Youth activism and participation - Trends, challenges and successful examples of youth participation

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AUTHORS Erika Richter Stefan Manevski

EDITOR Dragana Jovanovska


The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

This publication was developed as part of the Youth Participation Parkour project, implemented by Center for Intercultural Dialogue and CIVICUS Youth, together with nine other partners from all around the globe, ranging from grassroot to national organisations, national youth councils to international networks. The aim of the publication is to explore youth activism and the current trends in youth activism, as well youth participation within civil society organisations. It gives a comprehensive map of the realities of civil society organisations, as well it explores issues around youth participation on a global level. The publication shares successful examples of increasing youth participation, as well it gives organisations a step-by-step guidance into engaging more youngsters within our organisations and the society. We want to thank everyone who contributed to the project and to the development of this publication, all the participants of Youth Participation Parkour, our partners and all the relevant stakeholders who contributed with their inputs. A huge thank you also goes to AGNA – Affinity Group of National Associations within CIVICUS, who contributed to a large extend to the development of the publication, as well to mapping and sharing of good examples of youth participation among their membership.

CIP - Каталогизација во публикација Национална и универзитетска библиотека "Св. Климент Охридски", Скопје


061.2:342.571-053.6(035) RICHTER, Erika Youth activism and participation : Trends, challenges and successful examples of youth participation / authors Erika Richter, Stefan Manevski. - Kumanovo : Center for intercultural dialogue, 2019. 85 стр. : илустр. ; 21 см Библиографија: стр. 85 ISBN 978-608-65413-6-1 1. Manevski, Stefan [автор] а) Граѓански организации - Младинско учество - Прирачници COBISS.MK-ID 111801866 5






























DEFINING YOUTH ACTIVISM Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics. Due to very different contexts and issues, youth activism is differently understood and to illustrate this there are several types of youth activism: Youth-driven activism requires young people to be the primary movers within a movement. It means that young people take the lead and engage for social change often following the principle of “by youth, for youth, with youth”. In Europe this type of activism is often represented through the National Youth Councils. Social activism is a form of youth activism that is organized, informed, led, and assessed by adults and young people often take part. Under youth activism in such approach would be the willingness, motivation and energy of young people to contribute to the social change in the communities where they live. National Youth Councils in Africa often represent this type of youth activism. Political youth activism encompasses various advocacy and mobilization efforts lead by young people aiming to provide policy and political changes. Often political youth activism is seen as appendix to the “mother” political movements but there are cases when it is independent and youth-led activism Student-led youth activism is work by students to cause political, environmental, economic, or social change. Although often focused on schools, curriculum, and educational funding, student groups could influence greater political events.

TRENDS IN YOUTH ACTIVISM Youth activism in the Global South increased in the first years of the 2010s.1 People under the age of 18 comprise 46% of the global population, and these youth played a crucial role around the world during the first two decades of



the twenty-first century. The year 2011 witnessed massive wave of social movements, transnational in scope but especially intense in the Mediterranean region, one of which precipitating factors has been the leading role of youth generations and the urban middle classes. Young actors in larger and smaller social movements are not a homogeneous group. Their strategies, actions, concepts of social change and democracy vary considerably, to the point where some of their discourses and tactics may appear contradictory. Young actors in social movements aim to construct and create new autonomous spaces and places which permit actors to live according to their own principles, to knit different social relations, to express their subjectivity and live and experience that “other world is possible” 2 In Europe, there are growing expectations for better economic, cultural, social and political lives, as youth activists are also trapped in the labyrinth of the Euro-crisis. Disappointed in the authorities, young people finds its own ways to handle the problems it faces. The tradition of youth movements in Europe has a long history: some of the most influential and popular European youth organisations AEGEE, JEF and AIESEC originate from 1985, 1949 and 1948 respectively.3 Ever since then, the youth activism stage is growing rapidly and attracting more determined and enthusiastic young people, but in recent years it becomes a contradictory phrase to use. Looking at such trends we can see a bit more globally that the youth activism is on the rise. Some of the factors that contribute to it are the using of new technologies on one side, and the high aspirations of the Generation Y on the other side. This change of context allows movements and ideas to get across many more people then what seemed to be possible in the past. Nowadays there are thousands of activist movements and advocacy campaigns online, which are easy reachable and can talk to young people globally. Also, it becomes easy to be an activist and to engage in shaping and changing the community. However, looking at several membership surveys of the European Youth Forum, most youth organisations claim that young people are not motivated and often are lacking young members and activists. There seems to be a tension between the conventional youth organisations and the engagement of young people. Most young people are not members of youth organisations and at least in Europe, the trend is that youth organisations have fewer members then few decades ago. This can be a result of the growing amount of opportunities for young people so they can decide to be active in different fields, it also can be seen in the outdated approaches that youth organisations use to engage members and keep them active, or finally it can also be a result of a process to undermine youth activism and ensure there is stability through established participation mechanisms. 8

SLACKTIVISM Slacktivism is a term created by combining the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little physical or practical effect, other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed. Slacktivism can be defined as the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist. Often another term used is clicktivism, as set of activities that include signing Internet petitions, joining a community organisation without contributing to the organisation’s efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one’s personal data or avatar on social network services.4 The existence of slacktivism shows that people care, just that they do not find the urgency of the situation to react more than online. It’s possible to see the passion when people are sharing statuses, images, posts and signing petitions, but there is a clear missing link between these types of actions and getting involved in an advocacy process. The link can be a result of many factors, some of them quite subjectively coming from the changed technological context: the easy-to-reach information and accessible tools online, the outreach of social media and the creation of digital-self.5 Slacktivism and clicktivism have been criticized by the youth organisations and youth activists, stating that they are not enough and cannot be considered activism. The reasons for this divide are many, on one side it’s the conventional youth organisations that are unable to become attractive for young people who really want to join, then there is also the spreading of the culture of apathy

THE CULTURE OF APATHY There is a growing trend of promoting a general culture of apathy. The culture of apathy are basically feelings of hopelessness which find their root in a perceived inability to affect what is happening in one’s country and in the world. Those feelings are nurtured through a complex mix of messages including those that are more disappointment from the society and how it works such as “you should not bother or worry too much about politics”, “you cannot change anything, so there is no point to try” etc. Also there is a mix of messages that aim to undermine the current social and youth movements labeling them as 9

suspicious, foreign interference in the societies and stating that “each activist has personal motivations and expects a reward for being an activist” labeling them as paid mercenaries or political party supporters.

instead of against something. The campaign against hate speech online of the Council of Europe, following the same logic became a campaign for Human Rights online.

One thing to note is that the “culture of apathy is cultivated by people and institutions that profit from a docile public.”6 These can be some minor political parties and in some cases some governments, but also they can be representatives from businesses or from other organisations. The demotivation of the young people to join in movements or organisations and work for social change on the short term can be a big obstacle to civil society as it makes it under-representative and labels it as “elite society”. On the medium term this demotivation and apathy can result in extremist radicalization as a way of showing hidden protest. The growing tendency of it can be seen clearly in Europe, which is slowly, but irreparably becoming changed by the authoritarian populists who use the hidden dissatisfaction.

Based on these trends what the youth movements and organisations need to reflect upon is their communication strategy towards the community and especially towards the policy makers and civil society organisations. The animosities that exist between activists and these 2 stakeholders can be counter-productive. Youth activists and movements should build a solid base for cooperation with the policy makers and other civil society organisations in order to ensure there are different possible ways to get their ideas heard.

ACTIVISM FOR VS. ACTIVISM AGAINST Has also the culture of activism changed in the past decades without youth organisations being aware of it? Is the word activist now seen in as more negative social actor? There is a general view that most youth activism movements are often only criticizing without being able to offer an alternative. This view is not very public but it’s notable in the behaviour of governments, media and even civil society organisations. The reactions from policy makers and civil society organisations about trends in activism are full with animosity towards it. There is a feeling that activism used to be a movement for social change, where people were enthusiastic about changing something and giving ideas on how they can do it. Now they feel that activism became a movement against changes and against reforms without offering an alternative. What seem to be missing are proposals from the activists on how specific situation can be improved, or the proposals are simply lost in communication. The raise of authoritarian populism is also contributing to labelling youth activism as dangerous and without having proposals for specific and realistic change.

ACTIVISM STARTS TO DISAPPEAR FROM POLICIES? The promotion of the culture of apathy and the growing trend of activism being an obstacle for sustaining the “social stability” already give some dangerous directions in which the policies and programmes are built. Often the idea that activism aims to change societies is seen as endangering for policy makers and in the long run, disruptive for the stability in the society. There is a trend in policy making in the direction of reinforcing cooperation using existing tools and mechanisms to influence policies or decision-making, instead of promoting activism on any issue seen as relevant, in any moment, and towards anyone. In several recent youth policies across Eastern Europe there is a feeling that youth activism is no longer a priority for the youth field. The active youth participation however stays on top of the agenda, so as the volunteering and the youth engagement. Basically this sends a very clear message, that policy makers want to ensure that there is participation within an already established way (through specific mechanisms) and that young people should be motivated to join pre-organized activities for them to be active.

