Hub Websites for Youth Participation (HUWY)

Published on: 28/05/2010

The HUWY (Hub Websites for Youth Participation) project aims at encouraging young people to talk about policies and laws which affect the Internet and channel this to people in governments and parliaments, responsible for these policies. Young people choose the topics and questions, host the discussions in their own online spaces (e.g. youth group forum or blog, social networking pages) and post the results on Hub websites (Hubs) provided by the project.

HUWY partners provide information and support and involve young people and youth groups. HUWY also organise people working on Internet policies to read and use the results. The online Hubs hold supporting information, space for the results of young people’s discussions and feedback from policy-makers.

HUWY has 3 specific aims:

  1. To support young people to influence policies related to the Internet;
  2. To publish feedback from policy-makers about this influence;
  3. To pilot a distributed discussion model for eParticipation, centred on the Hub websites.

The specific aims of the HuWY project are designed to further 3 high level objectives:

  • Increasing involvement in democracy:
    • To increase young people’s involvement in democracy through a positive eParticipation experience;
    • To demonstrate that young people’s views are sought and that their opinions are valued;
    • To contribute to the development of a European public sphere;
  • Involving young people in policy developments related to the Internet and its governance:
    • To involve young people in discussions on issues related to the Internet, its use and regulation;
    • To support young people to become involved and gain understanding of relevant issues, through providing information in accessible formats and supporting their deliberation;
    • To provide a useful resource about Internet policy issues, in national and EU contexts, including illustrating the role of national governments and parliaments, in designing and applying EU legislation;
    • To support young people to develop and follow best practice in using the Internet, thus contributing to their own safety, their peers’ safety and increasing positive experiences of the Internet.
  • Advancing e-participation:
    • To trial an innovative model for distributed discussion;
    • To provide a specific and transparent connection between young people and decision-making bodies;
    • To increase young people's skills in using online tools for deliberation and participation.

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Policy Context

The HUWY team worked with young people and policy-makers to choose topics, looking at any area that has an impact on how we use the Internet. Topics vary a little between countries, to reflect the current concerns of the young people we met.


  • Estonian topics: Cyberbullying (including social rating); Child safety; Copyright; Security (identity, hacking, buying and selling on the internet);
  • German topics:Cyberbullying; Freedom of speech and censorship; ID theft, privacy and phishing; File-sharing;
  • UK & Ireland topics:Cyberbullying; Child abuse; ID theft, privacy and phishing; File sharing.

All countries have an open thread in addition to these topics. We have put together information about these topics to get people interested and support useful and realistic discussions. This is on the Hub websites e.g. Stories page and Topics page.

Strategic framework: Distributed discussion:

  • While this trial project is based in certain tools and processes, in terms of advancing e-participation it is the trial of a model for distributed discussions that is most important, as this tackles many of the challenges e-participation projects currently face: scalability, localisation and the avoidance of unnecessary repetition (e.g. rival e-participation initiatives aiming for similar users and stakeholders). It also enables young people to deliberate on their home ground, choosing their own technology and style. Thus the major outcome of this trial will be a model that other organisations can follow: adapting open source components to create their own hubs or similar facilities within their own websites.

Description of target users and groups

Young people (from Estonia, Germany, Ireland and UK) through their Youth groups will constitute one user group (focused on but not restricted to ages 16-21). They will use the Hub websites to get information to support their discussions and as a destination for their results. The Hubs will also provide them with feedback about outcomes. Youth groups can also consist of more casual groupings (friends, student groups) and online or virtual groups.

Policy-makers (from these involved countries) are the other main user group. The Hub websites will provide them with good quality, structured information about young people’s informed views on various topics related to the Internet and its governance.

The supporting information provided for the youth groups may also be useful to any person or organisation with an interest in Internet policy issues.The HUWY consortium includes some partner organisations from both these target groups. Other youth groups (and networks) and policy organisations and elected representative are becoming involved throughout the project.

