Where are the young people? They’re waiting and waiting…

Author Commonplace

This report, based on an analysis of 1,350 comments from people under the age of 35 confirms that younger people are waiting to be consulted and have their voices heard about the places in which they live, work and play. If you wish to engage this demographic in your community consultation this report highlights the issues this group are keen to discuss, and stresses the need to engage online rather than in a face-to-face planning consultation in order to gather the views of this younger demographic.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

The executive summary offers the following background to this report:

“Talk to anyone who has been to a community consultation and they will describe a room of people over the age of 55. Where are the younger people? If you read some of the studies of this age group, you would be forgiven for concluding they are just working, shopping, gaming and interacting online, rather than interacting with their local area. Our study of 1,350 comments from people under the age of 35 shows that such stereotypes of local apathy and disinterest amongst younger people are untrue.”

The report* then goes on to detail the issues that young people are interested in, and that they are, as the report’s heading suggests, waiting and waiting for their voices to be heard and to be consulted about with regard to the places in which they live, work and play.        

Commonplace is an online engagement platform, and using the Commonplace Conversations as a dataset, rather than a more traditional type of survey, they scanned the comments of those under the age of 35, plotting their engagement against 5 main themes. Engagement by younger people was on the following in order of popularity judged according to what young people were commenting on:

  • (30.3%) Amenities - the services and useful places that a place has to offer.
  • (22.6%) Sense of place - how a place appears and feels
  • (19.4%) Connectivity and mobility - getting around an area
  • (19.4%) Health and safety - wellbeing and issues of personal safety
  • (9%) Local economy - jobs, training and issues that impact the economy such as development

Respondents were mainly aged between 16-34 (equally split between the 16-24, and 25-34 age groups, with only a small percentage of respondents aged between 13-15). The majority (63.2%) of respondents live in cities with the remaining 36.8% living in towns and rural areas.

This report “shows that such stereotypes of local apathy and disinterest amongst younger people are untrue. Younger people:

  • Were most vocal about which shops make a high street work. They recognised the social and economic value that the right mix of shops brings to a vibrant high street.
  • Recognise and value the quality of life that a great neighbourhood can offer. From road safety to the ease of moving around on foot or bike, to greenery and social areas.
  • Have strong views but are open minded to conversation. They want to find positive solutions to the problems of the world.

Younger people are in fact insightful, analytical, practical and full of energy for positive local change. However their voices are often inadvertently blocked - because the planning conversations happen away from the places they find comfortable. Whilst for the over 55s it might be a local meeting, for the under 35s it is online.”

The report concludes with the following 5 recommendations.

  1. Don’t assume that younger people are too busy or distracted to be interested in the place they live. They appear to have strong and well-informed views which they will energetically share given the right opportunities.
  2. Clearly explain the detailed rationale for proposals, and articulate not only what the practicalities of the change might be, but also how it will affect their experience of living there, and the nature of the community.
  3. Don’t generalise about what you think might interest younger people based on stereotypes or trends in other walks of life. Listen to them and think about how you communicate accordingly.
  4. Ask them for their views as early on as possible in the project, and keep talking to them throughout. If you can, take some of their ideas and embed them in your project to help create greater buy-in and legacy.
  5. Think carefully about how to reach younger people. Whilst they are certainly not exclusively digital channel users, you will not reach them at scale without digital tools.



* Note that this resource is only available by signing up to the Commonplace contact list. The High Streets Task Force is not liable nor responsible for how Commonplace process and protect personal data. Please be aware of this should you choose to sign up to an external provider. Commonplace do, however, insist that you are able to unsubscribe from their contact list at any time.