As a result of these perceptions many movements are now in the process of adjusting their visual identities to fit this growing need. One of the largest anti-racist movements in Europe – United against racism has become United for intercultural action7, as a result of this pressure to transform into activism for,

In several discussions with civil society organisations active in policy making, the reasons behind this shift are mixed. For some, there was never a change of focus as still policies are strongly referring to alternatives such as Volunteering or Civic engagement, which are not different then Activism. They explain that this is not very intentional as the policy makers surely do not want to silence civic activism, its just a result of the constant need to innovate in policies and using youth engagement rather than youth activism can be seen as creating more space for engagement and activism as well. The ones that



are concerned with such change often explain that its part of the approach for creating a culture of apathy, and its aimed at providing options instead of providing space to choose. In this way, the innovation in youth activism is expected to be within existing youth organisations, youth councils and consultative mechanisms, which are not always very appealing to young people who would engage for social change.

Some frameworks that define Youth Rights, which are useful for setting the Rights Based Approach with youth organisations and movements, include: • Council of Europe Recommendation 2015 (2013) ‘Young people’s access to fundamental rights’ • Council of Europe Recommendation 1978 - Towards a framework convention on the rights of young people (2011)


• Ibero-American convention on young people’s rights (2008)

One possible trend that can have an impact on youth activism is the shift from needs to rights based approach. This shift allows redefining the entire advocacy approach, which is based often on addressing the needs of a specific community or group, to activism for acquiring the rights that a specific community or group has. In practice, this approach also follows the idea of activism for, rather than activism against, and it allows civic movements and youth organisations to define their scope of work and their social change efforts based on existing Human Rights frameworks. The shift can be seen from this table:

• African Youth Charter



People deserve help of some kind

People have a right to an agreed standard and quality of support

Governments should do something, but are not legally obliged to

Governments have legal and moral duty to do something

People may participate but mostly development happens to them

People are active participants in the development process

Resources are scarce, and some people will lose out

All people, without discrimination, have the right to fulfill their potential

Civil society organisations are a means for targeting the poor and vulnerable

Civil society organisations are a tool for changing power relations

An example of switch from needs based to rights based approach is the European Youth Forum. The Youth Forum for quite some time was defining itself as a membership-based organisation advocating for the needs of young people. Since the change it became a recognizable organisation that works for youth rights and this approach has opened many doors for cooperation including the ones of the decision-makers, but even more important, the ones of the civil society. 12

THE ACTIVISM ARENA Often when talking about youth activism the image that was created following this phrase is linked to protests, movements and demonstration of general discontent of young people in a visible way. But we often forget that the activism arena is quite larger than the tools which we are using for engaging young people to become activists. A recent training on advancing Human Rights and the Rights Based Approach has used the following framework to provide input on the different ways that youth organisations and individuals can become active in advancing and changing their societies 9 (in this case linked with Human Rights, but parallels can be made with other topics for youth activism). THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS OF ACTIVISM ENFORCEMENT


Making sure Human Rights duties are upheld

Being a Human Rights witness


Communicating Human Rights facts or ideas to target audiences



Raising awareness about human rights & responsibilities

Strenghtening people’s and institutions’capacities to fulfill their rights & responsibilities


This graphic can help us in broadening the view about activism and ensure that we are not only stuck in our group of activists and organisations who are doing the same type of activities. By broadening the mapping and involving others who are also activists in other ways, there are more possibilities for building coalitions and creating more spaces for working together. In this way, the “arena” becomes more a cooperative space and ensures that activism is not only for something, but it has the appropriate set of measures and knowhow, in order to implement the desired societal changes.

ACTIVISM AND CSOS Just like individuals, social movements go through cycles, though there is no fixed pattern. Movements sometimes start with a surge of innovative action, as many people join, attracted by the exciting feeling of change and making a difference. After the first several years, though, the initial enthusiasm can decline, media attention fades, and the movement appears to lose momentum. Activism can become routine, like ritual May Day marches organized by the labour movement. Some movements fade away entirely. Others are institutionalized: their purposes are incorporated in formal systems, such as welfare services or equal opportunity offices. In these cases, some former activists may become leading officials in the system.10 It’s quite an interesting topic of reflect what happens to activists and CSOs when they institutionalize their work. The answers to this question can give guidance on how sustainable and accessible is the link between CSOs/activists and the authorities. In order to better illustrate the needed conditions to ensure space for social change we can see it as a balance between the criticism and the access towards policy and decision-making. The balance is quite an important aspect in terms of effective activism for social change. Having the access does not naturally mean having the influence, but still it’s a way to SUSTAINABILITY & ACCESS keep the advocacy processes ongoing. On the other hand CRITICISM being critical would mean losing any opportunity to actually gain access to the 14

policy or decision-making. Of course, it’s possible to analyse the extremes through the prism of values and staying true to one-self. Being critical often is identified as not compromising the values, standpoints and vision for social change that is being advocated, while working on access at certain point might mean blending in with the government and losing the unique voice. Often youth activists and movements are positioned to the very extreme of criticism, while the CSOs based on their previous experience can balance between the two lines. This can represent a potential role for CSOs, becoming a bridge between activists and assisting their work in order to create more access points for dialogue. Speaking of social change we have to acknowledge that access does not mean having influence11 It’s all about the balance outlined above, a balance that can be achieved by creating more open spaces for partnerships between youth activists, movements and established CSOs. In this way influence can be seen as quality offer, a combination of strategies and demand for decisions to put those strategies in practice. The fight for influence is most often based on the effective practice that both CSOs and youth activists have, which represents another point for working together.

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUTH ACTIVISM12 Youth are often dismissed for a lack of civic engagement, or attacked for being disruptive. Yet disruption of oppressive laws, norms, and practices is a crucial aspect of all liberator movements: think of the struggle to end slavery, or to gain suffrage for women. CSOs, decision and policy makers, media, businesses and other stakeholders should recognize and respect young people as potentially powerful social movement actors, and allocate resources to support, amplify, and extend their impact. Any potential allies who want to support youth activists can help in the following ways. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but to provide some key points based on what we know about how youth movements work: • Respect and Recognition; Start from a place of respect for young people’s autonomy, opinions, desires, and actual capacity to take part in and lead powerful social movements that can truly transform the world. In addition, do not dismiss youth who do engage in pre-figurative politics as “unfocused,” “ineffective,” or “idealistic.” Young people considered rash by their elders have 15

often sparked social transformation that was later seen as “inevitable,” such as the Civil Rights Movement. Instead of shutting down youth activists, adult allies can engage in open dialogue about strategy and tactics and take youth opinions seriously.


• Representation; Challenge racist, misogynist, and hetero-normative representations of young people wherever you find them. Lift up and share examples of young people who do get involved in social movements, or even better, help create opportunities for youth activists to share their own experiences with peers.


• Real talk; Have open conversations with youth about systems of power, oppression, resistance, and liberation. Capitalism, racism, and patriarchy, as well as individualism, competition, and consumerism, are interlinked systems that deeply impact all young people’s lives. Discuss them together in intergenerational spaces, without trying to impose one “correct” way of understanding them. Together, youth and adult allies can surface alternative narratives like unity, equity, diversity, respect, inclusion, bravery, and connected fate. Encourage, rather than suppress, gender and race talk, and explicitly address structural and institutional racism and patriarchy, while supporting the development of an intersectional analysis. Real talk helps youth build real movements.

Youth participation in the board and secretariat of civil society organisations is an issue that requires specific attention and measures in place. Often young people are perceived as “the future” thus they do not get access to places at the board or jobs in the secretariat of national civil society organisations. This discourages their involvement in a more long-term and strategic way. In order to secure proper youth participation in the board and secretariat of large civil society organisations the advocates for such change propose to create a compilation of different existing papers and strategies which would back-up their asks for a more inclusive and representative structures. One example share from CIVICUS was that such advocacy processes can be build based and reflected on the gender equality criteria which often exists in the civil society organisations (both for secretariat and board). Building up on these criteria, a youth inclusion quota could be set up as a positive step to involve young people in the management of civil society organisations. Some of the identified strategies which are working well for youth inclusion in civil society organisations are the following: 1. Tangible opportunities and tangible ways to engage and be represented in the decision-making structures It is important when designing strategies and mechanisms for inclusion of young people in boards or secretariat of civil society organisations to think more specifically what this would imply. For example, the types of decisions that the board is making and can the young people actually influence those (by vote, or proposing new ideas etc.). Similarly when it comes to inclusion in the secretariat it is important to ensure that the young people actually have a meaningful work post, which allows them to decide, manage, influence and support the organisation. 2. Feedback from participants that attend different events Apart of the direct engagement of young people, the opinion of other young members of the organisation should be collected and considered for future



planning and work. For example, young members can give their feedback on different event, propose new events and be encouraged to manage those new events directly. If the organisation has a membership officer, this person should take particular look into the feedback from young people and provide space to co-manage the next events by involving young members into preparatory teams and management teams of the event. 3. Issue based and topic-based activism Many new activists, particularly young people would request for visible and tangible solutions on specific issues. Young people are often facing many challenges (precarious work, school fees, access to finances and housing among others) so please make sure you ask how much free time they can dedicate for a topic-based activism and attend many planning, strategic and evaluation events where there will be a lot of in-depth discussions about a topic. If the topic is close to their field of work or studies, yes of course it makes sense, but if not, then try to make sure there is a lot of smaller issue-based activist pledge that they can take on board. For instance, asking for more transparency in urban planning, better public transport etc. could be more tangible for young people to be involved in, then discussions on the sustainable development strategy of the country, which are interesting to only some young people. A good combination of both is therefore vital to secure that civic activism is encouraged and that youth participation is in place. 4. Civil society connections Larger civil society organisations can explore models where the membership engagement in civil society would challenge their traditional membership base. For instance, feminist movements could also explore the possibility of involving actively young men as feminists, or social movements could also explore further the role of youth led organisations within. The current possibilities and inter-connections of civil society provides a lot of spaces for cooperation instead of competition. INCLUSIVE VOICE AT CIVICUS CIVICUS as a global civil society alliance has worked on securing youth engagement through the following distinct, practical and effective models:

working with and for youth. The youth officer is a young person, representing the voice of young people directly in the secretariat and ensuring more spaces are made for young people. In addition, CIVICUS has created the Youth Action Team, an action body on youth and youth related issues. The purpose of the Youth Action Team is to mainstream youth and youth issues into CIVICUS’ programmes and activities and to champion youth engagement and civic space. Institutionally, the Youth Action Team interfaces with CIVICUS Board on specific strategic questions and communicates via the Secretariat on any suggested youth programming or proposals that should be considered CIVICUS priorities. Identify and address the gaps CIVICUS has worked to identify and address the gaps for young people to be able to take active part in its work. In direct engagement with young people, through the Youth Assemblies of the International Civil Society Week, the young people asked CIVICUS to establish a secretariat post of Youth Engagement Coordinator and introduce several more posts directed at providing support for the youth membership. Through the establishment of the Youth Advisory Group (later Youth Action Team) this process continued under the direct guidance and management of young people. CIVICUS has also worked to secure that the Board of the organisation will have space for young people as well, and that the Board and the Youth Action Team will exchange on regular basis.

MEMBERSHIP SOLIDARITY FUND One of the mechanisms established at CIVICUS can be used as an inspiration for the other networks of civil society organisations, especially when it comes to supporting youth movements and creating the adequate space for them to take action. The CIVICUS has created a membership solidarity fund which is funded by membership fees and conceived as a flexible fund. This means that fund is set up as inclusive and extends to cover different expenses and different topics of work. One of the key missing support structure for youth movements are funds that would cover their general expenditures, although obviously the funds can support an intervention or a project as well.

Dedicated resources and staff CIVICUS has a membership engagement officer and a youth officer who are

By creating a civil society managed fund by the members – for the members , the networks of civil society organisations can play a vital role in access to



funding for the smaller organisations and movements. This also would mean that the funding can be flexible to support the work of the organisations and the reporting will be realistic and light. As youth organisations are usually smaller they are less likely to have adequate documents to apply for more complex grants for their administrative and running costs. Having an intermediary organisation (CIVICUS) simplifies the procedure for reporting, supports the distribution of funds to smaller organisations and in many cases it allows organisations to accept funding which in some national contexts is not accessible (for example in many states the funds of the Open Society Foundation are very stigmatised but through a national civil society network they could actually reach CSOs without governments knowing that these are OSF funds). The membership solidarity fund is set up also to support better working conditions for staff of CSO making sure they also have decent work contracts which also include their maternity leave, health care and other smaller benefits. These expenditures are almost never covered by any granting mechanism and are very difficult for reporting but it is very important that civil society is rejecting the precarious working conditions for its staff mainly due to the limited finances). A fund created and managed by and for organisations will also secure accessible reporting. For example the membership support fund at CIVICUS asks to report with a focus on what was the grant spent on and lessons learned from such action. Often with grants the reporting asks for a complex Monitoring and Evaluation system which many organisations do not have or cannot afford. The fund’s governance is set up on a principle of equal voice regardless of the amount of funding or the size of the civil society organisation. In this way all organisations should together set up the priorities of work. Annual priorities for the CIVICUS membership support fund are to be introduced as well, and these would also include issues such as maternity leave, sick leave etc. By raising awareness on these issues for the upcoming period, many CSOs will look into ways how they can secure that their employees have access to quality work conditions.

people can know what they can get from the membership in civil society organisations, at the same time the organisations can also plan the involvement and make it more meaningful. Membership surveys are an important feedback mechanism to the organisations. If a membership officer or someone in charge of members simply sends an engagement opportunity to the members, they will know immediately how many respond, and what is appealing to the young members. More established organisations should create an engagement strategy and communications plan for the members. Support for this can come from CIVICUS. A proper engagement strategy also includes aspects of diversity and inclusion, proposing ways how the organisation can engage young people who are not always directly affected by the topic or not really familiar with the role of civil society in the local decision making and work. Recruitment is a very cross-cutting issue within different target groups of civil society organisations. Within CIVICUS work has been done to secure recruitment is accessible to all genders, minority groups and recently to young people as well. This would entail mainly interventions in the framework of membership – activities, but also working on advocacy, enlarging the civic space, monitoring and evaluation of staff etc.

COMMUNICATION TOOLS FOR YOUTH PARTICIPATION Through proper and open communication the organisations can ensure they are walking the talk of youth participation in civil society. Some examples of communication tools which enable / support youth participation are the following: 1. Quarterly publication by young people to showcase what is youth action and tell stories of participation from across the world

One of the key issues that supports young people to participate in civil society is having a tracking system that helps to record, plan and support the young people: where they have been, how they participated etc. In this way the young

The publication stories should react against the negative narrative against youth activism which is being strongly spread today. Young people are often depicted as violent protesters, and the notion of activism is promoted as a negative idea. By sharing the counter narratives of how activism is important for decision-making, Human Rights and democracy, it will also become more popular among young people.




2. Regional mailing lists It is important for global or national civil society networks and organisations to stratify their information according to what is actually accessible for young people and what is regionally accessible. Often the possibilities are limited for those young people already living in the capitals, so by stratification this gap becomes more visible and organisations can actually address it. 3. Youth friendly communication plan The communication plans of the organisation should be appealing and interesting for young people as well. Often the communication used by young people is faster, more digital, dynamic and based on a specific sense of humour, so the civil society organisations should take this into account when creating their communication plans. 4. Training in media and communication Civil society networks and national organisations should also focus on building capacity to smaller organisations and to their own staff on “how to talk about their work”. Often civil society organisations staff knows how to develop communication plans, but to use specific tools, create messages and work on engagement is still an issue.

are good (1 min video) and sharing some stories or personal profiles works well. Overall, when creating content it is good to know that human positive stories do really well and quotable resources are “easy to digest” which is why this is picked up in newspapers in the next period. In terms of training, globally the civil society organisations are more in favour of webinars and open calls for short-term training engagement. Organisations should also evaluate – assess the Information sent to members in the format of newsletters, direct and targeted mail, social media (targeted) and face to face information. This information should be check if it is relevant for young people, is it accessible (can young people actually take part in what is being promoted) is the timely, is it clear. Often sending too much information makes it very difficult to navigate and find spaces which invite for participation of young people. The communication tools and strategy should answer the question - What is the best way to get youth voice in the activity?. Once this is clear, all the tools and communication messages can be put together.


In addition to engagement of young people though communication, the national civil society organisations or networks should also go beyond this – reflecting on ways to have young people leading the communication with other youth networks and informal groups of activists, even online communities.

One of the bigger areas that hinders young led smaller initiatives to develop further is the resource mobilisation. Often small youth led groups cannot mobilise funding due to lack of experience and connections, but also sometimes simply because they are young people. This form of age-based discrimination is visible when, for example, funding is not awarded to young leaders as it is assumed that they cannot really make a change on their own, or that they will not be acting responsibly with the money. In other cases, it often happens that resources come with many terms and conditions which would establish a sense of power dynamics that hinders independent youth movements.

Some specific examples which can be set up on the level of civil society organisations include having youth takeovers (such takeovers happened on the CIVICUS account) which can be once a month activities when for a day the social media account is taken over by a youth organisation and it is used to showcase what the organisation does.

That is the reason why civil society organisations and networks should be advocating for resources for particularly smaller and under-organised associations, movements or groups. Within civil society there can be a safe and more accessible space to encourage youth activism, without an immediate strive to condition these movements in any way.

Some communications that work well include research based posts on social media designed into info-graphs and this is the most engaging content. As the information is dense the graphs are easier to digest. In addition to this, videos

Working with funding community (bilateral donors, philanthropy etc.) is another way of intervention, specifically aiming to push them to be more brave and diversify the source of financial resources accessible for NGOs. Often private



5. Engagement strategy – how to communicate on youth topics with youth networks

donors and the philanthropic foundations have more space to create flexible and accessible funding and other resources for the movements. They also are invited to reflect on the different conditions that come with such funding and how independent are really those that are funded.

youth component. Another question which opens reflection on the potential for advocacy is related to the involvement of youth in the project. If the funding only for youth, is it required that the project is done with youth in all its stages? The answer of the youth parkour participants is a clear yes.

Civil society organisations are also focusing on a call for long-term partnerships where they can actually go beyond funding in cooperation. In such way, smaller initiatives can play a meaningful role where their actual know-how will be more valued.

With this in mind the participants from the Youth Parkour seminar developed the following assessment of strengths and weaknesses of civil society to attract and engage meaningfully young people.