  • Youth Group partners: Youth Work Ireland and Jugendpresse Deutschland
  • Policy-making-partners:Ministry of Justice (UK), State Chancellery Estonia, Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

  1. HUWY partners hold local, offline workshops with youth workers and youth groups to bring them into the project and support them. We also work with “umbrella” youth organisations and networks.
  2. Youth groups (or groups of young people) explore the topics in their own online spaces: youth group forums, social networking spaces, blog pages etc.
  3. Youth groups can finalise their ideas on the wiki and post their results and suggestions on the Hubs. These are organised and tagged to make it easier for people to find the ideas they need. HUWY partners help to tag results, to include terms used by the different stakeholders.
  4. HUWY are also working with people in governments and parliaments (policy-makers). These people will read young people’s ideas on the Hubs. They will either use the ideas to make better policies and laws or help to pass them to the right people at the right time. Policy-makers add feedback to the Hubs about how young people’s suggestions have influenced new policies. They can also tag them to make them more useful to other policy-makers.
  5. Young people can respond to Policy-makers’ comments and to each others’ ideas.
  6. There is also an EU Hub. Suggestions and feedback from the national Hubs feed into an EU Hub for EU organisations, especially the European Parliament, to use.

Activity organisation - Overall strategy and general description:

Information on the project partners is available here; the International Teledemocracy Centre (ITC), Edinburgh Napier University, are the Project coordinators. Each of the 4 countries involved has one organisation running the pilot in that country (Country Coordinators):

  • University of Tartu in Estonia;
  • Fraunhofer ISI in Germany;
  • Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Republic of Ireland;
  • Queens University Belfast in the UK.

Each of these first 5 organisations also has responsibility for specific work packages and activities. Dog Digital are responsible for implementation of online tools.

HUWY also has 2 youth groups and 3 policy-making partners, involved throughout the project period:

  • Youth Work Ireland;
  • Jugendpresse Deutschland;
  • State Chancellery of Estonia;
  • Ministry of Justice, UK;
  • Pat the Cope Gallagher, MEP.


  • Project Management;
  • User Requirements Analysis & Design;
  • Workshops and focus groups; Information structure;
  • Platform Implementation: information websites throughout project; Hub websites, including background information design.Results editing wikis;
  • Pilots in each country;
  • Involving young people (e.g. through workshops); Involving policy-makers;
  • Evaluation of pilots: gathering impact and engagement criteria from target user groups; User engagement report.


  • Dissemination & Promotion: workshops, online and traditional;
  • Sustainability.

Technology solution

Each country hub also has a results editing wiki, based on MediaWiki, for youth groups to finalise their results posts. The wiki includes templates to support this.

This project is not about developing new integrated software. Instead the project is designed to support the use of whatever sites and software youth groups choose. The distributed discussions, run by different youth groups, each uses its own choice of tools. This might be on shared services (e.g. FaceBook groups) or on discussion and chat tools set up for their own members (such as their organisation’s websites forum or blog). Groups can also hold discussions offline, in face to face settings. The HUWY countries include rural areas, where broadband has not penetrated yet. It is also likely that some groups will have already been discussing HUWY topics. The distributed discussion method means that these can feed into HUWY, avoiding repetition. The Hub websites provide the structure, information and context to support groups’ deliberations, and a structure into which they can enter their findings. The Hub websites will make it easier for policy makers to listen and learn from the different youth discussions on Internet governance and easier for the youth groups to access relevant and timely feedback from the policy-makers. Tagging is used to bridge the gap between young people’s input and policy-makers’ terms.

The Hub websites are built using open source components (WordPress and MediaWiki) and hosted in one place, sharing an EU level domain. The websites are available through standard web browsers on all Internet enabled computer platforms and designed to conform to WAI accessibility level AA. Each national hub uses the main language of that country.

Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

Due autumn 2010

Track record of sharing

The HUWY project has been presented:

Lessons learnt

It is too early to provide many or detailed lessons, however, some interesting initial lessons have been learned in working with young people and policy-makers to choose topics and create a strategy for providing information that is engaging, but also appropriate and legally accurate.

The language and culture of policy makers and young people differ. One group has a legalistic understanding of policy, while young people communicate rapidly in terms related to their personal experiences and social relationships. In the early youth focus groups, we discovered that young people did not respond to explanations of Internet governance, copyright, data protection or other laws and regulations, but they did engage with stories of problems people were having when using the Internet, such as the effects of pro-anorexia sites on young people, or the dangers of revealing too much personal information on social networking sites. They then picked up on “stories” (scenarios about possible situations), compared them with stories of their own experiences, and started discussing what to do about them.

The HUWY team have used this insight to provide background information that will draw young people into the topics in terms of “stories” (some of which are displayed on the home page of each HUWY hub, as well as on their own page (e.g. and ) The Hubs have been designed so that the stories are associated with topics and lead the user on a journey into more detailed and factual information. Information is also catagorised by format, so that young people could choose to view only videos or summaries of legal positions.

Scope: Cross-border