Citizenship and the Ceasefire Generation: Approaches to Building Youth Civic Engagement in a Society Emerging from Conflict (pp. 327-358)
Authors: (Paul Smyth)
Abstract: This chapter examines the impact of Public Achievement’s WIMPS (Where Is My Public Servant?) project on the civic, social and political engagement of young people, and their interaction with the State in Northern Ireland. A series of interviews are conducted both with young people who are or have been involved in the project, and with three leading politicians.
The young people explain the impact of the project on their lives and their perceptions of politics, politicians and citizenship. The chapter examines the extent to which the project builds trust, reciprocity and a sense of community amongst the young people – key indicators of social capital. The chapter also discusses current theoretical limitations in terms of understanding the impact of youth-centred programmes on the growth of social capital both in physical and virtual space.
The chapter goes on to make key recommendations in terms of the future development of the WIMPS project, its relationships with young people and politicians, and the development of the website. It also suggests that there are several directions for further research. These include: understanding the impact of youth programmes on increasing the social capital of participating young people; the relationship between social capital and social exogenous constructs such as gender, ethnicity and disability; the impact of the WIMPS project on wider groups of participants and site visitors; and the impact of such projects on other groups including parents and politicians as well as institutions.