Vienna Youth Strategy

Vienna (Austria)


The Vienna Youth Strategy participatory process was an inclusive and collaborativeCollaborative refers to a process or activity involving joint effort among a group of people or organisations to achieve a common goal. It emphasises cooperation, teamwork, and shared decision-making, often leading to more inclusive and comprehensive outcomes by leveraging diverse perspectives and skills. initiative in Vienna, Austria, aimed at shaping policies and programs for the city’s youth population. Through a series of workshops, surveys, and engagement activities, young people were actively involved in identifying their needs, concerns, and aspirations. The process facilitated open dialogueOpen dialogue is a communicative approach that encourages free and inclusive conversation among participants, allowing for the exchange of ideas, opinions, and information without restrictions. It fosters an environment of transparency and trust, where diverse perspectives are valued and critical issues can be discussed constructively. and co-creationCo-creation, co-planningCo-planning involves joint effort in designing or organising projects, strategies, or events, where all participants contribute ideas and decisions to ensure shared goals are met effectively. or co-designCo-design is a collaborative approach where stakeholders work together to create solutions, products, or services, ensuring that outcomes meet diverse needs and perspectives. refer to a participatory approach to designing solutions, in which community members are treated as equal collaborators in the design process. between youth, local authorities, and various stakeholders, leading to the development of a comprehensive strategy that addresses the specific challenges and opportunities faced by Vienna’s youth, promoting their active participation and well-being in the city, and shaping local policymaking.

The Children and Youth Strategy for Vienna was formally established in 2020. Prior to its adoption by the community council, an extensive developmental phase took place. The strategy isn’t solely a product of the collective perspectives of the people and City Council; rather, it evolved from a broader engagement process involving children and young individuals. Over 22,000 children and young people actively participated in this extensive engagement phase, expressing their preferences regarding Vienna. Their contributions encompassed their preferences for the city, areas they wished to improve, and they envisioned changes aimed at fostering a more conducive environment for children and youth within Vienna.

The initiative for the Children and Youth Strategy traces back to 19th of December 2014 when the Vienna City Council adopted the Declaration to make “Vienna – the city of human rights”. Subsequently, the city administration initiated discussions on transcending mere declarations and solidifying its dedication to actualising human rights principles, particularly focusing on children’s rights, aligned with diverse national and international proclamations. In 2018, the decision was made to lay the groundwork for the city’s actions by establishing a foundational framework.

The Municipality of Vienna collaborates extensively with diverse organisations that host their individual participatory initiatives. Over the past five years there has been a noticeable surge in participatory projects within the city, indicating an increasing emphasis on engagement. Notably, programs such as the climate mandate and participatory budgetParticipatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to allocate part of a public budget. It allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritise public spending projects, and then vote on which projects should receive funding. This process aims to make budgeting more transparent, inclusive, and reflective of community needs, fostering greater public involvement and accountability in fiscal decision-making. invite contributions aimed at enhancing the city’s environmental equity, extending the opportunity for public involvement. Participation isn’t exclusive to children and young people, numerous other programs exist. However, a crucial disparity lies in the longevity and continuity of engagement. Unlike many other initiatives that tend to be singular or short-term endeavors, the Children and Youth Strategy is structured as an enduring and ongoing process.

The NGO overseeing the Youth Strategy secures its annual funding directly from the municipality, which is then distributed to support diverse children and education-focused programs. This financial backing plays a critical role in sustaining day-to-day operations and facilitating numerous projects. The funding allocation caters to distinct contexts, spanning the Children and Youth Strategy, coordination office endeavors, and specific projects such as the Viennese Children and Youth Parliament and the Participatory Children’s Fund. An annual €1,000,000 is dedicated to the Participatory Children’s Fund, complementing the regular budget, sourced from the municipal government. Funding varies depending on the project context, particularly if it contributed to shaping the strategy, typically ranging between €150,000 to €250,000 annually, accommodating the organisation’s diverse activities.

School directors serve as central figures within the daily environments of children and young individuals, notably within schools and kindergartens. Establishing strong partnerships with these educational institutions has significantly expanded outreach efforts. This collaboration facilitates engagement with children and young individuals who might not actively seek participation in projects outside of their school or kindergarten settings. Workshops conducted during school hours, facilitated by schools and teachers, have been instrumental in ensuring accessibility to a wider audience, acknowledging the time constraints many young individuals face after school. Complementing this, youth workers play a crucial role beyond school hours, engaging with young people in various districts, including parks and youth centers. Their approach is more informal and leisure-oriented compared to the formal school environment, providing additional avenues for engagement. The collective commitment and collaboration among multiple stakeholders, including schools, teachers, and youth workers, have proven highly successful in reaching a more diverse and expansive group of young individuals.

The Vienna Children and Youth Strategy adopted a genuinely inclusive approach by engaging a diverse range of schools, ensuring representation from various ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations among the pupils. This deliberate effort facilitated the participation of a comprehensive and authentic cross-section of young individuals, reflecting the city’s diversity. By involving such a broad spectrum of voices, the strategy became more comprehensive and representative, considering the diverse needs and perspectives of the city’s youth in its formulation.

