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The Federal Government’s (Bundesregierung) youth strategy is entitled “A shared responsibility: Policy for, with and by young people. The Federal Government’s Youth Strategy” (In gemeinsamer Verantwortung: Politik für, mit und von Jugend. Die Jugendstrategie der Bundesregierung). It makes specific mention of volunteering, along with participation and democracy, as fields of action that the Federal Government wishes to focus on. Voluntary services (Freiwilligendienste) are covered in greater detail in the civic engagement strategy (Engagementstrategie) of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ). The strategy is entitled “BMFSFJ civic engagement strategy: Strategic orientation of engagement policy (Engagementstrategie BMFSFJ: Strategische Ausrichtung der Engagementpolitik). It was adopted in early 2016 and represents the terms of reference for the 18th parliamentary term (2013-2018). The strategy aims to create a favourable environment for civic engagement and give it greater recognition. It covers civic engagement across all age groups, including young people. A new strategy for the 2018-2021 parliamentary term has yet to be presented.
The youth strategy (Jugendstrategie) of the Federal Government describes the challenges and perspectives faced by young people in Germany. Building on this, it outlines the core aspects of the youth strategy: participation by and greater visibility for young people, and the acceptance of joint responsibility. The strategy calls for greater recognition of young people’s civic engagement, the creation of stable framework conditions and easy access to funding opportunities. Finally, it calls for target group-appropriate access to civic engagement opportunities.
The civic engagement strategy (Engagementstrategie) of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth provides a definition of civic engagement, describes the status quo regarding civic engagement in Germany, and highlights the challenges. The strategy identifies four principles that should drive civic engagement policy: a trisectorial approach under which civil society, the private sector and policymakers cooperate; interministerial cooperation; coherence between various civic engagement policy priorities; and a favourable legal framework. It also calls for new approaches to be found for areas where there is urgent need for action.
The BMFSFJ strategy identifies the following six main areas of action:
- Promoting the programme infrastructure for civic engagement
- Strengthening the culture of recognition of civic engagement through, e.g., awards
- Stabilising and continuing to develop volunteering schemes as a specific form of engagement
- Structuring research into civic engagement
- Safeguarding results-oriented promotion of civic engagement
- Strengthening public perception of civic engagement.
The target groups among which civic engagement should be promoted include people in rural areas, individuals from less educated backgrounds, and members of the refugee and migrant community.
Responsibility for implementing the youth strategy lies with the entire Federal Government (Bundesregierung), with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth taking the lead.
Responsibility for the civic engagement strategy (Engagementstrategie) and developments associated with it lies with the BMFSFJ, specifically the democracy and civic engagement department (Abteilung Demokratie und Engagement). It works to create favourable framework conditions for civic engagement, ensure reliable funding and promote the recognition of various forms of civic engagement.
The current civic engagement strategy of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth was adopted in January 2016. The concerns of civil society are taken into account in all areas covered by the strategy. The Federal Government is tasked with drawing up a civic engagement report (Engagementbericht) once per legislative period and to outline how this engagement can be developed further. The third civic engagement report, entitled “Civil society of the future: Young people’s civic engagement in the digital age” (Zukunft Zivilgesellschaft: Junges Engagement im digitalen Zeitalter) was published in 2020.
Important civic engagement promotion programmes are subjected to an impact analysis in order to ensure a results-oriented approach. One example of this is the impact analysis of the sponsor scheme (Patenschaftsprogramm) under the federal programme “People supporting people” (Menschen stärken Menschen), whose outcomes were presented in 2017.