In Europe, and globally, substantial numbers of young people are at risk of social exclusion, and there is, therefore, a pressing need to develop more knowledge and innovation to create more inclusive and youth-friendly societies. Successful strategies for social inclusion require better knowledge of what young people see as crucial issues for increasing their social inclusion, more knowledge about their experiences of opportunities for social inclusion in their daily lives and how youths can be involved as ‘lived experts’ and ‘change-makers' in innovation and policy-making. YOUCOUNT will contribute to these needs by developing ‘actionable’ knowledge of the positive drivers for social inclusion of youths with disadvantages and by creating better means and policy-making for social inclusion through citizen social science, where youths can participate as citizen scientists.
According to Eurostat 2019, there are around 87 million young people in Europe, or 17% of the total population. In many countries, there are concerns about high youth unemployment, migration or emigration. There has also been an increase in social inequalities in Europe, with almost 30% of young people aged 18–25 years being at risk of poverty. Given that unemployment increases the risk of poverty by up to 60%, the rates of youth unemployment – above 5 to 34 % – point to major societal challenges in several European countries. The situation is even worse for the 5.3 million migrant youths that face persistently high unemployment and underemployment rates, along with increased risks of being socially excluded and larger gaps in educational achievements.
The overarching objective of YouCount is to generate new knowledge and innovations to increase the social inclusion of youth at risk of exclusion across Europe through co-creative youth citizen social science. Overall, YouCount targets two strands of inquiry: 1) knowledge about social inclusion and how to create social change through the involvement of young citizen scientists and 2) contributing to the scientific knowledge base for Y-CSS for increased scaling. This is reflected in the specific objectives below.
As described in the introduction and call, CS might have many potential beneficial outcomes, yet at the same time, there is a lack of evidence of the actual benefits of CS in practice. More evidence is needed to support CS as a policy priority and use of CS in traditional (social) science. YouCount will thus put CS to a critical test by implementing co-creative Y- CSS projects in nine countries focusing on identifying positive drivers to increase social inclusion of youth with disadvantages and conduct systematic evaluations of the actual outcomes of Y- CSS through a mixed-methods design including pre-and post-measurements and processual data. The evaluation will also include an analysis of the mechanisms influencing social inclusion and the outcomes of CSS, and consider how the beneficial outcomes can be strengthened through maximising impact and recommendations for future R&I. The empirical research in the case studies will feed into the broader evaluation assessments of the costs and benefits of CSS, as described in 2.1. Expected Impact, Table 2.3. An overview is presented in Figure 1.3. The framework for Y-CSS and research design will be advanced throughout the whole research process, as part of the co-creative design (see WP1).