My Future, Our Society : A call for action

Image of 3 human figures composed of hundreds of people Following our study on young adults’ expectations of the future and the publication of the book “Beyond the narrative of Decline" in 2015, the P&V Foundation organised a conference and debate which took place in  May in Brussels on the subject of “declinism” and political alienation of youngsters in our society.

The success of this first edition encouraged us to organise a new conference and debate on the 23rd May 2017 at 6 pm in studio 1 in Flagey in Brussels. This year, we have chosen to address an issue which is also related to the study lead by the Foundation P&V: the political alieanation (of  youngsters) and the need to revitalise collective action.

Just 16% of young adults believe they can rely on the political system to help them solve their problems or achieve their dreams. For the most part, they rely on themselves, their family and a bit of luck. Yet politics loses its meaning if people do not realise that having a good job, a comfortable home, a nice neighbourhood, safe streets and decent healthcare are strongly tied to collective conditions.

For this reason the Foundation P&V launched a call for projects in 2016, aimed at organisations that work for and with young people, who together want to create a project in order to find solutions for their problems and to realise their dreams, especially concerning work, health, housing, mobility, education,... Our objective is to make youngsters aware of the fact that they can, through collective action and also in dialogue with other actors such as (local) authorities and public institutions, solve their problems and realise their wishes. Then, we would like to challenge political institutions so that they can play their role as best as possible towards the problems and wishes of younsters.

The laureates of this call for projects were announced on the 23rd of May ! Then, Belgian and international inspiring speakers, specialised in various subjects such as democracy, collective action, and individualism, took the floor and started a discussion. 

The speakers

We had the honour of welcoming Agathe Cagé, Paul Dekker and Raphaël Glucksmann. These speakers were preceded by Olivier Servais, Professor of Anthropology and President of the Foundation, who introduced this new edition.

Agathe Cagé

Raphaël Glucksmann, Agathe Cagé, Paul Dekker, Dries Gysels, Philippe Van Parijs and Tine De Moor debate, in Flagey, on the political alienation of young people and the need to revitalise collective action. Graduated from Ecole normale supérieure and Ecole nationale d'administration. She begon her career within the French Ministry of Internal Affairs. Then, she became the deputy director of the Minister of Education. She has a passion for education that she summarizes in one sentence: «Fabriquer de l’égalité autrement que dans les textes.». In early 2017, she becomes the Secretary General of the presidential campaign of Benoît Hamon. In 2008, she created with her twin sister Julia Cagé a think tank called Carte Sur Table, in order to make innovative proposal without being tied to a political party. It brings together young people aged between 20 and 35  from different backgrounds. The aim of this think tank is to empower young people to become major actors of the public debate.

Paul Dekker

Studied Political Sciences at the Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen and at the Freie Universität Berlin. He is the leader of the research sector Participatie, Cultuur en Leefomgeving (Partciptation, Culture and Environment) at the  SCP (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau/ Social and Cultural Planning Office) in the Netherlands. He is also Professor of Civil Society at the University of Tilburg. His research focuses on public opinion, political and social attitudes, and on participation. He regularly appears in the media through his numerous articles, including  " Democracy always comes first " : Adolescents’ views on decision-making in everyday life and political democracy (with H.Nieuwelink, F. Geijsel and G. ten Dam), Activism and civil society: Broadening political participation (with R.A. Feenstra), andTocqueville did not write about soccer clubs: Participation in voluntary associations and political involvement.

Raphaël Glucksmann

Graduated from the Institut d'Etudes Poltiques de Paris, is an essayist and documentary filmmaker who wants to offer an alternative for, according to him, the current 'reactionary discourse'  in France and Europe. In 2015, he publishes Génération gueule de bois, his call to resume the ideological battle against dominant values which threaten democracy. His last book is Notre France, Dire et aimer ce que nous sommes (Allary Éditions, 2016) or the forgotten history of the humanistic and cosmopolitan France.

Participants of the discussion

We also invited some Belgian specialists such as Tine De Moor, Dries Gysels and Philippe Van Parijs, to react to the speaker's presentations and to stimulate debate.

Philippe Van Parijs

This Belgian philosopher teaches at the UCL, where he is the Chairman of the Chair Hoover d'éthique économique et sociale, as well as at the university of Oxford. He became known as promoter of the basic income. As such, he founded, in 1986, the Basic Income Earth Network. Along with Paul De Grauwe, he is also the coordinator of Re-Bel (Re-thinking Belgium's institutions in the European Context), which  offers innovative thinking about the functionning of our State. In 2001, he received the Price Francqui, the most prestigious Belgian academic award. In 2011, he received the Price l'Arche de la Parole Libre. He is also very active within the social sector. He was, a few yars ago, one of the initiators of Pic-nicThe Streets, a citizen action, whose objective is to make our cities more liveable.

Dries Gysels

Founder and coordinator of  Lab van Troje. The Lab van Troje is a public organisation which establishes links between companies and authorities. Lab van Troje proposes concrete actions on the ground, with the aim of proving that today structural changes can be achieved in our cities. Through an experiment such as for example, the organisation shows today what a tomorrow's sustainable city could look like. He is currently leading two ongoing projects in Rotterdm about sustainable mobility of the future. He also launched the first Belgian edition of burgermeesteracademie, a tailored training encouraging public officials to bring about sustainable changes through co-creativity and participation. He is a member of Generation T, an intiative launched by Act4Change and The Shift, centred on the reinforcement of a strong network for young people, who are working for a sustainable society.

Tine De Moor

She is Professor of Social and Economic History at the University of Utrecht. Her research on Institutions For Collectieve Actions fits perfectly with the current debate about the rise of the so-called citizen collectives: forms of self-organisation, such as energy and health care sectors, and linked with the debate about State's withdrawal and the failure of the free market. According to her, adding a historical perspective enriches discussion, while showing her commitment towards science. As a historian and ecologist, she sees interdisciplinarity as one of the strengths of her scientific approach. She is also a member of the Dutch Jonge Akademie ,  a dynamic and innovative platform aimed at young scientists and centred on scientific policy and science. The Jonge Akademie organises inspiring activities for various target groups, around interdisciplinarity, scientific policy and science and society.

A few key questions:

  • Can we still, in a society becoming more and more individualistic, pronounce the word "us"?
  • How can young people still try to achieve their common dreams and goals?
  • How can we reconcile dreams/ individual needs with collective action?
  • What are the possibilities for society today, for a better "live together" ? How can we encourage unity in this society, a shared feeling of community, of shared destiny?
  • How can political parties, social movements and actors work to encourage people and especially young people to believe in collective action?

Press review

Discover here all the articles published and talking about our conference!


Videos of the conference

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23 May 2017

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