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Society interests young people – a research symposium organised at Tampere University will envision a better future

Published on 17.11.2023
Tampere University
Two persons standing and wearing jeans and sneakers.
Photo: Rogério Martins/
In June 2024, Tampere University will arrange the Nordic Youth Research Symposium, NYRIS. The Nordic NYRIS symposiums bring together researchers, students, and experts in the field from all over the world.

In the symposium, youth researchers and experts get together to analyse challenges and envision a better future in our times which are characterised by several intermingled crises: climate change, wars, security concerns, social unrest, and pandemics.

The theme of the conference is Young people and youth in a just and fair world. Professor of Youth Research Päivi Honkatukia says that some 200 participants are expected to attend. The theme is a big commitment for the organisers as they are reaching out to researchers from around the world to discuss phenomena related to young people and youth.

“In youth research, many theories have been developed and discussions often take place only in Western countries, even though most young people live in the Global South. It is important to study issues related to the lives of young people from a global perspective. Their own future and that of the world are important questions for young people everywhere,” Honkatukia says.

“I believe that all young people are thinking about their own future and hope to lead a good life according to their values. They have dreams as well as fears. At the same time, young people’s backgrounds and position in society vary, which influences how they can pursue their dreams or what they feel they can dream about,” she continues.

According to Honkatukia, the current era of crises worries young people, and many are demanding that decision-makers provide more effective measures to ensure a sustainable future. This can be seen, for example, in the global climate movement, movements around gender and sexuality, and in the recent occupations of educational institutions.

“Young people want to be members of society and find their own place in it. Many feel that this happens by finding a suitable job and paying taxes. However, the conditions for achieving these things vary, and they are affected by social inequalities, among other things,” Honkatukia points out. For some, finding their own educational and work path is difficult, and they struggle to be appreciated. Some lose trust in society and feel that they are not accepted.

“Young people also have different resources and ways to be active in their communities and society. However, hardly anyone wants to remain outside society deliberately. Experiencing appreciation and safety in one’s social circles and society at large are basic human needs for young people – as they are for all of us. More attention should be paid to this aspect and not just to efforts to shape every young person into employees and taxpayers by any means necessary,” Honkatukia adds.

Young people should be supported as citizens with rights and duties

Jenni Kallio, who will defend her doctoral dissertation at the Faculty of Social Sciences, says that society often values young people narrowly as future citizens and primarily guides them to find their place in working life.

In her doctoral dissertation, Kallio studied how the experiences of citizenship of young people, who are becoming independent, are formed in the society's service system and by the authorities. The study included young adults aged from 17 to 27 years who had sought support from services for questions related to starting an independent life.

“I was interested in studying how the relationship between young people who are about to become independent, and society is being constructed. Their experiences of themselves as members of society are formed in everyday encounters and social relationships, in which young people form an image of their own opportunities to participate and being included in society. The service system appeared to be a central place for building these experiences,” Kallio explains her starting point.

According to the study, the experience of social inclusion is a key part of young people’s well-being. However, some young people do not feel that they are valuable members of society. Kallio hopes that, above all, young people will be seen as valuable citizens with rights as well as duties.

The doctoral dissertation, which will be examined in December, is the first doctoral dissertation in the field of youth studies at Tampere University and in Finland.

All young people want to rule their world

Professor Honkatukia leads the ALL-YOUTH project, which will end in December 2023. It has explored the abilities and barriers of young people aged 16–25 to participate in society, as well as young people’s ideas about sustainable development, growth, and well-being. The multidisciplinary project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) of the Research Council of Finland. 

The project has produced new solutions for the more active citizenship of young people from the perspectives of good governance and the rule of law, digital innovations, and sustainable development and well-being.

In November, the closing seminar presented research findings and models developed in the project to improve young people’s participation opportunities.
One of the models is Virtual Council (Digiraati in Finnish). It is a web-based, facilitated platform where young people can safely and anonymously discuss issues that matter to them. Virtual Council is aimed at all young people, but it is especially suitable for those with a weakened trust in society. Trained facilitators steer the joint online discussion in accordance with the principles of safer space. They draw up a final statement of the discussions and forward them to stakeholders who can influence the matters discussed.

Virtual Council was created in cooperation with the ALL-YOUTH project, NGOs, especially the Finnish Red Cross and its youth shelters, young people, and ministries. It is currently one of the democracy tools offered by the Ministry of Justice.

At the closing seminar, a book edited during the research project was also published: Young People as Agents of Sustainable Society: Reclaiming the Future ( Päivi Honkatukia & Tiina Rättilä eds.). The book is openly available on the internet.

The 16th NYRIS (Nordic Youth Research Symposium) will be arranged in Tampere on 12-14 June 2024. The Call for Papers has just begun.

Call for Papers - Nyris 2024

Nordic Youth Research Symposium

  • A scientific symposium in youth research organised every second year.
  • NYRIS symposiums have been arranged in Nordic cooperation since 1987.
  • In recent years, cooperation has extended to the Baltic countries: in 2023, the symposium was organised in Tallinn.
  • The event is hosted by Tampere University (TAU) and arranged in cooperation with the Finnish Youth Research Society, youth work and youth research at Tampere University, PERLA - Tampere Centre for Childhood, Youth and Family Research, and family, childhood, and youth research at the University of Helsinki.
  • The keynote speakers are Prof. Hernan Cuervo / University of Melbourne, Prof. Aoife Daly / University College Cork, Prof. Lucas Gottzén / Stockholm University, Senior Research Fellow Tuuli Kurki / University of Helsinki and Prof. Rachel Thomson / University of Sussex.

16th Nordic Youth Research Symposium