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MaasX is a project that is aimed at raising political awareness among young people.This young target group forms a large part of the voting population. However, voter turnout among this group has often been low especially in the region of Maastricht which has had one of the lowest voter turnouts of young people in the whole of the Netherlands. As young people do not make their voices heard by voting and are generally not very politically active, the (local) government fails to address issues that affect this group. Therefore it is crucial to inform young people on the importance of informing themselves about the political landscape and voicing their political ideas. To achieve that it is important to provide interesting ways of giving information, so that young people see that voting can positively impact issues that affect them in everyday life. This way we want to empower young people to take measures into their own hands and make sure they play a more active role in democratic life. To do this, we want to bring policy-makers and young people together, creating an active dialogue about current themes and (youth-) policies.

The MaasX project focuses on young voters in the municipality of Maastricht. We want to reach students, young professionals and young entrepreneurs, but also lower-educated young people at MBO and HBO level. We also want to reach international students and expats who are allowed to vote in the local elections but often do not know this. We will reach these different target groups through the broad network that the various partner organizations have.

MaasX strives to actively involve young people in local politics and stimulate their interest in participating in the political debate about important issues that affect them. This especially in the run-up to the local elections in March 2018, with a longer-term goal that young people will stay politically involved. MaasX wants to create an active dialogue between young people and policy makers so that young people will make their voices heard but, also to make local politicians care more about the daily problems that young people in Maastricht experience. If local politicians recognize the importance of the vote of young people, and if young people make their voices heard there can be many positive changes for young people, professionals, and start-ups in the region.

MaasX organised several events to achieve this goal. We kicked off the campaign with our Political Discussion Event in January, where we launched MaasX and where groups of young people debated on key topics that they find important: sustainability, the knowledge economy, housing, and polarisation. In March, Smile To The Future hosted the MaasX Network Event, where all entrepreneurs, startups, startup platforms, and young people came together to discuss issues they come across in starting their business, or when simply looking for a job here in Maastricht. On March 12th, MaasX hosted the very first student debate here in Maastricht. Here, 10 political parties debated about key questions that students find important, related to the very first key topics we talked about in the first event. Turnout was great, and everyone was more informed about what to choose after attending the debate. MaasX ended the big campaign with a huge party at the Muziekgieterij, ”SHUT UP and VOTE”. People were actually able to vote between 00.00 and 02.00 in official municipality voting boots!

All in all, MaasX turned out to be a successful project. A lot more international students now know they an actually vote in local elections. Next to that, common student parties in Maastricht were able to win more seats in the council this year, which proves that more young people have voted. The newest political party for students, M:OED, was actually able to get in the council with 2 seats! The aim is to continue the MaasX project as a separate campaign whenever there are elections coming up. Also, we are planning to host yearly discussion events to bring Dutch students, international students, expats, and locals together to talk about issues they face and to decrease the polarisation between these groups, creating more understanding and a more exciting Maastricht for everyone.

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