Project Inspiration

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Projects are a good framework for gaining experience, making a societal impact, building networks, and putting democratic or idealistic principles into practice. Therefore it is a good idea to encourage participants to seek out volunteer project work.

Basic criteria for projects

  • Projects relate to a social relevant issue or topic (social impact)
  • They are focused on clear goals (theory of change)
  • They have a defined time frame
  • They plan resources like human, financial, environmental and other resources
  • Projects involve other people and the community according to the ideal of participation
  • There is a logical description of how the project has an impact on people, the community or the environment after it will finish (sustainability)

Further quality criteria of a project description


how democratic principles and values are reflected in the goals (working for what) and in the operative concept (how to work).


the team members are independent and feel responsible for their activities.

Development of personal capacities:

team members use their learned capacities

Societal relevance:

the project links individual action with societal impact.


a project represents an individual thought or concept as an answer to societal needs.

THE RMSOS Framework: Focus on Democratic Participation

Deriving from the Charter of EDC/HRE, the Council of Europe was providing a framework around Right, Means, Space, Opportunity and Support as important pillars for youth involvement. We think, these aspects could also guide and inspire democracy-related projects in other lifelong learning contexts/in civil society (Council of Europe, 2015).


  • Do participants have opportunity to qualitative participation?
  • Can they claim their right(s)?
  • Is the project increasing their levels of participation in the project and in the society?

"Young people have an implicit right to participate and it is referred to as a human right or citizen’s right. Ideally, there should be a law at local and/or regional level stating that young people have to be consulted and have the right to participate in issues, actions and decisions affecting them. But even in communities where no such law officially exists, young people have a right to participate. In other words, it is not dependent on local or regional authorities to grant such a right, but it is a fundamental right that all young people have and should demand.

Young people should be active in promoting their rights. In practice, this means much more than influencing local decisions by consultations or voting. It implies that the activities, projects or organisations should promote rights that young people have in all areas of life, and this means not only civil or political rights, but also social, economic or cultural ones."


  • Are there sufficient resources?
  • Are fundamental needs of participants covered - as a condition for participation?

"Life can be more difficult for young people who have insufficient resources in life (financial resources, for example) and who live in poverty due to unemployment or other difficulties. This may mean that their basic needs like food or shelter are not met and they may feel isolated or left out of society as a result. It is natural that, in such circumstances, the priority is to try to look for different ways of obtaining the missing resources and, as a result, young people might lack the time or motivation to participate in the life of an organisation or community.

In order to encourage young people to get involved, therefore, it has to be ensured that basic needs are met. These include sufficient social security, education, housing, health care, transportation, know-how and access to technology."


  • Is the physical space free and accessible?
  • Are spatial conditions supporting deliberation, participation and collaboration?
  • Do participants have enough space and factual opportunities to influence decisions?

"Young people need physical space to meet, to spend time or to organise their own activities. As far as participation in school activities or other organised curricula is concerned, facilities are usually provided (in classrooms, gyms or youth clubs, for example). But it is much more difficult for young people to find a place to meet in if they are interested in getting involved in non-organised initiatives. That is why we are seeing the Internet being used more and more frequently by young people as a space for exchanging views or even setting up projects with other like-minded people.

But this RMSOS factor is not only about physical space, it is much more about the space to participate within the institutional framework of policy making. This essentially means that young people’s views, recommendations and conclusions should have a real impact on decisions that are made. Very often young people are invited to participate in processes, but in fact they have little possibility to influence and shape the final outcome. This is called “token representation”."


  • Do participants have access to all relevant informations in order to make informed decisions?
  • Does the project support them in order to understand what is happening and in perceiving and assessing the different options which the project is opening?

"In order to be able to participate actively young people need to be provided with the opportunity to do so. This means, for example, that young people must have easy access to information on how to get involved, what the opportunities available are and where they are. When they know what is going on in their local community in terms of youth participation they can make informed decisions about their involvement. It is sometimes the case that young people do not participate, not because they have no interest, but simply because they do not get information about existing opportunities.

Secondly, events, decision-making processes and systems need to be youth-friendly. There should not only be space for young people within these processes and structures, but the way they are organised and the way they work should be such that young people can understand them and can fully contribute if they so wish. It therefore has to be ensured, for example, that young people have the opportunity to participate in terms of having sufficient time and supportive structures."


  • Does the project provide financial, moral, institutional support in order to help learners to bring most of their potentials and talents in the process?
  • Does it provide (professional) advice
  • Is (public) recognition of the civil engagement/participation included?

"Young people have lots of talent and the potential to participate, but without the necessary support, their involvement might not be as efficient as it could be. They should have access to various forms of support. These include, for example, financial, moral and institutional support at a number of different levels – personal, organisational or at local community level. Ideally, local authorities should provide adequate financial support to cover expenses and structural costs, but it is still the case that in many communities, youth issues do not have priority in terms of local financial management.

Young people also need to have access to moral support and advice. This can be provided, for example, by a person referred to in the revised charter as a guarantor or, alternatively, by a youth worker or other professional who has the necessary experience and expertise in working in the field of youth-adult partnerships or in working with young people. Lastly, the institution or community as a whole needs to support and recognise the importance and contribution of youth participation, not only for young people, but also for public authorities and society in general."

A Project Concept

In the following step, to create a more concrete project concept, you can use a basic template for a project concept. In this way, participants learn to transform a broad and often not yet very detailed idea in a type of elaborated logical description. Offer your participants to create such a text step-by-step. Maybe these method templates could fit to your needs:


Nils-Eyk Zimmermann

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann

Editor of Competendo. He writes and works on the topics: active citizenship, civil society, digital transformation, non-formal and lifelong learning, capacity building. Coordinator of European projects, in example DIGIT-AL Digital Transformation in Adult Learning for Active Citizenship, DARE network.

Blogs here: Blog: Civil Resilience.


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