Notes from the conference on Youth and social and political engagement by Roger Soler-i-Martí. The conference presented the results of the Survey on participation and politics 2017 in youth, and was organized by the Government of Catalonia and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 19 June 2019.
Roger Soler-i-Martí. Youth and social and political engagement
The Survey on participation and politics 2017 in youth is about how young people get involved and engage in society. The survey has a double edge: democracy in society (involvement, engagement) and the future of society (youth).
How are youth different?
What differences and similarities are there between young people?
What is the impact of the social and political context?
Where are we headed to? What are the main trends?
Survey: people from 16 years old and up. Face-to-face interview to 1,900 individuals (1,000 16-29 y.o., 900 +29). November 2017.
Why youth are different?
Life-cycle: depending on your age, you have different interests. On the other hand, you learn how to get involved and engage as you get older.
Generation: having been born at a given time (and/or place) makes you different. E.g. in Western societies kids spend more time at school than their predecessors, and this is a differential fact.
The transitions between infancy and youth, and youth and adulthood have changed in recent years, sometimes even with trends that seem to go backwards (e.g. emancipated youth that go back to live with their parents). This affects the life-cycle and the generational logics.
Changes in subjectivities: the factors that shaped political attitudes are increasingly more individualistic and less institutional or cohort-related.
Transformations in democracy: the democratic landscape (definitions, beliefs, practices) has changed dramatically in the last years/decades.
Types of youth in participation:
Multiactivists (17.5%): expressive participation, participation as part of one’s own identity.
Connected (30.9%): they participate and engage, but are neither affiliated nor they feel engaging is an important part of their identities.
Associated (12.7%): what is important to this group is being affiliated to an organization and they rarely participate outside of it.
Passive (39%): very much related to inequalities and social-exclusion factors.
Family and income, the urban/rural factor, or gender are determinants of the different kinds of engagement. In the case of Catalonia, the independentist factor is also of importance.
A simple scheme of participation:
Can I participate? Social status, resources.
Do I want to participate? Values, vision of the world, that shape attitudes, opinions.
Do I have the means? Mobilization agents.
The Catalan independence movement
Pro independence people are more mobilized than non-independentists.
Notwithstanding, there does not seem to be a lot of differences in age when it comes to mobilization. On the other hand, many of them participated less during the hot days of September to November 2017, when the independentist movement reached its maximum. One reason may be that the topic is not very important for youth (compared to others); another reason is that these movements were led by institutions (political parties, big civil society organizations), which are not the main field of action of youth.
Lack of confidence with political parties and institutions in general.
Implication and engagement without intermediaries.
Different dimensions of political engagement.
Preferences for direct democracy.
Identity as a cognitive shortcut for political engagement less used in youth.
Normalization of extra-institutional participation.
Normalization of online participation.
Partisanism without delegation.
Ismael Peña-López: is there a difference in participation between girls and boys and related to the independentist movement? Could it be that the promise of a new republic is not feminist enough? Silvia Claveria (co-author of the research): young women usually participate much less, but the reasons are not clear. On the one hand, women are usually more adverse to risk, and a process of independence is obviously a risky one; on the other hand it is true that women my have not been represented enough by the independentist movement, very institutionalized and male led.
Notes from the seminar on inequality by Branko Milanovic, organized by the Government of Catalonia and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 14 May 2019.
Branko Milanovic. World inequalities and the European social contract
After 1917 the world had a new way of production that lasted some decades and reached up to 1/3 of the population. And before, there were also different ways of production (e.g. slavery vs. free men, etc.) that lived together. This is not true anymore. Nowadays, capitalism rules alone —China being mostly capitalist in practical effects.
Global inequality has been rising since the early 1800s, stopped after WW1, rose again and stopped to grow once more after WW2. Around year 2000, due to the rise of Asia, global inequality begins to drop drastically. These are three periods: (1) fast growth of inequalities due to the Industrial Revolution, (2) the plateau of high but stable global inequality during the XXth century, (3) the decrease of global inequality due to the raise of Asia.
Europe (includes the US and the “Western” world) is shrinking at the global level: population, share of the global GDP, etc. This, among other things, means that other countries are catching up with European countries and some of their citizens are surpassing Western citizens in purchasing power. This does not mean that Europeans are moving down in absolute terms, but they do in relative terms: high income people from low income countries begin to be richer than low income people from high income countries.