Globally access to funding is still restricted in different ways in more than half of the world. Civil society organisations guided by solidarity should look for new and different ways how to provide resources for operation of civil society in areas where such work is limited, obstructed or even criminalised. CIVICUS provides an updated overview of the situation is different countries concerning civil society space, where it notes that international resources are restricted in some countries, thus new strategies are very much needed. Not everything is in funding, one of the key ideas brought forward was the organising civil society in ways that supports resilience. Building networks, connections and sharing services is also a strong resource. Such support is mostly beneficial to less formal groups in countries with restricted civic space. Overall, a big debate was opened related to the extent of dependency of civil society on public funding. The participants globally made a difference between Europe where such support is aiming to diversify and strengthen democracy, and other parts of the world where such support means control. As a conclusion the civil society organisations should be supporting domestic resource mobilisation and promote a culture of giving. At the same time the countries should as a minimum introduce tax incentives to encourage such developments. When we explore participation of young people in civil society, it is important also to ask “how many youth led funds are there?� As true youth participation would allow young people to actually make the funding decisions. Some examples were gathered by the group, notably the European Youth Foundation (eyf. Looking into such funds by resources and in relations to other funding, it is easy to notice that whereas youth participation is limited, the examples where such participation is possible are referring to small / pocket funds. Mainstreaming youth in funding trends for civil society is very present in Latin America. This practically means that most funded projects need to have a 24




• Advocacy (being vocal and active to advocate for change)

• Challenging the norms, rules and ways of functioning especially if linked with decision-making is difficult, and it gives the impression of going against the stream;

• Empowerment of young people through their participation in civil society • Networking and building networks in the local / national context • Being open for everyone is a core value of civil society – though youth involvement this is being respected • Stepping into the modern trends through the youth perspective, especially in using social media and digital technology; • Practicing to be an active listener and listening to the people (to build personal and social capacities) • Promoting young people as agents for gender equality, as very often young people do not perceive so strongly the traditional gender barriers. • Diversity gives the power of civil society organisations

• Keeping the CSOs management and priorities based on their membership is always in tension with their dependency on the interests of the funders • In the long-term planning of civil society organisations often there is lack of institutional space for bringing actually what people want to discuss, if this does not fit in their work strategy. • Working in such conditions leads more often to burnout • Young people are very often facing age-based discrimination and just for being young they need to work more to prove that they are serious • Are CSOs having flexibility? The current ways of work for organisations often limit their ability to react fast on what is needed on the ground, and often need long time until they make a decision.

• Allowing both organisations and young people to connect to different people/institutions which are impacted by the activities • NGOs have a unique role to promote participatory decision-making in the community • Young people’s experiences in the community life are used through civil society organisations to transition from old to new generation of organisation • CSOs are empowering people to actually do something and put in practice their right to speak up




ested to integrate the young people in a meaningful way, which is visible when a specific digital participation tool is promoted that has a limited impact on any decision making.


The Digital gap is very visible with the following categories:

Often young people do not have the competences to participate in decision-making and actually take full part in the participation processes.

1. urban and rural youth

The following causes were identified: (1) lack of access to education which enables participation; (2) there is no specific culture of participation promoted in life experiences of young people – they are often seen as beneficiaries but not equal participants; (3) limitation of resources for young people to actually move, express themselves and overcome different barriers to participation. Due to this gap the visible effects are the increased social gap between young people, for example, rural and urban young people, a digital gap between young people etc. In addition, many young people are excluded from decision-making processes due to unawareness of such processes or simply being ignored and pushed aside as they do not have the proper training to speak on such meetings.

2. youth living in poverty 3. youth in threats for their digital security Another important question to work is to guarantee the safety and security of young people so they can actually participate. In many places the government monitors Internet security and this can be detrimental for youth participation. Another even stronger aspect is dealing with Internet lockdown which is not a new thing even in Europe. Such new skills for youth activism and participation are very much needed.

POLITICAL ISSUES The key political issues are the structural and policy rules which are based on the lack of young people in organisational decision-making.

ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY Youth are seen as the digital generation, but not all young people have access to technology and in this way the digital gap becomes another barrier for participation. The causes for digital gap among young people are not very different then for the general digital gap. It can be as a result of (1) poverty and living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. As additional causes are: (2) the limited interest in technology and no access to non-formal education to support digital competences, (3) the limited opportunities for practical work on computers and online in schools and even in universities.

The causes for pushing youth to the edge of decision-making come from the societal norms where youth are perceived as a group that should follow those norms and has nothing to say in shaping the norms as they are young. There is also a strong pressure in society as well as CSOs for keeping things as they are which limits the innovation and hearing new voices. As a result of such push-out of youth, there has been an erosion of trust – now there is lack of trust in young people by senior CSO leaders and vice versa. A lot of CSOs operate in their own cultural box – meaning that the rules of organisations live in a box which is defined some decades in the past and has few connections from where we are at present.

As a result of this, there is lack of inclusive communication and information which young people can use thus lack of participation of young people. The effects of such digital gaps are visible in the networking which is limited to young people who can access and use digital tools. CSOs are not always inter-

The major consequences of such lack of trust are visible in the effectiveness, success, social costs and sustainability of the organisations which is either reduced or in some cases completely lost lagging behind the actual societal debate.



Another issue is the lack of policies for including young people, and the difficulties to transfer the organisational know-how from one to another generation of leaders. Often the lack of human resources and proper working conditions pushes many civil society organisations to have high rotation of people. This influences the capacity and effectiveness of the organisation as it results in a lack of institutional memory. Often documenting and keeping proper track of ideas and developments is also a boring and very time-consuming tasks, thus in a very dynamic environment whilst the staff are pushed to deliver results it is difficult to make proper memory and use of it. As a consequence of such situations the organisations have lack of policies and procedures which causes several issues: increased authorities of the leaders who stop consulting the new members; losing trust in the organisation among the partners; organisations are used to support political party activities and this creates lack of trust in society. It is not only internal barriers, as sometimes the government restrictions to membership in CSOs make a difficult context to recruit new members, or keep a transparent organisational memory. Many governments in the world view CSOs members as threats, and they are often prosecuted, arrested or there is a lot of populist hate speech towards CSOs accusing them of being “foreign spy” or “threats to the country”.

HOW MUCH ORGANISATIONAL POLICIES ARE NEEDED? CSOs are pressured to make policies in order to organise themselves and function well. Policies are needed for internal operation as well as for strategic planning of the organisation. Often this is forgotten as some CSOs make policies to keep track and connection with institutional priorities – such as the EU priorities, national priorities, the SDGs etc. Organisational policies are needed but only to the extent that they actually help the work of the organisations. Small organisations can more easily coordinate and sometimes piles of policies can hinder the actual work with people. On the other side, small organisations with limited outreach and resources need their policies in order to be visible, clear in their work and messages and thus, make an impact. 30

In this line the participants agreed also that non-formal groups should have also some kind of policy papers. These documents should have a clear policy defining at least their working area and their desired changes in society. In this way, the non-formal groups also become recognisable.

CULTURAL ISSUES Some cultural norms such as ageism hinder youth participation. Other gender specific cultural norms make it difficult for women and girls to take part in civil society. The socialisation process and the educational system are reinforcing already existing inequalities coming from the cultural norms. The social economic class system stimulates a mind-set of young people that they do not belong where the big decisions are made and they should not even ask to take part in such spaces, both on governmental – societal level, and within civil society. The lack of inter-generational dialogue results with mismatch of expectations and working styles, which simply feeds the fear from changes and makes the leadership more in doubt to involve meaningfully young people. Because of this frames the consequences are visible in the fear among young people in challenging norms. If they want to succeed they should follow the rules set by the leaders. In addition to this, there is a strong fear of making mistakes which limits attempts to secure more inclusion and participation. Young people are often seen as checkboxes, they are often experiencing themselves being a decoration, and such approach is only creating more agebased stereotypes. The notion of intersectionality is also important when looking at cultural norms as obstacles for participation. The participation of specific groups or individuals in CSOs need to be well designed so that those different obstacles can be taken into consideration.

CULTURAL MODEL OF ADULT CENTRISM This model constructs the expectations of the people related to family, work, income and the model is assuming that only adults that have this expecta31

tions fulfilled are valuable. Everyone who breaks this norm is considered as outcast and thus powerless. In this way the model reinforces the discrimination of women and children versus males who might have better chances to fulfil the expectations.

MAPPING EXAMPLES FROM YOUTH PARTICIPATION These examples of youth participation were mapped as part of the activities within the Youth Participation Parkour project, and some of the examples bellow were developed as a follow up practice phases in order to increase youth participation in the community, as well in the partner organisations and networks.

ECONOMIC ISSUES Many issues that block the participation of young people are simply due to lack of resources and funds to secure support and access. The economic issues can be looked at on organisational level and on level of youth-led initiatives. On organisational level there is lack of recognition and credibility towards the ideas coming from young people and this results in lack of funds of CSOs specifically addressed to young people. For youth-led initiatives it is also the lack of capacity of young people to access funds, especially when such funds are often requiring a decade of experience, several decades of work with different sectors etc.

Further mapped examples can also be found in the next part of the publication focusing on specific steps for youth engagement, together with examples. More information about the practice phase and the activities developed can be found on the project website:

In addition to this, youth led initiatives struggle to balance with the different agendas from donors and governments, with their own agenda. Other causes that weaken young people’s involvement in civil society include the high turnover of staff and no resources to maintain and retain the employees. In many part of the world, brain drain and immigration is effecting young people as they leave to other countries, thus there is much less experience also in the youth-led initiatives. It is not only about funds, but also in this line the lack of volunteering recognition is very much affecting the actual role of youth organisations. In many projects volunteering time is not always recognised and this makes it difficult to acknowledge the actual work behind the project. In addition to this volunteering is seen as an added value for getting a job, which is not always the case nor the actual motivation behind volunteering.



