Young Thinkers, Shared Dreams - Future Think Tank gives young people a voice

"The world thinks young people are not child enough to be taken into account, but also not mature enough to really listen to", Laura Flesch (17) argues from the stage at TivoliVredenburg. Since becoming part of the Dynamics of Youth community's Future Think Tank 'Becoming Adults in a Changing World', she has had the opportunity to make herself heard. Laura is one of the speakers at the Level Up event, where young people, researchers and youth professionals combine their practical knowledge and expertise.

Language barrier

Jobbe van Helsdingen is also a member of the Future Think Tank: "The barrier between adults and young people is huge because we literally speak a different language." He believes that little consideration is given to this in newspapers, in policy documents or in parliamentary debates, while you can only contribute as a young person if you understand the content. "The language used by politicians is very inaccessible. It is logical that the youth will then lose interest."

About the Future Think Tank

The Becoming Adults in a Changing World community brings together researchers from different faculties and social partners to conduct research on young people aged 12 - 24. To include the perspective of young people themselves in this research, the community has started a Future Think Tank. The goal? Including young people's voices in research and issues that affect them. Not just researching young people and young adults, but actively engaging them in designing and carrying out that research. Asking what concerns them and connecting with the target group of the research. The ThinkTank organises a meeting about seven times a year. Researchers will join to promote interaction between young people and researchers.

Lower the voting age

Interviewer, Jobbe en Laura
Interviewer with Jobbe van Helsdingen and Laura Flesch

During one of the think tank meetings, the young people discussed a column in the Volkskrant that floated the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. Young people agree with this substantively. The discussion goes a step further. Laura: "Wouldn't it be better to have a maximum age on voting as well? When you reach an advanced age, you are no longer deciding your own future, but mostly that of young people. In politics, we are often not taken into account, and I find that frustrating". Jobbe shares that view: "The average age in the House of Representatives is around 44. That's almost three times as old as us."

Within our community, we think it is important to conduct research with young people and hear from them what concerns them and what topics are important.

Marije van Braak, community chair of Becoming Adults in a Changing World says: "A lot of times it is thought that young people are not mature enough to participate in important decisions in society. But they are part of society. This question also applies to youth participation. When talking to researchers we see that they find it difficult to give shape to youth participation because they are not sure what it is, or are apprehensive to share the decision-making power. Within our community, we think it is important to conduct research with young people and hear from them what concerns them and what topics are important. We can then take that into account in the research. For example, we can submit research questions to them and test whether they adequately match young people's language."

Choice stress

Another subject raised by several young people at the Level Up event is choice stress. For example, Luuk Disseldorp and Dean Giethoorn, both 17, talk about their subject cluster assignment and podcast in which they explore how to make a good study choice. For this podcast, they interviewed several researchers with whom they came into contact through the UU community Becoming Adults in a Changing World. How do you know you will still have a job in the future and not be pushed aside by artificial intelligence? What will remain? And what will go away? The boys themselves struggled a lot with making this decision, and saw that other young people were struggling with the same questions. So they made a podcast about their subject cluster assignment: Aan Z: ‘Kansen of Game Over?’ The podcast aims to help other young people in their search."

The Future Think Tank is also concerned with the heaps of choices young people have to make today. They held a Think Tank session about it, where two researchers talked about their own choice process and research on young people's interests and study choices. Jobbe: "I wanted to study Architecture, but if I chose that, I would no longer be able to do a lot of other things. That's why I've chosen Biology now, to keep more options open. That realisation feels very liberating." Laura adds: "I think at our school, the focus is that if you have done VWO (pre-university) education, you move on to a degree programme at a research university, while a degree at a university of applied sciences also offers good job opportunities. That linear path is not necessarily the one that suits you.

You are young, you have plenty of time. Let go of the future a little bit, you will end up on your feet.

The Future Think Tank has done a lot for young people. What would they like to pass on to other young people? Laura: "Make sure you stay yourself and look for your interests in something you like. Keep acting on your intuition, what feels right at the moment?" Jobbe: "Have faith and realise that you can always change your choice. You are young, you have plenty of time. Let go of the future a little bit, you will end up on your feet."