Green Cities Fit for Life

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Mollet de Vallès involves youth in decision-making on urban environment

This summer, European Green Leaf winner Mollet del Vallès launches STEP, an ‘e-participation’ platform that gives 16 to 29 year-olds a say in environmental decisions.

Decisions on environmental issues have long-term consequences that will be felt mostly by youth and future generations. Current climate change policies, for example, determine how next generations will be affected by global warming.

At the city level, today’s choices have an impact on future generations. Imagine a city council’s choice to allocate space to either a pedestrian zone or a road. Such urban planning choices have a long-term impact and leave their mark on a neighbourhood for decades.

For the creators of the STEP platform, this is a reason to let young people speak up in discussions on the environment. They platform was designed according to how young people tend to communicate nowadays: online and through social media.

Mollet del Vallès, located in the province of Barcelona, will launch the STEP platform this summer. The city is one of the partners in the project, which receives funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. The platform will also run in Spain, Greece, Italy and Turkey, involving 8200 youth and 85 policy makers.

The promotion of young people’s participation in environmental policy is a priority for Mollet del Vallès. The town already actively involves children of 10 to 11 years old through the Children’s Council, where environmental issues are a much-debated topic.

The platform is designed to make it attractive for young people to participate in policy and decision-making. They find information in the form of videos, graphics and statistics and can browse through content from media through ‘web-mining’. The platform offers attractive visuals, social media elements and ‘gamification’ features, such as rewards for participation.

STEP also allows for active participation. Users can vote, start an e-petition and can even organise a virtual roundtable discussion with policy makers. ‘STEP is a new, innovative communication channel that complements the current participation strategy of the municipality’, explains Albert Garcia Macian, European projects manager of the Mollet del Vallès city council.

Garcia Macian hopes that the STEP project will get more local youth engaged, and that it will give them the feeling of being part of the decision-making process. ‘Young people in Spain do not feel that connected to their city administrations. This could bridge the gap between them and us.’

The tool also encourages interaction with a feature called Greensters that allows people to share their ideas for a greener Europe on a virtual map that is open for consultation. ‘STEP is a powerful tool that will inspire our young people to get involved at local and international level and contribute to decision making processes that will improve the quality of life in our city and others across Europe’, explains Raúl Broto, Political Representative of Education and EU projects for Mollet del Vallès city council.

Visit www.step4youth.eu for more information.