There is an emergence of the global “middle/median class” and a shrinkage of national middle classes.
Migration is not something that will be a season matter. Migration will be with us for some decades. That is why it is so important. It will become structural at least for a very long time, as the tensions.
Another way to look at the tree ages according to inequality:
Age of empires and class struggles, there is a divergence between countries and between classes.
Age of the Three Worlds and diminished class conflict, with divergence at the peak.
Age of convergence and internal cleavages.
We have 10% of the people of the World living the same way they were living 1,000 years ago, in absolute poverty. Yes, we have improved a lot, but we are still leaving a lot of people behind.
It seems that most equalising policy instruments —labor unions, education, taxation to the richest ones— seem to have reached their limit. And not withstanding, capital concentration is growing, especially at capturing its rents, and this is newly creating inequalities.
Can we de-concentrate capital? By what means? Taxing capital, stimulating new enterprises that create de-centralized (new) capital, etc.
The past 25 years in the rich world.
Political/philosophical issues brought up by looking at global, as opposed to only national, inequalities.
What kind of policies, and what can they do?
Pere Almeda: is there a way that a global governance can control global finance / global capitalism? Branko Milanovic: On tax evasion that could actually work, also on tax dumping. But maybe not for other matters.
Mireia Borrell: why is it inequality bad? Is it “only” for moral reasons? Economic ones? Branko Milanovic: all of them apply. There is high impact by inequality on growth. See it, for instance, for gender discrimination and how inefficient it is to leave aside women’s talent.
Ismael Peña-López: we are not witnessing a growing de-materialization of capital, especially in the form of digital capital and knowledge. And some think that this democratizes the chance to access capital, as it is less costly an it is not finite (not a good with rivalry issues). There might be a tension between economies of networks and a digital-commons based production. Can the latter be a way to de-centralize capital? Milanovic: on the one hand, if capital ownership does not change, things might not change despite the fact that production technologies may. Besides, the definition of labor is changing a lot, so it really depends on how we define labor and capital and how we tax them. So the answer is not clear and it may vary a lot depending on definitions, ownership, taxation models, etc.
Natàlia Mas: what about fostering cooperatives? Branko Milanovic: a first interesting approach is how to make capital returns remain within the system, and be reinvested, put in innovation, etc. Another thing is how to work on ownership, like giving shares to their workers. This usually works, but it maybe would work better if not only top-workers got them, but all the workforce.
Jordi Angusto: how do we measure inequality better? will the gap between capital returns and labor returns keep on increasing? Branko Milanovic: technological change usually benefits owners of capital; as technological change will remain in the future (or increase), is is likely that capital owners will see their share in the global GDP grow. If we saw a democratisation of capital, that would certainly be the opposite case.
Marta Curto: given the mobility of capital, how do we tax capital? Branko Milanovic: it is very difficult indeed. Globalisation is like a huge tsunami and it is very difficult to tame. Pere Almeda: Maybe the creation of a global financial registry, but it would only be possible to do by a legitimised global organisation, which we have not.
Branko Milanovic: “homoploutia”: high capital and labor income received by the same people. Some people in the top are both capitalists and workers, which is a new thing compared to past times where one would be either one or the other, but never both. Homogamy has increased from 13% to 30% in 50 years. That is, what is the probability of someone at the top to marry someone also at the top. These two aspects make it more difficult to design policies that are effective in redistributing income or reduce inequality.
Paradigmatic shifts in the analysis and practice of governance and public policies:
Interpretative shift: try and understand things differently.
Pragmatist shift: do practical and applied things.
Collaborative shift: do things together.
Participatory shift: participation as a starting point.
Deliberative shift: not any participation, but deliberation.
Two alternative explanations about global citizenry:
Decadence: people participate less, lack of trust and legitimacy of institutions, low social capital.
Progress: more educated and informed citizenry, less reluctant to challenge authority, new ways of engagement.
Participation can have different results depending on the stating point. There is a paradox that, while participation processes increase in number, so does inequality. Unless corrective measure are taken participation of all varieties will be skewed in favour of those with higher socioeconomic status and formal education (Ryfe & Stalsburg, 2012).
Challenges of participatory governance:
Inclusion and diversity.
Quality of dialogue and deliberation.
Impact: participation has to be connected with decision-making.