“Werkstadt Junges Wien” (Young Vienna Workshop), preceding the Vienna Children and Youth Strategy, commenced in 2019 through direct engagement with young individuals. As part of this initiative, the organisers conceptualised a card gameGamification is the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organisations, and activities by creating similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users. tailored for use in school, kindergarten classes, and youth groups. This game serves as a tool for educators to facilitate workshops, enabling children and young individuals to articulate their perspectives on the city and suggest desired changes. Although incorporating online elements, the initiative predominantly centered around in-person workshops, allocating approximately three hours for participants to share their ideas and preferences concerning the city.

The workshops served as the primary stage for gathering youth perspectives, aiming to collect their ideas. After conducting approximately 350 workshops, the team accumulated a wealth of ideas from participants, each workshop generating numerous suggestions. These ideas were subsequently grouped and refined through collaborative efforts involving other children and young individuals. The objective was to streamline and organise the ideas for greater coherence, identifying commonalities and merging similar concepts. This collective endeavor culminated in the formation of the Vienna Children and Youth Strategy, now comprising 193 measures derived from this collaborative process.

Aligning diverse stakeholders, such as youth workers, school teachers, and school directors, presented a complex yet essential task in ensuring mutual understanding. Workshops took place from February to April 2019, involving a wide array of participants. Subsequently, an Advisory Board was formed, encompassing children, young individuals, and experts from various city departments. Their collective effort focused on consolidating the ideas garnered from the workshops. Ultimately, in June 2020, the City Council formally adopted the strategy.

Most of these 193 measures emphasise the need for the city to undertake new actions or implement changes, aiming for improvement. The current focus involves working closely with the city’s various municipal departments to ensure the implementation of these measures. This effort includes integrating them into ongoing initiatives and stressing the importance of evaluating any new initiatives to ascertain their impact on enhancing the city’s child and youth-friendliness.

The strategy encompasses the period from 2020 to 2025, aiming to accomplish the full implementation of all measures within this timeframe. There are plans to explore extending or developing another strategy beyond this period, acknowledging that five years might not be adequate to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming the world’s most child and youth-friendly city.

Understanding the importance of alignment among stakeholders, especially districts collaborating with various youth organisations, is crucial. The quantity and types of youth centers in each district are tailored to the specific needs of the local youth population. Workshop outcomes highlighted that topics raised by young individuals vary, based on their locality and age. Younger individuals often prioritise ideas concerning playgrounds and similar amenities, while older youth consider health-related matters or the transition to independent living as priority. Notably, young people express concern for vulnerable groups, aiming to make the city more inclusive for them. Discussions revolve around issues such as homelessness, mental health, and psychological well-being, reflecting their empathy and eagerness to enhance conditions for these marginalised groups.

In the context of the Children and Youth Strategy, effectively engaging young individuals between the ages of 14 and 20 has proven to be a significant challenge. This age group exhibits a broad range of interests and commitments beyond school, posing difficulties in involving them in a project spanning several months, requiring regular attendance. While the initial outreach to diverse groups, encompassing various religious and economic backgrounds, showed promise, sustaining motivation among all participants becomes increasingly challenging as the process extends. This challenge subsequently impacts the engagement of different groups within this age range.

Adapting a model like this to another city presents challenges due to significant variations in structures and systems. The differences in city government structures, municipal departments, and other factors are crucial considerations. It’s important to note that a concept from one city cannot be seamlessly transferred to another, as each city has its own unique dynamics. Engaging diverse stakeholders, including political actors influencing municipal decisions, is vital. Ultimately, tailoring the approach to fit the distinct structures and hierarchies of each city is essential for success.

The Vienna Youth Strategy is a unique participatory initiative aimed at engaging Vienna’s youth in shaping policies and programs for their benefit. Launched in 2020, this strategy emerged from a comprehensive engagement phase involving over 22,000 children and young people who shared their visions for a youth-friendly Vienna. This initiative is a direct response to the city’s commitment to human rights, particularly children’s rights, and aims to incorporate the voices of the youth in local policymaking actively. This strategy is distinguished by its permanence and ongoing nature, contrasting with many participatory projects that are short-lived. Funded by the municipality, the initiative receives a significant annual budget, including a dedicated €1,000,000 for the Participatory Children’s Fund. Recruitment of participantsRecruitment of participants involves identifying and engaging individuals to take part in activities, studies, or projects. This process is crucial for gathering diverse inputs, ensuring representativeness, and enhancing the validity of outcomes. It typically includes strategies like outreach, advertising, and incentivization to attract and enroll suitable candidates. was made possible through partnerships with schools and youth workers, ensuring a wide reach among the city’s youth. The strategy’s inclusivity is one of its key strengths, with efforts to ensure participation from a diverse cross-section of Vienna’s youth, reflecting the city’s varied demographic composition. The “Werkstadt Junges Wien” workshops were central to this process, enabling young individuals to express their ideas for the city. These workshops culminated in the development of 193 measures aimed at making Vienna more child and youth-friendly, with a clear focus on implementation and evaluation. Challenges were encountered in engaging older youths in the Children and Youth Parliament, revealing the difficulty of maintaining their interest over extended periods. Despite these challenges, the strategy’s comprehensive approach and its emphasis on inclusivity and actionable outcomes offer valuable lessons for other cities. The transferability of such a model requires careful consideration of local structures, systems, and stakeholder engagement, underlining the importance of customising approaches to fit unique city dynamics.

Based on an interview conducted with Nada Taha Ali Mohamed (, Lead Coordinator of the Vienna Youth Strategy on 29 August 2023.