategy. This working group focuses on rural areas.

Four model rural districts have been selected for the youth participation processes: Friesland (Lower Saxony), Kyffhäuserkreis (Thuringia), Lichtenfels (Bavaria) and Vorpommern-Rügen (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). In these districts, various youth groups (not only youth functionaries!) are to develop ideas and suggestions parallel to the contributions of the working group.

The exchange about the results of the young people will take place at the spring and autumn meetings of the working group "Youth shapes the future" in the four districts, where the young people will present their ideas themselves.

The four model districts have each sent a delegation of ten young people to the Demography Congress in Berlin on 22 September 2015.

The Research Project "Youth-Demography-Dialogue"

Since February 2015, Prof. Dr. Waldemar Stange from the Institute for Social Work and Social Pedagogy at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg and his team have been commissioned to design, implement and evaluate the participation process for the direct inclusion of young people from the four model districts in the working group "Youth shapes the future" as part of the research project "Youth Demography Dialogue". In addition, the participating young people are prepared for the events (spring and autumn conferences, demographic congresses, etc.) and are continuously coached and educated.

The so-called "demography workshop" was developed for the district of Friesland. The method of the Demography Workshop enables young people to participate effectively in the political shaping of demographic change in their region and to develop their own approaches to solutions. It is a further development of the concept of the Future Workshop with elements of the station run, which can also be carried out in large group settings. It comprises the following phases:

1st information phase: The problem sketch "Demographic change in rural areas" is prepared and conveyed to the young people in a target group-oriented way (e.g. by means of presentations).

2nd solution phase: The young people work out solutions and proposals for individual complexes of issues in small groups. This phase is divided into the following sections:

  • An open collection of the young people's suggestions for solutions
  • Discussing and evaluating so-called "solution building blocks" in which innovative approaches from literature and practice are outlined. If necessary, these solution modules can be directly adopted or modified for the own region.
  • Use of creative methods to develop further approaches

3rd presentation and weighing phase: Depending on the setting and group size, the work results of the groups are presented. Afterwards, the young people can highlight those results which they consider to be particularly important.

For the three other districts, methods adapted to local structures and needs are also currently being developed.

The "Youth Demography Dialogue" project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth through the Federal Government's Children and Youth Plan.

Duration of the Project

February 2015 – July 2017


Project Manager

  • Prof. Dr. Waldemar Stange

Research Assistants

  • Anja Schrön, M.A.

The project team is supplemented by four student and research assistants as well as one doctoral scholarship holder.

Youth participation in the district of Friesland

The youth participation process started in March 2015 with the demography workshops developed by the research project team in the district of Friesland. With the help of the university team, almost 450 young people worked in large groups at schools and in small groups in youth organizations and youth centers in the district to develop a good 1,400 proposals for solutions to the challenges of demographic change in rural areas. The research team evaluated the results of all groups using a software for qualitative data analysis and combined them into an overall result.

On 14 April 2015, 40 delegated young people have discussed the overall results of all youth groups in twelve small groups at a youth conference on the morning of the spring conference of the working group "Youth shapes the future" and then presented them to the working group members in a poster exhibition. The young people and the members of the working group discussed the results with a high level of commitment and in an intensive exchange.

At the request of Sven Ambrosy, the district administrator of the district of Friesland, a group of young people also presented the solutions proposed by the young people in the form of a poster exhibition and discussed them with the committee members at an extraordinary youth welfare committee meeting of the district of Friesland on 28 May 2015.

A group of 14 young people continued working on the proposed solutions as a "JUNEX group" (young experts) at a youth retreat in Wangerooge from 5 to 7 June 2015. This also served as preparation for the meeting of the young people with representatives of the district administration on 10 July 2015, for which the young people first assigned the proposed solutions to the competent departments of the district administration. Afterwards, they collected questions for the proposed solutions that they wanted to ask the district administration regarding the implementation or feasibility and further elaborated existing proposals for solutions.

At the meeting with representatives of the district administration in July 2015, the young people presented their further developed proposals for solutions in small groups and clarified their questions with the responsible department representatives. In a further step, the administrative staff, together with the young people, examined the proposed solutions with regard to the following questions:

  • Is the department responsible?
  • Do the solutions already exist or are they already being worked on?
  • Can young people be involved in the further development of solutions?
  • Are there alternative ideas?
  • Are there explanations, remarks, hints or criticism?
  • Which agreements can be made for the implementation?

The district council and district committee have made a binding commitment to incorporate the young people's suggestions into the process of politics, administration and regional planning.