Blog , Interview / Policy Innovation, Youth
Published: 03.10.2023

“Many young people have their own ideas about the solutions for social issues but most times they just do not know where to start.”

Samaporn Meegurdmool, a senior year student at the Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University reflects on his own experiences in policy making–both as a youth participant, the president of the Thammasat Academic Volunteer Group (of 2022), and as a youth representative who had participated in a policy making process with a political party.

His reflection has sparked an idea for an activity called “Singhadang Policy Maker Camp” held in 2022 where youths from all over Thailand are welcomed to raise their own policy ideas and design policies in a hackathon together. There were politicians from various political parties who also came to listen to the youths’ ideas during the pre-election period. The team would give lectures about the fundamentals of policy making to the young people who have participated. It was also the first year that UNDP and Thailand Policy Lab collaborated with the event.

Voices of Youth In the Social and Political Transition

Since 2020 there have been street protests in which the protesters, many of whom are of the younger generations, demanded for social changes in various aspects up until the phenomenal election in May 2023. Samaporn sees the changing tides and trends in society, which is why he wants to create a space for youth in policy making.

“Most of their [the youths’] demands are voiced out on the streets which are in an unofficial or informal setting. Stakeholders who have the authority in policy making do not get to hear those demands as much and so I think this creates a gap [in the citizen participation] as there is no space for policy suggestions from youths. Therefore, their voices and demands are not heard by the policy makers.”

“I want to create this activity because I want to dismantle some social norms and rules that make us believe that public policies only depend on and are only politicians and technocrats’ business. Public policy making should be a matter of the common people like us, especially youth.”

Breaking Through the Norms and Put the Youth’s Ideas Into the Equation

Samaporn suggests that the societal beliefs that politics is just for politicians and that politics itself is a ‘dark foul play’ play a huge role in obstructing young people from political grounds and inhibiting their political participation. 

Moreover, the deeply ingrained seniority culture cultivated throughout Thai society could possibly bar the youth’s opinions from the policy making procedures.

Lastly, the government’s attempts to include youth into policy making and participation [through activities, camps, programs etc.] usually comes in terms of providing knowledge which is a top-down approach.

“However, during the 2023 phenomenal election, I have seen that the trends in these activities are going towards a better direction where the young people get to participate in the policy making process more. There has been a more concrete approach on how youth can make suggestions or voice out their opinion about the solutions [for social issues]. We will have to see how it goes after this [period of social and political transition].” 

Why Does the Youth’s Opinion and Participation Matters to the Policy Designing Process?

Samaporn says that after reading the proposals and ideas from the youths who have participated in the camp, as people of the younger generation himself, he finds that many of those ideas are critical to our society yet are usually uncharted, unspoken or even ignored. 

“Proposals from youth that may not have been widely discussed in our society such as welfare states, universal basic income (UBI), justice system, etc., many of them are like an elephant in the room – everybody knows they’re there but no one talks about them. I could feel empathy through the ideas proposed by youth. They start designing policies from empathy as a core motive. They feel like they cannot live in a society where injustice happens so they came up with ideas that would tackle it.”

The Future of the Youth Participation: Genuinely Listen to Them and Provide Them the Lens of Policy Design

Samaporn also made a suggestion that, looking from the perspectives of those who are in the system, youth could be allocated some official roles and formal spaces in each part of policy designing. For example, there could be a youth committee to exchange their thoughts with the organisation or anyone making decisions with policies. However, it should be noted that the listening process should be taken seriously and the policy makers should be paying a genuine attention to the ideas from youth.”

“There could also be an official forum for youth to propose their solutions like a quarterly policy forum for each challenge. Governments, organisations or those involved in the policy making process can come to the forum, take some ideas into consideration and apply some aspects to the policies.”

There were online sessions for the youth participants on the fundamental knowledge  of policy making before they actually came to do the onsite workshop in Singhadaeng Policy Maker Camp. Thailand Policy Lab also brought some policy making tools into the sessions as well. 

“The tools from Thailand Policy Lab are the right fit for the objectives of the camp. Youth know what societal issues and challenges they want to create solutions for but they do not know the approaches [the tools] or where to start with. The given tools help participants to process their thoughts and ideas in a systematic way. The tools are easy to grasp such as the iceberg model which helps participants to unearth the root causes of the problems and identify the factors and processes that reproduce certain ideologies prevalent in our society. The tools from Thailand Policy Lab are just spot on. They provide participants with a lens in policy designing.”

When youth have the lens for policy design, they can approach the issues systematically. Combined with the government and related organisations providing spaces and chances for them to propose their ideas and voice out their opinions as “citizens” of the society, this process will take us a step closer to the future of having “the people’s policy making”.

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