YOUTH VOLUNTEERING HUBS - CAMEROON The youth volunteering hubs work as places to engage young people to volunteer. Within a volunteer hub young people are empowered to realise their ideas and in this way they can understand more about the organisation. Most national volunteers are students and they are expected to engage with their peers from different groups. Their projects are rather based on community needs and the volunteers engage there based on their interests. The hubs also engage other stakeholders (parents, community leaders) and in this way they ensure there is space and support for the young people’s engagement.

often involved in decision making processes there is still the issues of gender inequality with young women often left out due to inadequate skill capacity. These girls built up the necessary soft skills so that they can effectively participate with confidence in the decision-making processes within CSOs. A follow up activity was also organized one month after in order to connect with the girls and evaluate how much progress they had made in their actions plans focused on their engagements towards meaningful participation within CSOs.


CHANGE STARTS FROM WITHIN THE ORGANISATION – MACEDONIA As part of the practice phase, Center for intercultural dialogue conducted a set of changes within their internal documents and policies, in order to include more and more young people within every structure of the organisation. They worked on the development of a membership policy which allows young people to be actively engage within all the structures of the organisation. Furthermore, a new body was developed within the organisation involving youngsters and alumni members, that would be the Regulative body overlooking the work of the Management board, but will also be a pool of representatives for the organisation to external people.

This action was about creating access to opportunities for young people. It was important to implement in Canada because there are a wide variety of youth-led organisations in the country, but visibility can be a huge challenge. It is difficult for those organisations to reach other young people in order to share their mission and create opportunities for participation and engagement for other youngsters. This results in capacity gaps in those organisations and missed opportunities for young people to gain experience, connect with new networks and hone their skills. By creating a comprehensive database of youth-led organisations in Canada that is easily searchable, the Young Diplomats of Canada are hoping to create opportunities for youth participation, leadership and the expansion of youth-led organisations in Canada. The initiative is continuing onwards and the expected impact is that the database becomes largely widespread, as Young Diplomats of Canada members across the country (will) have access to the database and the database will only grow over time with youth-led organisations from across the country.

YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY WITHIN CSOS – CAMEROON World Vision for Education and Development used the leading for change model in building capacities on soft and life skills in young girls (21-28 years) to enhance their participation in decision-making processes (CSO governance, non-youth topics like CSOs accountability). The focus was on the North West region of Cameroon.


Most young girls and women do not clearly identify their interest and benefits from engagement with CSOs since traditionally CSOs have not been open and accountable to young people. In addition, in cases where young people are

The approach taken by Istituto Morcelliano is building trust with schools to promote projects and activities there; so the schools provide space for presentations and then the youth can sign up. In this way there is a direct dialogue between formal, non-formal education and young people. Bringing schools into the picture facilitates the talk with the family so that the organisation can convince the parents that civil society membership is not an obstacle for their children. In this way the organisation works on demystify civil society and removes obstacles for youth to be actively engaged.



Once the young people participate in some smaller activities with the organisation, they are invited to propose the next projects. The involvement of the teachers is also kept to promote the projects and support the youth involvement.

used so that both municipality representatives, as well NGOs, would consider the inputs in their future work and programme development for youth participation.



While millions of South Africans are embracing digital technologies as part of their lives, many who still experience systemic and structural oppression do not share the same privilege. Governments departments, duty-bearers, institutions are digitizing, making it more difficult to hold them or accessing services impossible for many communities.

A growth in abuse against women, youth and children in DR Congo was observed, especially in rural areas, and this upsurge was directly connected with the lack of involvement of young people (from the side of adults) in the decision-making processes on community issues. There was scarcity within the community of joint actions and efforts by youth and adults.

For this purpose Communications Advocacy Project developed a 3 day workshop for activists, especially from marginalized communities, including women and LGBTIAPQ+ communities.

This initiative happened in order to motivate and increase the involvement of youth in the community and with their active participation to impact the creative solutions finding to community issues and in order for adults to recognize the benefits of involving youth in city management.

This workshop was important to implement in order to ensure that young people and youth activists increase their skills in using social media and other digital technologies strategically to drive advocacy goal, demand access to public services and hold government accountable for social change.

It created a space for inter-generational cooperation and mutual understanding in creating community solutions where both adults and youth work together in overcoming social obstacles and make sure to increase youth participation within the community.

Overall, the workshop gave the activists an opportunity to connect new skills with larger issues affecting their lives, understanding the possibility to improve those conditions. INTERACTIVE PANELS AND OPEN YOUTH ACTIVISM EVENTS – IRELAND INFORMAL GATHERINGS WITH YOUTH AND MUNICIPALITY REPRESENTATIVES – ESTONIA Estonia is a country offering a lot of opportunities for participation of young people, both in the community, local youth councils, and in the organisations and youth centres. But there are many young people who have not used this kind of opportunities, and the idea of the informal meetings organized by MTÜ React was to bring together young people and municipality representatives in order to explore different factors that motivate and/or demotivate youth to participate in the decision-making processes in their communities. The information gathered would further be 36

In order to bring together young people in Cork to engage with global issues in an interactive and participatory way, Development Perspectives together with Creativity and Change and other local partners, organized a 5 hour interactive event called RAWTAC (Raising Awareness Through Art and Conversation). The first aspect of the event brought young people out to the street to co-create a mural focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals using the slogan “I’m putting change in motion”. This mural was aimed to be an interactive space for people in the city to share their voice on social media about the SDGs. The second aspect of the event took place in a café in the city and it brought together three speakers to share their journeys of activism within democratic 37

spaces, on global citizenship and the SDGs. The audience was then offered an opportunity to engage with the panel with any questions they had. A very important aspect to this initiative was the partnership with organisations in Cork as a key to ensure sustainability of the activities.

GENDER PERSPECTIVE IN INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE – BELGIUM/EUROPE The approach of the network Youth for Exchange and Understanding is to ensure that young people from different genders have the same access to the activities. Often young people who identify as women and other non-males are not really having a powerful role to decide on the issues and the projects. In this example, the topics are set up and the participants are then invited to discuss about the existing models and propose ideas. The participants – young people discuss with other young people on what they would like it to be. Once the participants develop new ideas they can test the tools with other young people and collect feedback. The feedback is used for a publication and for future activities. All this process is done separately to secure that nonmale participant have a say into shaping the projects – from the topic until the final result.


GAMIFYING YOUTH PARTICIPATION – ITALY In order to increase youth engagement in youth organisations and youth programmes, as well as to motivate young people to vote on the upcoming European elections, Istituto Morcelliano developed a set of activities that would motivate youth’s interest in discovering, participating and organizing different youth actions dedicated to the upcoming European Parliamentary elections. The initiative was done in few stages among which a presentation, an interactive and gamified survey using Kahoot and an interactive group discussion. The survey developed was especially important for the engagement of young people, as it used gamified methods in order to collect data on the general knowledge and understanding of democratic participation and the importance of youth engagement in political dialogue.

SECURING REGIONAL REPRESENTATION - FIJI The National Youth Council of Fiji in order to secure regional representation has promoted the Youth Assembly of Fiji where young people from urban areas and organisations including religious groups, from the specific divisions, can have a say, at the same time with young people from many different provinces of Fiji islands. As this is a very remote area, the need for a specific system was put forward to secure that the youth council is looking after young people from 13 provinces and can hear their voice. Feedback and guidance is provided to all the young people and their organisations depending on the type of support they need.

Are you lost yet? (AYLY) is an initiative from young people to create a space of expression for young artists, poets, illustrators and photographers. Young people put together their art in free Zines, but also an online blog is kept for the promotion of existing and new works between editions. Additionally, exhibitions, events, spoken word nights and workshops for young people to co-run and attend are organized as part of AYLY. As part of the initiative, workshops on journalism and creative writing were held in a few youth centers in Cardiff in underprivileged neighbourhoods.

REACHING OUT TO DISADVANTAGED YOUTH – BELGIUM / EUROPE When it comes to the work of international organisations and networks, it is very challenging to work directly with young people and to encourage youth participation directly. This is why Youth for Exchange and Understanding has developed a Reaching out to disadvantaged youth guidelines.

The ‘Zine’ has provided all young people involved with a sense of participation, ownership and success. It also shows that everyone has a right to freedom of expression.

The aim of the guidelines is that they serve as a pointer to all the member organisations of YEU, but also the network as a whole, in what direction should they work, as well what kind of approach and strategy should they have in



order to reach out to vulnerable and disadvantaged youth, and ensure their participation within the organisation and the community.

voice of young people to say their experience on issues and provide their views. Through such approach the project was making a crack in the organisation and initiated a debate on youth involvement which has given its’ results by creating a youth advisory committee.

ORGANISATIONAL REVOLUTION - UNITED KINGDOM The UK organisation was struggling a lot for the hierarchical decision-making structures so they invented a new one. In a process they define as internal “organisational revolution” they worked to ensure that there is balance of power, work and output between the people involved in the organisation. With this change the organisation became more flat in decision-making and more attractive for young people to join and give their full potential to the organisation. This means that the organisation now is relying on the network to help them grow within the community and connect with more young people.