3 components of ‘What works Scotland’:
Inclusive and multi-channel.
Empowered and consequential.
People in Scotland usually trust their institutions, but would rather be more involved in decision-making processes. Notwithstanding, they still find it too costly/difficult to participate. In addition to this, Scotland has a municipalities structure that implies one of the highest people/city council ratios in Europe (i.e. more than triple than that of Spain). This gap, and the perceived cost to participate, means that people usually participate very little… unless it does matter: the Scottish referendum was participated by more than 80% of the total population.
New strategy to foster participation:
Democratic transformation and social justice.
Focus on improving outcomes.
From consultation to co-production.
Based on deliberation.
New statutory basis for community planning partnerships.
New obligations for public authorities and community planning partners.
Participation requests: any citizen can request taking part on any decision-making process.
People are compensated for participation, so that participating comes at no-cost for them.
Composition of mini-publics aims at reflecting the reality of society: age, gender, education, etc.
And not only composition: facilitation is accurately designed, so that there are no biases or inequalities during deliberation. The design of such processes usually takes months. Facilitation or participation does not always mean talking: there are other non-verbal ways of participation. Plurality of means to participate make it easier for anyone to believe, at the end of the process, that they could have their say in the process.
Some deliberation processes have incentives to drive proposals to some given goals. E.g. if your proposal reduces inequality, it is valued more positively than if it “just solves an issue”.
Mini-publics are especially suited for complex issues. This implies a quite long period of information and learning about the issue. It takes lot of time and people end up becoming “citizen representatives” even if they were never chosen by anyone or are actually representing anyone.
An interesting idea is a two-chamber parliament where one chamber is chosen by elections, and another one by lottery. Both models have pros and cons: combined, we could maybe have a very strong model of parliament.
Civic organizations have a new role in mini-publics: they do not bargain with the Administration, or with the mini-publics, but their role is providing information, evidence and arguments in favor of their positions. This changes the rules of the game, favouring arguments in detriment of negotiation strength.
The scholar-academic mix is achieved with a thorough incentives design. Scholars are assessed by their social impact, and taking part in such projects as What Works Scotland is good for their social impact score. On the other hand, capacity building within the Administration is very important: training public servants so that they become experts and can also perform analysis and research on their own processes is key.
Main types of mini-publics (see below Escobar-Rodríguez & Elstub, 2017):
People usually are satisfied of having taken part on a mini-public, although they find it tiring. For many people it may be the first time they take part in something related to citizen participation. They usually change or reshape their own opinion. The next level —quite a challenge, nevertheless— would be that they lasted long, or that they became structural.
It is better to think about ecosystems of participation rather than on participation processes.
How do we foster participation in an environment that does not welcome participation? In these cases, before going straight to citizen engagement, you have to create the appropriate conditions. This means thinking in the long term, identifying all the relevant actors, envisioning and sharing the goals, etc.
It is crucial to create the institutional spaces to back participatory processes. We have to be very aware that we need to work for a good fit of representative and deliberative democracies. Deliberative or participatory democracy can not be an isolated bubble disconnected from the rest of democratic institutions.
One have to separate dialogue from deliberation. One is for diagnosis, the other one to make one decision. They can be two phases of the same process, but they definitely need different approaches. In dialogue processes, one tries and leave out the decision phase so that people can suspend judgement and, above all, do not work to kill the alternative —because you already made your own decision.
How do we ensure that people understand the issue and the proposals made? One has to assess, first of all, the information available. Are they facts or just suppositions or opinions? After this, one has to design a good learning process so that people can learn. Evidence says that people usually are able to learn and make informed and thorough decisions. Evidence also shows that diversity usually works better than expertise. There is a limit in how much do we need to know about the technicalities on a specific issue to be able to make a decision: we are not substituting experts, but complementing the most technical decisions with the ones that have a social impact or nature. We need pilots to fly the plane, but people to decide where to.
The public does not exist: publics do. Publics are a construction. And a variable and flexible one. What public are you going to listen? An aggregative public built after a poll? Or a deliberative public that was build after questioning the issue and reflecting about it?
Mihkel Solvak, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies i-Voting and reliability
(note: we are using i-voting for Internet voting, and not e-voting as electronic voting also covers on-site electronic voting with e-voting polling machines)
Share of people who trusts i-voting has ranged from 53 to 77% since 2005 and now seems steady at 70%.
