International Youth Think TankNewsletter June 2019

June 17

European decision-makers and young people are standing up together for democracy and the open society

Within International Youth Think Tank located in Gothenburg, the fundamental idea is to bring together the European decision-makers of today with the decision-makers of the future. The inauguration will take place in 2021. Urban Strandberg, associate professor of political science, initiator and project manager, hopes that the think tank will become a unique venture where young people are encouraged to express their views.


What are you hoping to accomplish?
– Young people and influential decision-makers have one thing in common: they do not accept things as they are, they are impatiently curious about what is waiting around the corner, and they are convinced that they can change the world! A classic think tank builds on those in power in academia, civil society, cultural life, business and politics coming together around an issue that they together analyze and form opinion about. We want to create a new kind of organization that summons powerful people who want to stand up for the values ​​of the open society but who also invite young people from Europe’s rural areas, cities, and suburbs. – We will entrust the youth with the task of every year delimiting two or three critical challenges for the open society values that the think tank’s staff and Fellows work with, says Urban Strandberg. Annual weeklong youth conferences in Gothenburg is a fundamental element in the think tank’s ongoing activities. This is when 18-24 year olds sets the agenda for the think tank by defining the challenging issues.


Why is Gothenburg the right place for this venture?
– Gothenburg is the city that became something of a center that stood up for the values ​​of the open society the last time non-democratic ideas were strengthened and vigorously moved their positions in Europe: during the Second World War. In Gothenburg, there is also an optimistic democratic vision and social spirit in which business and society’s efforts in science, higher education, culture, and social citizenship work together to promote democracy and wealth-creating entrepreneurship. Gothenburg is also housing renowned international events that strengthen and develop young people when they meet across borders. The idea is that the think tank should create a corresponding platform for discussions on democracy that the Basketball Festival, Gothia Cup (football), and Partille Cup (handball) create for the sports, and El Sistema Side by Side does in the cultural field, says Urban Strandberg.


How will you succeed with this bold venture?
– That the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Gothenburg houses the project during its planning phase, and that Global Business Gate has furnished us with a planning grant provide a very strong base. We will also receive advice and support from an international reference group with experienced decision makers. The group spans the seven countries Italy, Switzerland, Spain, UK, Sweden, Czech Republic, and Germany, and has the following eleven members: Allan Larsson, Anna Terrón Cusí, Cecilia Malmström, Dennis Andersson, Jan-Olof Jacke, Lenka Rovná, Monica Frassoni, Pam Fredman, Rainer Münz, Rita Süssmuth, and Susan E Owens. A strong support for the project has also proved itself since the City of Gothenburg, the Region Västra Götaland, and the European Commission representation in Sweden contribute to the financing of our first youth conference. Last but not least, I am also overwhelmed by all the encouraging comments made by leading representatives of the nearly 30 organizations in Gothenburg that I have met so far this spring with the aim of anchoring the project in the Gothenburg society, says Urban Strandberg.


What is going on in the project right now?
– We have just launched the project’s website The top priority right now is to spread the open invitation to European 18-24 year-olds to our first youth conference this fall. We hope to get many applicants, and the goal is to pick out some thirty enthusiastic young people who are welcomed entirely free of cost to the autumn conference. Immediately ahead is also a first meeting with the international reference group. We look very much forward to welcoming the reference group to an introductory meeting in Gothenburg on June 24. The meeting will take place in the Gothenburg room in the East India House, in which the oldest parts are from 1762, and since 1861 houses the Gothenburg City Museum. We are very grateful to the museum director Carina Sjöholm for her supportive action when she welcomes the reference group meeting to one of Gothenburg’s most beautiful houses, which also represents the city’s traditional openness to the outside world, says Urban Strandberg.


Can you tell us more about the project’s first youth conference now this fall?
– We are summoning some thirty European 18-24 year olds to a four-day conference on November 11-14. The conference starts the day before the bi-annual fair Kvalitetsmässan (“Quality Fair”), which engage some 7000 thousands senior civil servants, politicians, corporate actors, and others, coming together to discuss developments within the public sector, and then goes on parallel with the fair. We give the youth the task of discussing the values ​​of open society and the challenges of democracy. We will also ask for their expectations and ideas as regards the think tank’s upcoming activities and organization. The conference participants will also have the chance to come up with suggestions on the naming of the think tank. To add inspiration we also invite decision-makers to give brief talks during the conference, says Urban Strandberg. On two occasions, we bring the youth conference together with the Kvalitetsmässan’s participants. We are very proud that Kvalitetsmässan have invited a select group of four conference participants together with the reference group members Monica Frassoni, Jan-Olof Jacke, and Cecilia Malmström to create the conclusion of the Kvalitetsmässan 2019.


Project Manager: Urban Strandberg

EU-Commissioner Cecilia Malmström share her ideas about the International Youth Think Tank