HUWY (Hub Websites for Youth Participation) was an eParticipation Preparatory Action project, which piloted a distributed (networked) discussion. The pilot ran in Estonia, Germany, Ireland and the UK. HUWY aimed to find good ways to support groups of young people to discuss what changes are needed to the Internet and its regulation and, further, to encourage policy-makers to interact with young people?s ideas. Young people in each country chose topics (e.g. Cyberbullying, Privacy) to focus the project, also specifying an “open thread” about their experiences, relevant to the Internet.
The eParticipation innovation of the HUWY project is a new method to bring people into policy-making: distributed discussion. A family of “hub websites” support a networked discussion. Hubs contain information about the project, well-structured background materials about chosen topics, the results of young people?s discussions and feedback from policy-makers. There is one hub website for each of the pilot countries, with localised information and language. This is the central node for that country. Young people hold discussions on their own websites (organisational or social) or in offline settings. These discussions post their results on their country?s hub. The four country hubs are linked by an EU hub http://huwy.eu/
: a global entry point for the project and the place to summarise results for EU policy-makers.
The distributed discussion model was devised to be as flexible and inclusive as possible: to enable young people to get involved in issues that were important to them, while they controlled the format and place of this involvement. It was designed to include established groups, like youth fora or parliaments, who had their own online spaces, especially those already talking about HUWY topics. It was also designed to include more casual groups, meeting on social networking pages or even offline.
An extensive evaluation process focused on impact, sustainability, scalability, user engagement and the effects of involvement for young people. Three reports contain the methodologies, data and results. Through this process the HUWY partners have identified the following outcomes of the pilot:
1. Young people who got involved had an enjoyable and rewarding experience that furthered their engagement with democracy and their awareness of best practice in using the Internet. HUWY got young people thinking and talking about Internet policy issues. Using group discussions as the basic node of participation increased engagement and learning.
2. Very few groups chose to hold discussions online. Participants valued structured and well supported discussions, more than the freedom to organise their own groups. Facilitators played a key role. Facilitators need to be rewarded for their hard work.
3. A distributed discussion can bring together a wide variety of online and offline participation opportunities. For this, the hub websites need to be of good quality and available throughout the process. Their use needs to be integrated with all events.
4. The hub website model can support the integration of social networking tools. However, HUWY partners found that young people did not favour SN sites as forums for discussion.
5. Young people feel that they should be able to influence policies which affect the Internet and that it is important for policy-makers to take time to listen to and understand their ideas. It was also important to them to choose the discussion topics most relevant their lives.
6. However, policy-makers found it difficult to use ideas that were not integrated into their specific policy-making and consultation schedules. We cannot identify direct paths for the results of young people?s discussions to influence regulation of Internet topics, though we can identify places in which their ideas are in line with current policy.
7. The hub website information structure used short scenarios (stories) to engage and lead to more detailed factual information. This worked well, but took a lot of work to establish and keep up to date.
8. The distributed discussion model is resource intensive: establishing and supporting online and offline elements in parallel. However, it can support extensive, good quality engagement, especially through further involvement of youth organisations and media as partners.
This deliverable is the final results report of the HUWY project. As the final project deliverable, this report reflects on all project results and analyses the political and user engagement impacts of the project in relation to its objectives and actions. Its main objective is to summarise and analyse the outcomes of the project, as the primary resource for the Commission:
* To measure political impact by the end of the project, according to the objectives, Key Evaluation Factors, output and outcomes;
* To summarise the effects of user engagement, good practice and lessons learned;
* To derive technical recommendations for future use or re-implementation of the Hubs website and distributed discussion models in eParticipation.