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How to get young people involved in the planning process

The government's consultation document Planning for the Future, highlights how they want to ensure that all of the community will be consulted in future planning processes. One of the key demographics to consider is young people; the 18 - 34 age group. So how do you get them more involved?

Having run over 1500 consultations that have encouraged people of all demographics to share their thoughts, you can always book a demo below and we'll be happy to go through our findings.

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Perhaps the biggest question in the planning sector is how best to engage this demographic. Their opinions and involvement are key to the ongoing success of consultation projects, so we need to ensure that they are connected to the process. 

Historically, they have one of the lowest engagement rates out of any demographic. Traditional consultation methods often go unseen and there can be a lot of general confusion around how their voice can and should make a difference to the places they live. So what's the solution and how can we encourage young people to be a part of planning decisions in their local areas? Let's find out.

Are young people involved in planning decisions? 

Young people engagement get young people involved in planning

A YouGov poll has laid out some of the stats around younger generational engagement in local planning. They found that 80 per cent of respondents aged between 18 and 34 had not engaged in a local plan consultation and 9 per cent were unsure if they had.

This isn’t a case of poor memory, but of campaigns that just aren’t impactful enough to be remembered, let alone have sparked any action. Put simply, engagements need to be advertised clearly and, more importantly, memorably . In the age group of 18 to 34 years, 47 percent have clicked on a mobile ad in the past three months and 39 percent view between one to five videos each day on their smartphone. This is a digitally native and savvy age group and planning needs to fit into their lives. We cannot wait for them to find us. 

Digital is key for younger planning involvement

get young people involved in planning young engagement social media

Our evidence shows that, while younger people are passionate about the places they live, work or play, their lack of involvement is either down to not knowing how to get involved, or feeling apathetic about traditional engagement processes. Projects like planning applications and housing developments often don't seem like the most interesting thing to be involved in and figures in their local authority aren't people they have regular contact with, so gaining interest can be tricky. This is where social media comes in.

Whilst activism is on the rise, it is through social media that younger people who were previously excluded from mainstream politics are now able to speak out. The continuing rise of the smartphone is connecting them, giving them an easier way to share, speak out and stand for a cause all appeal.

Digital tools and networks have been shown to be highly successful in reaching younger people in other sectors - and it's no different in planning. Our data shows that 70% of our respondents are under the age of 45. They just need to know about the activity and feel compelled to partake. 

How can planning become relevant for the younger generation? 

Get young people involved in planning young planners youth engagement heatmaps

You need to bring it online – and make it visual 

At Commonplace, we design and execute social media campaigns that target young people using video content. You can capture a wider audience by making planning more of an experience rather than just a survey. A dusty paper form or a hidden web page won’t cut it. 

As stated, younger people tend to use mobile devices much more than computers, so digital tools need to be fully designed for a mobile-first experience. 

They are also concerned about data protection, and need to trust the service they are using. Commonplace does this by being open and transparent, which creates social proof that their voice will be heard. With the heatmap, people can see what issues others are bringing to light and how much the rest of their community cares about making change. Plus, with our News Feed and email functions, it's easy to keep people in the loop with updates, giving concrete proof that their suggestions are leading to positive change.

Survey Mode

Peer interviews are also a great way to boost engagement from any demographic, 18 - 34 year olds included. With our Survey Mode, it's easy to load up a survey on a tablet and give it directly to people at an event. If there are young people who want to get others involved, it's simple for them to fire up the survey and give it to their peers or canvas an area. You can also let a group of younger people curate their own tile on your project website. This way, they can build it the way that they know will appeal to their peers and they can share it directly with them, making it a more personal experience. 

If you'd like to see any of these features in action, click below and our team will be happy to show you!

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Make it important to them

In the YouGov survey, 51 per cent said that knowing their feedback would “make a difference” was a key reason for engaging. This number rises to 73 per cent amongst those 613 respondents who said they had participated in a local plan consultation. 

Better promotion of information (41 per cent), and the clarity / simplicity of that information (37 per cent) were also cited as reasons for engaging.

Planning happens in their homes and neighbourhoods, so showing they can bring about positive change and that local authorities are actually listening and learning from them is the best way to start a real conversation. It is clear that the end results need to be showcased to close the feedback loop and help planning become truly satisfying. 

In short, getting younger people to engage is straightforward if you follow some simple rules:

  • Know where to reach them
  • Give them something they care about, and encourage sharing 
  • Use mobile-friendly, visual content
  • Provide a trusted, open opportunity that gives them confidence their voice will be heard

By following this process, younger champions can be created.

If you'd like to learn more about engaging younger people or want to see any of the features demonstrated in more detail, simply get in touch and we'll create a personalised demonstration for you.

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Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper

Content Writer at Commonplace