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“Extend Youth Participation to Decisions”

A graduate in social communication, Antonio Lino is director of the Aracati Agency for Social Mobilization. This Brazilian NGO develops youth mobilization and training projects and offers consulting services to other organizations. Here, he speaks about the agency’s work.

What is Aracati’s action strategy based on?
On the belief that the social order is shaped by people. It can be improved by the very people who form it. We have witnessed cases of people who have succeeded in changing their own lives and others for the better. But we have also found that this participative action is not easy to accomplish. You need time, proper methodologies and a genuine belief in the potential of all people.

What is the greatest challenge you face?
To apply this among Brazilian youth. We have achieved good results encouraging and supporting youth to prepare and implement social projects in their communities. And we have also taken steps to publicize the work of those who are already engaged in some way. In contrast to what a lot of people say, not all of them are alienated, apolitical.

Which are the mobilization experiences that can serve as an example?
The Gincana da Cidadania, or Citizenship Relay Games, in the city of Santos (on the São Paulo state coastline), produced some interesting lessons and results. We enlisted 300 youth in 23 social projects. We built intergenerational ties. Articulation opportunities were created for the youth with their parents, teachers, administrators, journalists and representatives from local NGOs. A mobilization effort was developed to help them penetrate the public arena. Besides Aracati, many others are developing successful experiences in Brazil. One of our projects involved a nationwide census to locate youth mobilization initiatives. We found 132 and selected eight, which will be published in a book. They are all successful experiences, but it is important not to mystify them. Each one has its own merits and defects. We need to look carefully at the unanswered questions these projects raise.

What role to youth play at Aracati?
They are involved in projects in which decision-making is shared as much as possible. At the moment, 20 youngsters are preparing a newspaper on youth in Santos. Everything from the educational proposal to the policy on grants, the admission of new members and the goals of the newspaper, all this is discussed by them. Our challenge now is to extend this type of participation to institutional decisions.

Read more about Aracati Agency for Social Mobilization (in portuguese)


Published in Interaction nº 14

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