CID YOUTH ACADEMY - MACEDONIA Each year a group of 20-25 people gets involved in a long-term leadership programme within CID. This leadership programme is not only an educational long-term training, but also aims to develop further the young people’s path as leaders of the association. This programme was established in 2008 and so far, the last 4 executive directors and over 30 active members (staff and board) have been participating in the programme. It activates young people; allows them to be part of the structures and be involved, and also secures the sustainability of the organisation as a youth-led civil society structure.

PROJECT INSIGHT – IRELAND The Project Insight was developed by Development Perspectives, as an experiential learning programme, which triggers motivation and emotional impact to people so they become leaders. It is conceptualising the Article 12 of the UDHR ”No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks” and aims to challenge the organisation for more youth participation. In order for such programme to be running there is a need for safe space to express views, 40

KREAKTIV YOUTH CENTRE – MACEDONIA The youth centre is developing activities with the local young people from the community, seeing them as initiators of the ideas together with the youth workers. It then is implementing events and activities together and this motivates young people to get together and stay in the youth centre. Once the participants are on a regular connection with the youth centre they start to give new ideas, projects and the model becomes more sustainable, attracting more young people.

DIGITAL ADVOCACY – CANADA The organisation ensures that there are open consultations with young people and it sends delegates to ensure the youth voice is heard in decision and policy-making spheres. In such processes it is important to ask young people what are the issues that the youth delegates should raise, and establish some accountability between the youth delegates and other young people interested in the topic. But what about young people who live in remote areas? For them and many other young people who simply cannot travel to meetings, the organisation proposed a project called digital advocacy. It’s a method to get youth and decision-makers face to face online on Google hangouts. The decision makers so far included even the Prime Minister and Ministers from the government. On Google hangouts the young people can connect more equally and can have a direct say. Young leaders develop soft skills through the entire process, they get training on mainly communication skills and then they practice it online.


ADVISOR GROUPS OF PACIFIC YOUTH COUNCIL - FIJI The technical advisor group of the PYC includes youth leaders, researchers and other experts. The structure allows members from different categories to advocate for change in different forums (ideas generating, monitoring etc.). By creating such advisor groups, the PYC is providing up to date information to young people and youth workers, who can then use it for advocacy. As a result, 90% of the national youth policy is drafted by the National Youth Council of Fiji, a member of PYC.




WHAT IS YOUTH PARTICIPATION?* Youth participation is the meaningful and active engagement of youth in all aspects and levels of an organisation or network, which includes decision-making processes. Youth? There are many definitions of youth and young people, and there is significant variation in the ages by which organisations define people as “youth.” In this toolkit we consider youth to be 30 years or younger. Meaningful? Meaningful means that youth contributions are supporting the goals of the organisation and that youth are recognised as important actors, colleagues, stakeholders and partners. Meaningful participation also necessitates that investments are made to support opportunities for young people, including opportunities for skill development and personal growth. Meaningful participation also implies that youth are able to influence decisions and the strategic vision of the organisation through their active engagement at decision-making levels, and that young people have access to those influential positions within the organisation. Youth participation requires that young people have the right, space, means, and opportunity to safely participate without fear of judgement, discrimination or harassment. *This is a non-exhaustive definition and the requirements and different approaches to youth participation will be expanded on throughout the toolkit. 44


SO YOU WANT YOUTH TO BE A PART OF YOUR WORK…WHY? The first question to ask yourself is why you want to engage young people. Is it because:



It is important to understand your motivation in engaging young people and question the assumptions implicit in that motivation.

Engage youth at all levels - youth do not just want to be volunteers. To show your organisation respects and values youth make them a part of all your processes at all levels from the board, to staff, to volunteers, to committees. Recognize the added value of the participation of youth at all levels.

Tokenize youth - avoid including “token” youth in your work. Youth will likely feel tokenized if they are constantly being asked to represent all youth, if they are only being included when it is convenient for you, or if they are being asked to give input on only certain subjects. Engage as many youth as possible in every opportunity to avoid this.

If your motivation is based on funding, or achieving your mission and vision, or promotional objectives take some time to reflect on the value of young people. It is very important that before you create a goal to engage more young people, your organisation or network has the capacity to do so. This means having an organisational culture that values youth and respects their contributions. If you do not do this essential pre-work, you will end up working hard to engage youth and they might show up for a meeting or an event, but they will not stick around if they don’t feel useful, wanted and respected. Can you blame them?

Ask youth about their preferences - the best way to find out what young people need or want from participating with your organisation or network is to ask them. Engage in open and transparent communication with young people to make sure you are meeting their needs and promoting participation.

Make Assumptions - do not make assumptions about what youth are interested in, or what they want. Just because a young person on television or your child is interested in a particular topic or likes to engage in particular ways, does not mean that every young person feels the same way.

Engage a diversity of youth - as much as possible engage a broad cross-section of young people. Young people from different backgrounds, different socioeconomic classes, different regions, different sexual orientations, different genders, rural and urban youth etc… Ask yourself what you can do to engage a broader group of young people. What barriers are in place that may prevent certain young people from engaging?

Make generalisations - not all young people have the same experiences, interests or views. Avoid making generalisations that will minimize young people’s experiences. Respect the individuals that are participating in your work and show an interest in getting to know them as individuals.

your funder is interested in seeing more youth participation?; or because you think they will add value?; or because you think it will help further your mission?; or because you think it would be a good opportunity for young people?

DOS AND DON’TS Here are some quick reminders that will hopefully serve as a helpful tool to share and promote a healthy and inclusive culture in your organisation.






Be mindful of barriers - always think about barriers that young people might face to participation. For instance, is your event during the day, might youth be in school, are you offering public transportation reimbursements to those that attend events? Better yet, ask young people what they need and what potential barriers might exist to help you meet youth where they are at.

Be patronizing - it is important to recognize, value and respect the unique position of young people. This means not making comments like “when you’re older you’ll understand” or assuming they are less experienced, knowledgeable or capable due to their age. Even behaviour that is intended to be empowering can be very patronizing. Before you say or do something, ask yourself if you would act the same way if that person was your age or older.

Give young people the space to try and to fail – recognizing that failing is human and that in order for youth to be given the space to succeed and have ownership over an initiative, they must also be given the chance to fail.

Overload youth with work – remember young people have a variety of competing commitments and priorities in their lives and should recognizing that is essential to showing that you value and respect young people and their time.

Adapt your communications – young people tend to prefer more inspiring communications in fast-processing formats. Traditional communications such as long written statements and text are not as likely to inspire youth.

Limit Youth Participation – youth offer valuable insights and perspectives on many different subject areas, do not limit youth participation to issues that you view as “youth-related.”


CONTEXT Ireland OBJECTIVE A group of youth had concerns about the risks of underage drinking and wanted to do something to mitigate this risk. STRATEGY The Laura Lundy Model is a rights-based model that conceptualises Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which states that children should have the right to form their own views and express them freely, and that their views should be given due weight. The model has four components: space, voice, audience and influence. In this case the participants voiced their concern about underage drinking and expressed that they wanted to create a film to communicate their message. There was a safe space to express their views and plan for the film. When they completed the film they asked for it to be viewed by an audience other than their peers, through which they were able to influence and create awareness around the issue. OUTCOME The participants felt empowered after leading this process and acting as agents of change and influence. The participants have now been gathering funds to take this project forward. WHY IT WORKED This strategy worked because the process put youth in the driver’s seat and enabled them to create tangible change. In this case youth were not tokenized. Instead, they were the central actors in the process, as they came up with the problem and an idea for the solution. This model allowed the youth worker to simply guide the participants towards their end goal, rather than deciding on an outcome and then trying to engage youth. This model is not always possible, but where it is, it is a good practice.


THE WEST AFRICA CIVIL SOCIETY INSTITUTE (WACSI) RECOGNIZING THE VALUE OF YOUTH CONTEXT West Africa OBJECTIVE To increase youth involvement in decision-making. STRATEGY Recognizing that 60% of Africa’s population is under 25, yet youth are not involved in policy formulation and are rarely consulted in decision making, WACSI created the goal of supporting youth participation in decision making. WACSI does this through training, mentoring and peer learning programmes. These programs include a six-month internship program, two-week leadership program, a research fellowship program, and a mentorship programme. All of these programs are earmarked for young people’s development and leadership, promoting their participation and engagement in decision-making. OUTCOME WACSI has instituted a highly successful six-month internship program as an opportunity for young people to gain skills and work experience. WACSI also runs the Civil Society Leadership Institute (CSLI), which is a two-week leadership program designed to enhance the leadership capacities of middle management West African civil society practitioners (between 18-25 years of age). In addition, the CSLI provides transformational leadership opportunities and matches fellows with mentors through an inter-generational Mentoring Programme where experienced civil society leaders can support young civil society actors. The Research Fellowship to Promote Leadership and Governance within Civil Society in West Africa is a 90-day fellowship that provides young researchers with an opportunity to conduct research on a specific area of civil society. WHY IT WORKED? This initiative to engage youth was successful, in part, because it was based on an understanding of the value and need for youth participation and set out with the goal to enable youth to be included at decision-making tables. Because of this, WACSI’s intention in engaging youth was not tokenizing but aimed to promote mainstreaming and engagement at higher levels of decision-making. This intention created a successful program because youth participation initiatives were designed to enhance the capacity and accelerate the leadership potential of young people.


