Youth Trust in Oslo

Identifying Barriers And Potentials In TRUSTMAKING

There is a high level of trust in institutions and the public in Norway: 77% of the population have trust in the government, compared to the average of the OECD countries with only 47% trust in 2021 (OECD, 2021). Though the general trust is high, looking at specific institutions and target groups show that the trust in the local governments is 58%, and even less amongst the younger populations (OECD, 2022).

Focusing on how to build trust amongst youth towards the public service, Nabolagshager has investigated how trust can be increased between young citizens in Oslo and the public service. Co-research activities were conducted with youth and stakeholders in public service to understand their respective perspectives on trust as well as barriers and possibilities for building trust.

Walking interviews – youth to youth research

Youth connected to Nabolagshager’s youth program were trained to do walking interviews. To have youth interviewing youth is a method based on Nabolagshager’s experience and which yields more productive results, as youth seem to be more open towards peers and speak more freely as their language and experiences are more similar than being interviewed by an employed adult with a research mission. The youth interviewers also took part in analyzing the material to ensure that intentions of the responses got through.

Interview objects were recruited through youth organizations, schools, and youth projects in Oslo. The total of 20 interview objects ranged from 15 to 22 years old. The interviews were conducted while walking through a temporary green space that was put up to reduce traffic, increase urban nature and social recreation. The interview questions were linked to this green space to understand the youth’s perception and use of green infrastructure.

The majority of the youth interviewed have high trust in their own ability to voice their opinion to the municipality. Their perception is based on their experience through participation in youth councils, interviews, surveys and alike. However, they do not know how to approach the municipality to engage in change. And even if they were to approach the municipality with their own suggestions, they do not believe the municipality will take them seriously or implement any action. The perception is that the municipality does what they have planned to do, and that youth’s opinions are not important. With this perception, the youth do not feel safe or have trust to suggest changes as they do not believe that they will be heard or get positive responses.

Workshop with public service stakeholders – give me a response!

Stakeholders within the field of urban development (public and private sector), youth work and green infrastructure were invited to a workshop to discuss their perception of possibilities for youth to participate in their institutions and possible needs from the municipalities, local administrations, and their own possibilities within their own institutions. The following questions were discussed:

  • What possibilities are there for youth to engage and influence green transition in your institution today?
  •  How can we facilitate for youth to gain trust and confidence in believing their engagement has effect?
  • If there were no limits, what measures could your institution implement to build youth’s trust in your institution?
  • …..Next week?
  • …. Next year?
  • Who (partners) or what (resources) do you need to make this happen?

The findings can be categorized in two processes: during participation and post-participation of youth in public decision-making.

During participation, youth should get positive feedback to build confidence and trust in their ideas. However, the organizer should be clear on expectations on what is possible and the time aspects of a process. Youth-to-youth methods are also found to be useful to encourage interaction and create a trustful space.

After the participation process, whether it is a one-time event or a long-term program, a common understanding for the youth to gain trust was to get feedback or response on the process of their participation. This can be shown through quick responses to their input or in terms of an update on the next steps in a process, and if suggestions are not to be implemented they should be reasoned for the youth to value their time and input.