Providing a voice: Generation Brexit

Annual Fund donations are helping LSE’s European Institute to deliver a ‘one of a kind public consultation’ that aims to provide a voice for young people during the Brexit negotiations.

Post@300x-8Generation Brexit was launched in June 2017, a year on from the initial referendum vote. It is using crowdsourcing methods to gather a ‘millennial cohort vision’ of Britain’s departure from the EU, from the perspectives of those in the UK and on the continent.

“It is driven by this idea of a ‘youthquake’, and of generational division being one of the main social and political fault lines in British society,” said Dr Jennifer Jackson-Preece, project lead and associate professor in the European Institute. “And it is about looking to the future: how does this momentous political decision affect the generation that will live with it the longest, both in the UK and in Europe? How can the UK balance its decision to leave with the Europeanised reality of British society after 40 years of European integration? And how do we take into consideration voices of the generation that is most intimately engaged in this process?”

Views are being gathered through Generation Brexit’s online platform. Specific topics and challenges are presented to users, who post their own ideas, and respond to and vote on those of others; the most popular ideas will ultimately inform a ‘Youth Agreement on Brexit’ – an alternative millennial version of the deal struck between EU and UK negotiators. As well as in English, users discuss issues in French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish and Spanish, with the final report also being produced in each language.

Dr Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz, a research officer on the project, said: “We are connecting with educational and civil society institutions that deal with young people, millennials and their political engagement. But we’re also interacting with high schools and sixth forms to gain participants and spread the educational message of empowering young people in policy-making.”

With the project aiming to mirror the Brexit negotiations as closely as possible, ideas and challenges discussed so far have been largely related to the UK’s divorce settlement with the EU. As discussions in London and Brussels switch to the nature of the future relationship, so do those of Generation Brexit. Over 1,000 participants have submitted or voted on more than 400 ideas on the portal.

“What we are hearing from young people so far is a sense of dissatisfaction and a sense of being cheated out of their own future,” said Dr Dunin-Wąsowicz. “A lot of people on the platform are already expressing gratitude for the existence of this project , which they see as empowering, providing a different mode of political engagement beyond the voting booth.”

Sara Hjeltnes, an MSc European Studies student at the European Institute and a German language intern on the project, said: “Brexit is something that has an impact on all of our lives so I think that it does make sense to actively debate it and get across your point of view and your perspective.”

BSc Anthropology student Zuzanna Balabuch, a Polish language intern on the project, added: “We often feel like we’re alienated from the entire political process. And the truth is that through Generation Brexit we can get involved in creating the policies that impact upon our lives.”

Many LSE students such as Sara and Zuzanna are actively involved in the project. While some are working as facilitators and moderators on the online platform, postgraduates are taking part in an internship programme centred around researching young people’s impact on policymaking.

Meanwhile, the School’s undergraduates are also being given the chance to participate in the discussion through LSE’s flagship interdisciplinary LSE100 module. So far more than 200 LSE100 students have contributed to discussions of direct democracy, populism, and the rise of ‘fake news’.

In addition to supporting these learning opportunities, Annual Fund donations are being directed towards the production of an educational toolkit aimed at secondary schools and youth clubs.

“As well as helping to provide a voice to young people today, Annual Fund support will help us ensure that others in the future will continue learning from Brexit,” Dr Jackson-Preece added.

Generation Brexit:

LSE Brexit blog:

On March 1 Hilary Benn, Labour MP and Chair of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee, spoke at a public discussion, hosted by LSE’s European Institute and the Institute of Public Affairs, on the theme of ‘Brexit: What Next?’