PAKISTAN NGOS FORUM (PNF) ENGAGING A DIVERSITY OF YOUNG PEOPLE CONTEXT Pakistan OBJECTIVE The Forum aims to engage a diversity of young people across all aspects of their work. STRATEGY PNF recognises that youth inclusion is not limited to the voices of a few young people, and that youth are a diverse group. This diversity means that some young people are more marginalised than others, such as young women and girls, young people with disabilities, and young people living in conflict zones. The network aims to engage diverse youth perspectives and develop inclusive youth leadership. In order to reach a diverse group of youth, PNF uses a number of different strategies including outreach through schools, colleges, and social media. PNF also uses more traditional approaches such as community focal points, study circles and community dialogues to reach youth in rural communities. OUTCOME A diverse cross-section of youth have been integrated into PNF’s decision-making processes, these youth have access to small grants to help them develop their ideas, and they provide input into PNF’s strategic plan development, advocacy programs and more. WHY IT WORKED PNF’s choice to prioritise the inclusion of diverse youth voices into all levels of their work influenced their strategic planning. When they created their outreach plans, they noted that they could not reach all young people through one method, such as social media. Instead, they used a diversity of methods and considered potential barriers to participation, in order to ensure that they were reaching a diverse group of young people. These youth have then been given opportunities to make meaningful and impactful contributions to PNF. These contributions have, in turn, strengthened their work and encouraged other youth to engage.


START PUTTING THESE PRACTICES INTO ACTION! Brainstorm with your team. 1. Why do you want to engage young people? 2. Are these the right reasons? 3. Do we have an organisational culture that is ready to value and support youth participation and empowerment? 4. Are we prepared as a team to make youth participation a priority? Do we have time, capacity, and funds to invest in youth participation? 5. How do the answers to these questions contribute and add to the development of your overall youth strategy? Complete the context portion of the strategy outline based on these responses. TIP: Make a formal commitment to fostering an inclusive environment by creating a statement of values that aligns with some of the earlier mentioned principles. Better yet, publicly demonstrate your dedication to creating an environment and culture that is inclusive to all. It is helpful to think about engagement as an ongoing process, rather than checklist. Your organisation or network should always be actively working to better and further engage young people in your work. Before understanding how to engage young people, first we need to make sure we understand the basic principles of engagement. Below you will find a circle of engagement, this will be the framework we will use throughout the rest of the toolkit. You will see a number of levels represented in the diagram starting at the broad category of curious leading all the way up to the much more specialized and smaller group of champions. Each time someone engages in the organisation or network’s work, they can be understood as fitting onto this circle. The goal of encouraging engagement is to move people onto and into this circle. However, it does not always make sense to move people along in the circle of engagement, for instance, not everyone will become a champion, and that is alright. Each level of participation has value and plays an important role in advancing the organisation or network’s mission. 52


Only where there is an interest and a willingness to invest time and resources should people be supported to move forward in this process. This circle should always be in mind when you are engaging people. For instance, if your organisation has a number of young people that are curious about the organisation, you could organise a youth-focussed event, this would help move those individuals from curious to guests. From there, you could host a brainstorming session and collect feedback and inputs from the attendees, this would move them to a participant. You could also collect the participants’ emails to send them the outcomes of the session and an action plan for how the organisation will incorporate their inputs, to show that their contributions are valued. At the same time, you could make a request to see if anyone is interested in joining a committee to work on incorporating the outcomes of the session into the organisation’s/network’s work, which would move them to the role of an actor. As you can see, by thinking about the engagement circle you can help make sure that efforts to engage youth (or anyone!) have real results and that their participation does not end after one engagement.


This diagram can serve as an example and as a tool to support your work, but feel free PARTICIPANT to adapt the circle to create someACTOR thing that makes sense for your LEADER organisation or network’s work. CHAMPION


CURIOUS - they know about your organisation and are interested in learning more. Next Step: for them to attend an event, and/or follow the organisation’s/network’s activities online. GUEST - they have attended at least one event or have connected with the

organisation online but have not contributed or engaged beyond their physical or online presence. Next Step: to attend events more regularly and contribute something to the organisation by making a suggestion or talking with someone who is involved.


- they are a regular participant in events and activities. They attend, and sometimes contribute to, activities, but they are not contributing to achieving the mission/vision of the organisation/network. Next Step: to make regular and more meaningful contributions that work towards the mission and vision of the organisation/network

ACTOR - they are actively and regularly contributing to the organisations missions and vision and are influencing decision-making in the organisation. Next Step: to take on a leadership role in the decision-making processes of the organisation and actively promote the organisation and network. LEADER - they are leading decision-making processes within the organisation and promote the organisation/network’s work. Next Step: to actively support the growth of the organisation by championing their work. CHAMPION - they are supporting the growth of the organisation by championing the organisation’s mission/vision and engaging other people within the organisation. Next Step: to continue actively engaging and continuing to grow the network and organisation. To bring others onto and into the circle of engagement.




Now that you understand the basics of engagement and have the tool of the engagement circle in your toolbox, it is time you put together a strategy for engaging youth. Start by developing your short term and long-term goals for youth engagement in your organisation and then work to develop an action plan based on the circle above. Remember that prioritising youth participation requires an investment of time and resources. Be prepared to put budget and staff leadership behind your plan in order to ensure its success.


A.C GENERACIÓN ACTIVA VENEZUELA CREATING A PATHWAY FOR ENGAGEMENT CONTEXT Venezuela OBJECTIVE To engage youth in all areas of the network and create a clear path for youth participation. STRATEGY AC Generacion Activa Venezuela connects with youth by providing training, tools and social spaces. Training opportunities include workshops, forums, conferences and online diplomas. Social opportunities include WhatsApp groups, Facebook, virtual forums, face-to-face meetings, round tables, and public campaigns. They also engage with young people through the arts, including satirical performances, stand-up comedy events and concerts. OUTCOME The organisation has successfully engaged young people in all aspects of its work, including at decision-making levels. WHY IT WORKED? This strategy was effective because it included a means of reaching youth (training opportunities), a strategy to support the development of young people (training), and an approach to facilitate their continued engagement (through social opportunities). This approach created a clear pathway for youth to participate and continue their participation in the organisation’’s work. AC Generacion Activa Venezuela aims to generate a sense of ownership and belonging within its network and by providing constant opportunity to grow, learn, strengthen teamwork, achieve goals, and build trust and relationships, participants continue to engage. This success, can also be attributed, in part, to the organisation’s recognition of youth as valuable and essential contributors to their work. 56

CONTEXT Democratic Republic of Congo OBJECTIVE To engage a diversity of youth in CERC Integrity Clubs and provide opportunities to marginalised populations of young people. STRATEGY Integrity Clubs offer an intensive integrity building training for students aged 14 to 19 years old on the concepts of gender equality and social inclusion, civic empowerment, democracy, public monitoring, transparency and accountability and inspires trained students to stand up to advocate for integrity and inclusion in education sector and in community as whole. Part of the strategy of engaging youth is that there is a selection process, which helps communicate that participation is selective and is a great opportunity for young people. CERC actively sought the participation of students of marginalised minority groups that faced a variety of barriers and challenges due to their identity and systemic oppression in that context. OUTCOME The students from the minority groups that engaged took on additional leadership roles within the group, were empowered by their participation and were able to access additional opportunities through the club. The participation had multiplier effects for those students, who, in many cases, were experiencing less exclusion due to their participation. Moreover, the participation of diverse youth, strengthened the group. WHY IT WORKED By providing a diverse base of youth the opportunity to engage with other youth and gain tangible skills, youth were incentivized to participate and had something to gain from the experience. The diversity of the group, strengthened participation, and improved the benefits of participating for all students involved. In addition, by creating a selective process for participation, engagement was framed as a privilege and opportunity and there was space to hand select a diverse and representative group that could benefit from engagement.





1. Where on this scale do most of your members fit?

CONTEXT Dominican Republic OBJECTIVE To mobilise youth to raise their voices and advocate around the issues that affect them. STRATEGY Alianza has reached young people online and through word of mouth and has invited youth to network trainings and meetings. After youth participate in a training, Alianza then invites participants to join the campaign. Following the invitation, the organisation creates spaces for youth to co-create their own advocacy actions. Alianza further supports the participation of youth through online forums, panels, focus groups and more. OUTCOME Alianza has a number of committed youth that are actively engaged and the network continues to support the engagement of these youth. WHY IT WORKED This strategy was successful because Alianza was intentional about continuing to provide opportunities for youth to increase their level of engagement. Through those opportunities the network gave youth the autonomy and power to co-create their own advocacy actions.

2. Where are the gaps? 3. What might you need to do to fill those gaps? 4. If there are youth currently engaged in your organisation/network, where are they on the scale? 5. Using the scale as a framework - what is your engagement goal for youth? 6. Brainstorm how you will go about achieving this engagement goal (i.e. if the goal is to move more youth from curious to guests, what are some actions you could take to achieve this?) 7. What are some actions you commit to taking to advance the participation of youth in your network or organisation? 8. How do the answers to these questions contribute and add to the development of your overall youth strategy? Develop the context portion of your youth strategy further, begin to identify goals and objectives and brainstorm some potential tasks or action items.



