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© Johanna Fick
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Institute of

LV Rural Studies


Young and committed in associations

The image shows the Life House in Stemwede, where participatory child and youth work in rural areas is offered. The Life House is not involved in the JIVE project.
© Thünen-Institut/Ulrike Hochgesand.
The image shows the Life House in Stemwede, where participatory child and youth work in rural areas is offered. The Life House is not involved in the JIVE project.

Associations in rural areas have long complained about a lack of young people. In the JIVE research project, we are investigating the conditions and motives for the voluntary commitment of young people in rural areas and, in this context, we are asking about the role of associations. 

Background and Objective

In rural areas, civic engagement has a long tradition and is of great importance for the community. Most of this involvement still takes place in associations, which gives them an outstanding role in rural areas. With their cultural, sporting and social offerings, they not only provide a wide range of services, but also impart norms and skills to their members and are regarded as central to village cohesion. At the same time, associations in structurally weak rural areas in particular have long complained about recruitment problems.

Today, associations are no longer just fighting for financial resources, but also for members and committed people. Due to the decline in the birth rate and the migration of young people, the proportion of young people in structurally weak rural areas is declining. But the high value placed on individuality in modern society is in public opinion also considered responsible for the instability of the association landscape in rural areas.

There are indications that young people would like to help shape the future of their society, but often do not feel sufficiently involved.

The project identifies and analyses young people's engagement behaviour and attitudes towards volunteering and the role that associations play. In addition to identifying the engagement cultures of young people in rural areas, we ask what young people think about associations today, what expectations they have of associations and what associations can do to regain attractiveness for young people. Recommendations for action can be developed to strengthen locally organised associations.


In the project, firstly, the state of research and data on the organisation-related engagement of young people in rural areas will be reviewed. Secondly, the hitherto unsatisfactory data basis will be improved with its own qualitative and quantitative data collection and the limited expert knowledge on the engagement cultures of young people in rural areas will be significantly expanded (see here for our leaflet (German) and poster (German). Thirdly, the data generated will be analysed in order to identify the cultures of engagement of young people and the role played by associations.

The results of this research project and the derived policy recommendations contribute to the knowledge in the field and improve the basis for decision-making on engagement policy by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, by municipalities and by those responsible for associations, for example, in order to counter the lack of young people in associations in rural areas.

Data and Methods

  • Qualitative, guideline-based expert interviews, focus groups with committed and non-committed young people (project part I headed by Andreas Klärner)
  • Quantitative online survey of young people (representative of the three districts studied; project part II headed by Tuuli-Marja Kleiner)

Preliminary Results


5.2021 - 7.2024

More Information

Project funding number: 2821FE003
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ländliche Entwicklung
Project status: ongoing

Publications to the project

  1. 0

    Kleiner T-M, Klärner A, Brensing J (2023) Wer sich engagiert und wer nicht, zeigt sich früh im Leben : Eine quantitative Analyse zum zivilgesellschaftlichen Engagement junger Menschen in ländlichen und nicht-ländlichen Räumen. Voluntaris 11(2):240-266, DOI:10.5771/2196-3886-2023-2-240

  2. 1

    Brensing J, Neu M, Klärner A, Petermann S (2022) Formen des Engagements junger Menschen in ländlichen Räumen. Ländl Raum (ASG) 73(3):38-41

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