Surprisingly, people that trust less i-voting do not vote less electronically than those who do — although those who trust i-voting are much more likely to use it than those who don’t.
But the distribution of trust on i-voting is not a normal one: a majority totally trust the system, a minority totally distrusts it, and the rest are distributed evenly in between.
What we also see is that trust increases along time, and more people are thus shifting to i-voting. But even people that only vote on paper see their trust increased. There are two reasons for that: a precondition (one was also convinced about trust and that is why one shifted to i-voting) and a usage effect (after having switched to i-voting and having had a good experience, this increased one’s trust on i-voting). Trust is mostly a precondition, user experience adds very little. People with high pre-existing trust self-select into i-voting.
Higher rates of trust make the system more resilient, especially to reputation attacks. But we also need criticism to improve the system or not to forget about cyber-security.
It is worth noting that trust in i-voting positively correlates with trust in paper voting and trust in institutions in general. And there does not seem to be a negative correlation with higher levels of digital literacy (the hypothesis being that the more you know computers, the less you trust them).
People that shift to i-voting usually never shift back. But for those who do not vote, they can shift to paper voting and back to non voting.
Martin Möller, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies Landscape of political parties in Estonia: past and present
We witness an increasing stability in the Estonia political arena. But not only in terms of how many parties, or whether there are new parties entering the arena, but also between the manifestos of the different parties. Parties are becoming more similar between them.
Of course there are some differences in the left-right dimension and the liberal-conservative dimension.
Future of (Estonian) elections
Speakers: Priit Vinkel, Liisa Past, Robert Krimmer, Mihkel Solvak, Martin Möller.
Although society is moving towards a paper-less world, paper voting probably will not disappear. But, as new technologies appear, it is probable that new channels (including new electronic channels) will appear and will be used for voting.
Liisa Past: we have to move from a technocratic debate on voting to a democratic debate, to a debate about rights. This includes mobility, convenience.
Liisa Past: we have to confront supply chain management of elections. This is were the risks are, and this is beyond technology. What is more scary: a single firm controlling the whole process as a black box, or the Estate providing all technology and everything?
Renos Vakis. eMBeD unit. The World Bank Behavioral psychology to improve decision making
We are human beings and, as so, we are social.
How do we make decisions?
What do decision makers do:
Contextual definition of problems.
Solution, evidence, iteration.
Main problems in decision-making:
Bias of confirmation: when the individual seeks or interprets new evidence as confirmation of their beliefs or theories already conceived.
Bias of confidence: when subjective confidence of someone over their own judgement is higher thant the objective precision.
Framing and aversion to losses: we tend to take more risks in the “losses” frame rather than on the “gains” frame. We prefer not losing rather than gaining.
Case study: paying taxes in Poland
(Some) people do not pay taxes.
Reasons: architecture is complex, mental effort to understand how paying taxes work, bad perception of what happens with taxpayers money (e.g. corruption), etc.
Possible solutions: improve electronic procedures, etc.
Experiment in Poland: sending letters to “remind” tax evaders that they should pay. Letters work, but they work better the harder the tone of the letter.
Case study: water saving in South-Africa
Water consumption invoices included explanations on pricing and the different price thresholds. Especially poor people was responsive to such information, but not as much richer one. Then other information was included: how one behaved according to the average citizen and publicly acknowledging those more efficient in saving water. Then rich people also were responsive and saved water.
Map a given process, identifying all the behaviors —especially decisions and actions— and see how they are conditioned or determined by information, beliefs, procedures and tasks, social norms, etc. This should help us to accurately find out the potential decision or action bottlenecks: steps where one may or may not make a decision or do an action depending on several factors. If these are properly identified and characterised, we can act upon those factors to improve the likelihood of decisions to be made and actions to be carried out.
Group decisions and mindsets
Customs It is what I want to do.
Descriptive norms Everyone does it.
Moral norms It is the correct thing to do.
Social norms It is what everybody expects from me.
Messages can be shaped in a way that refer to different kinds of norms and thus have different effects on people. Besides, social norms and mental models are strong conditioners (even determinants) of behavior and it is crucial to take them into account when designing and executing public policies.
Fixed mindset —belief that certain things cannot be changed, or that one is born with some skills that cannot be changed— vs. growth mindset— things can be changed, one’s own skills can be improved. We have to foster growth mindsets.