Democracy for Millennials


  • YLab, Foundation for Young Australians
  • Parliament of Victoria


Young people show lower levels of formal and electoral political engagement compared to older people and previous generations of young people; yet on the other hand they are also the most politically engaged in terms of informal and digital channels.

The Parliament of Victoria and the Foundation for Young Australians’ YLab worked together to redesign how Parliament approaches engaging young people in parliamentary process to start bridging this gap.

The design process brought together young people, Members of Parliament, and senior parliamentary staff to explore, ideate, and prototype new programs and services.

Key Features


1. Inclusive and Youth-Led

To understand the issues affecting young people’s participation in parliamentary processes, the design approach included:
– Exploratory workshops in regional and metropolitan locations – Bairnsdale, Frankston, Swan Hill, Melbourne and Wodonga.
– Workshops organised by YLab Associates (young people recruited and paid to arrange the workshops in their local area).
– Actively tapping into networks through YLab Associates and other community groups to engage young people who were not the ‘usual suspects’ involved in policy or politics.
– All young people who attended a workshop were given an opportunity to comment on and suggest changes to the draft report.


2. Truly Co-Designed

The design process involved a total of eight Members of Parliament, sixty-eight young people, and six senior parliamentary staff working together, with politics and titles left at the door. Members of Parliament attended a briefing session prior to the workshops to learn about the mindset required for co-design. Expert facilitation was also central to the process, with a strong emphasis on deep empathy to apprentice the problem, and creative, fresh ideation.


3. Application of Innovation in Institutional Service Design

Project evaluation revealed changes in how parliamentary staff perceive co-design, e.g.:
– “…it was really great to have young participants telling us how those services could be better delivered, we would never have come up with those things on our own.”
– “I had not seen this method in practice and appreciated its community-building benefits, in addition to the creativity of ideas generated.”
– “…seeing the co-design process of consultation in action was a fantastic learning outcome… it would enhance our approach to developing new communications initiatives and programs for community engagement.”


4. Evaluation also Revealed Changes in Organisational Practices and Approaches to Program and Service design:

– “…conventional wisdom is wrong. Young people haven’t stopped engaging with politics – politics long ago stopped engaging with them. We have an opening to get back in.”
– “[Parliament of Victoria can] map out a more comprehensive engagement strategy for youth that will involve new approaches. In particular, greater involvement of young people in designing and implementing programs and resources on parliament. More personalised experiences.”
– “It gives us evidence to build better digital service delivery into our business planning, and to justify diverting resources into outreach.”


5. Practical and Feasible Service Design Solutions

The design process resulted in five new service prototypes which have been broadly accepted by Parliament:
1. Disruptive online media strategy to change perceptions of Parliament
2. Activate diverse youth network
3. Localised youth engagement officers
4. Youth parliamentary committee to prepare submissions and present to Parliament
5. Real-time voting and info in public spaces
Two of these are currently being undertaken, with elements from the other three prototypes planned for implementation in 2017.

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