Markus has identified three critical factors for youth participation to become a mass phenomenon in society. First, youth need appealing, low-threshold entry points in which they can connect with each other. Next, they need support and partnering networks to start their own social ventures, and last, they need to be a part of a larger intergenerational movement, where youth and adults both contribute in the decision-making process.
To attract all types of young people to his movement, Markus creates a network where youth can become participants. He catches their attention with the social community platform website, “tschau.ch” which addresses common problems faced by youth. Online, kids can find answers or information on hot topics such as sexuality, religion and values, family, career planning, youth events, hobbies, or peer networks. The website attracts more than 1 million viewers each year.
Once their attention is caught, Markus connects youth to his portal “infoklick.ch” which showcases youth events, connects kids to a network of youth organizations, and offers start-up support for their social ventures. For those ready for more elaborate engagements, Infoklick hosts trainings to become youth leaders or municipality experts.
Because money represents an additional hurdle to youth social involvement, Markus has introduced a loyalty program for youth engagement via the “Infocard.” The Infocard, issued and paid for by communities, is a rebate scheme for social activities; signups and rewards are implemented through the infoklich.ch website. An evaluation of the 250 participating youth shows that the card significantly increases their commitment to the community, and Markus plans to reach 20 to 30 percent of all youth with this card within the next three years.
Markus also provides a systematic infrastructure for youth to start their projects. Both institutionalized and informal youth initiatives seeking start-up support call on his Infoklick team, which helps youth with adult on-site mentoring and training in project management, logistics, team-building, and fundraising. The adult advisors connect them to local networks to find partners for implementation. Through this system, 250 to 300 projects have been launched, contributing to a 90 percent implementation success rate.
Markus has identified his pool of 1,000 emerging youth leaders as highly effective for building self-perpetuating networks of youth venturers. He trains the members of his youth initiatives as Junior Experts and sends them out to draw in their own networks, mentor other youth start-ups, contribute to municipality policies on youth-related matters, or forwards them to youth or social organizations of interest to them as “ready-to-go” volunteers.
Ultimately, effective youth participation is dependent on involving adults in the process, as they enrich the movement with their know-how and power networks. As a result, Markus brings adults and youth together to collaborate in the local political decision-making process or in the creation of social ventures. In his program, Jugend mit Wirkung (meaning, “youth with effect” and “youth participation”), the municipality invites Junior Experts to solve community problems related to children and youth. Initially joining the circle out of “pity” for youth, adults soon become excited about the strength and maturity of the collaboration, and take implementation very seriously.
Markus aims to build 200 local youth initiatives within the next three years, which will result in the launch of thousands of projects in Switzerland. He is currently focusing on expanding his program beyond Bern, Basel, and Lausanne.