WHO IS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE? As was already discussed, youth are not a homogenous group, so it is important to ask yourself, what type of young people would be best-suited for a particular role, or might most interested in engaging in your work? Are you looking to engage 15 year olds or folks in their late 20s? Does your organisation/ network focus on a specific thematic area? Where can you find youth that have that thematic interest? What is your national/local context is telling you about youth interests? Perhaps you think the opportunity may be of interest to all or many youth, that is alright as well, but the purpose of this section is to think about who you want to reach and how best to reach them. Remember, a targeted outreach strategy with a clear defined group is always more successful and more cost-efficient than directing your campaign towards all youth.

It is essential to meet youth where they are in order to best engage them in your work. This means you must consider where youth are currently gathered and ask what youth are looking for.


Thinking about the engagement circle, this section focuses on how to get people to the curious or guest stage. Below are some examples of ways that you can reach youth, if you aren’t looking for a very specific skill-set it is best to cast a wide net, and from there you can support those with a demonstrated interest in continuing to move up the engagement circle. When you think about where to go to access youth, consider which type of youth you may be accessing, and do your best to access and provide opportunities to a broad diversity of young people. For instance, if you are only conducting outreach at Universities, you are most likely accessing a very privileged portion of the population and are missing many others. Think about both rural and urban opportunities for outreach, and conduct outreach with access and equity in mind. Consider consulting your allies and partners that are working with youth to see if they can introduce you to young activists that can support your work in identifying and reaching groups that match your target audience.


MAKING A CASE FOR PARTICIPATION As you would for anyone who is interested in getting involved in your organisation you should prepare a pitch to present the benefits of engagement and reasons why young people should want to engage. When thinking about how to present the opportunity to youth ask young people that are already involved or that have shown interest, what about the opportunity is appealing to them? Be aware that the pitch you prepare might not be presented directly to youth, at least at the beginning of the process. You will need to be able to present the pitch, the opportunities and the benefits of working with your organisation through your different communication channels. This might require you to create appealing messages on social media that will move youth to become curious or guests in your organisation’s activities. Also, consider the specific context of your target audience when designing your outreach strategy. For instance, if your target audience lives in a rural area or a country with limited internet access, you might want to spread your message through local leaders or non-digital means.

While youth are different, research done in Canada found the following motivations to be important to young people:

• Altruistic and personal motivational factors - it feels good to help people and helping people can also help me • Social recognition - it feels good to be noticed and acknowledged for my good work • Work related experience - it is important to gain work experience to support career development • Growth Opportunities - it is an opportunity to have different experiences and learn and grow as an individual • Opportunities to gain skills - it is important to gain transferable skills that can support that individuals overall development and advancement • Opportunity to work on their areas of interest - it is an opportunity to learn more about a particular topic • Social opportunities - it is a chance to meet new people and expand networks In addition to the opportunity to make an impact and help, it is important to think about what youth will gain from being a part of your work. Their schedules are likely busy and it is important to acknowledge and respect their competing interests and priorities by making a case for how they will be able to grow and benefit from this experience. Be sure that you have a very clear role defined for the young person to fill. It is important that you are able to clearly articulate how they will be contributing to the organisation or network, this is true of engaging anyone.



SOCIOPRENEUR INDONESIA REACHING YOUTH WITH DIVERSE PROGRAMMING CONTEXT Indonesia OBJECTIVE To involve young people in social entrepreneurship and to support youth in acting as agents of change. STRATEGY Sociopreneur Indonesia (SociopreneurID) offers a variety of different opportunities for youth to participate in. They reach youth through a Youth Economic Leadership Program, a Bootcamp for Young Technopreneurs, and a Be a Creative Innovator program. The organisation uses their educational programs and connections to schools and Universities to reach out to youth. In addition, consulting is one of their main values, which supports them in being informed by and meeting the needs of the populations they work with. They have also used youth volunteers to support their programming. OUTCOME Sociopreneur Indonesia has empowered more than 800 young adults (17-25 years old) to become active volunteers in their programs. WHY IT WORKED? By offering a variety of different opportunities for youth to participate in, SociopreneurID recognizes that youth are not a homogenous group and that they have unique interests and curiosities that should be catered to. The programs also meet youth where they are, by working with schools and Universities to provide educational programming for youth. In addition, SociopreneurID’s choice to include their goal to empower youth as agents of change in their “about us” statement demonstrates that they value and prioritise youth engagement and leadership.

SINERGIA REACHING YOUTH ONLINE CONTEXT Venezuela OBJECTIVE To involve young people in the network and give them a central role in Sinergia’s initiatives. STRATEGY Sinergia has been leveraging the support of young champions that are already engaged to engage more youth. Through the support of the youth that are 64

already involved, Sinergia has been reaching youth online, by creating and developing activities that are attractive and interesting to young people. In addition, their outreach is strengthened by the opportunities they provide to young people including training, mentoring, internships, and scholarships. OUTCOME Sinergia has many young people involved both on their team, as well as in their assembly of members. A future goal may be to engage youth at the level of the governing body, where they do not currently have youth participants. WHY IT WORKED By working with youth to engage youth, Sinergia has been able to develop activities and opportunities that cater to young people to encourage their participation and engagement. Moreover, Sinergia has been using online spaces to reach young people, which has allowed them to access a diversity of youth. Singergia’s strategy is strengthened by the additional opportunities they provide, which create opportunities to scale the engagement of young people.

SOCIAL ACTION FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT REACHING YOUTH ON UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES CONTEXT Cameroon OBJECTIVE To engage young people in dialogue about civic participation and empower them to take action. Strategy Social Action for Peace and Development approached young people by going to University campuses to meet youth where they are. Social Action for Peace and Development went to University campuses to talk with youth about how they can have an impact on the development of their communities. OUTCOME The outreach was successful. The turnout was massive in mobilising and engaging youth in the civic participation campaign. WHY IT WORKED This campaign worked because the organisation went to the youth and met them where they are. By visiting University campuses and talking to young people, they were able to reach youth with a variety of different interests. It should also be noted that reaching youth on University campuses, does not necessarily mean you are reaching a broad cross-section of youth. However, by meeting youth they are, the campaign was able to engage many youth and make a case for their participation. By highlighting and communicating the urgent need for civic participation and the potential impacts youth could have by taking action, they were able to mobilise great numbers of young people. 65

START PUTTING THESE PRACTICES INTO ACTION! 1. Who is your target audience? Remember: this list should include multiple audiences, and a diverse group of youth. 2. What do you think is the best way to reach those youth? 3. What are the benefits to youth of participation? Why should they want to participate? If this list is lacking, this is a sign that you should revisit the “Why Youth?” portion of the toolkit and consider how you can make your organisation more appealing and relevant to young people. 4. What is your 30 second pitch to participate? 5. How can you share this pitch with others and begin using it to reach and invite youth? 6. How do the answers to these questions contribute and add to the development of your overall youth strategy? Based on your responses to these questions add to the action plan portion of the strategy template Once you have reached young people you must begin engaging them and continue to engage them, just as you would anyone else who you are encouraging to participate in your work. When engaging with volunteers or staff or board members, it is important to continue to motivate them in their work, and to always encourage ongoing and increased participation. The engagement circle is a great resource for this. Reflect on what steps you can take to encourage your members, volunteers, staff or board members to continue to engage and to increase their level of participation? Remember that not all people will have an interest in or the time to engage as leaders or champions. Instead, you should ask and assess the interest of each person that becomes involved. Do not try to push people beyond what they are interested in doing. In addition, the language of the different stages of engagement is for your organisational purposes to support in the development of an effective strategy, while it is possible to have formal membership structures, the language of this structure is not necessarily something that needs to be shared with participants. It is important that those engaged understand that participation at all levels is valued and important. 66


Review the engagement circle and the “next steps” suggestions and see how these could fit into your model of engagement. Do you host regular events (virtual or in-person) that you can invite people to? Who might it make sense to invite based on who has the potential to circle up their engagement? Do you have gaps in your work that someone might have expertise in or may be interested in gaining skills in? What are the incentives for youth to continue to become more engaged? It is important to do your best to compensate youth for their participation, whether that is through stipends, transportation compensation, mentorship opportunities, or concrete skill development opportunities. Consider the “Why Youth?” section and think about what you have heard from young people about their interests and wants. If youth have told you that they enjoy the social aspect of their engagement, consider hosting a social gathering with your members, if they enjoy opportunities to participate in in-person meetings or conferences, open up space for them. This is especially important to consider if your network usually sends the same representatives to conferences or even international convenings. If a young person has demonstrated a commitment to the network, an investment in their participation will likely be well worthwhile. They will likely provide different reflections and a different outlook on the experience, and it will be a great investment in their future engagement, not to mention an excellent skills and experience-builder for them, a win all around! Remember that non-expected incentives also trigger strong emotions in people’s brains and can help youth become more engaged. Publishing a news story or an inspiring video of a young person that has been working with your organisation will be an exciting surprise for the person and will target some of the motivations mentioned in the previous section. Continue to listen to young people and cater to their needs and interests – whether the youth engaged in your organisation would like to learn more about a certain topic area, or do advocacy work on a particular issue, or perhaps they are interested in leading a workshop on a particular subject or sharing a product that they have been working on. Listen to what they have to say and create opportunities for them to lead the charge in making those initiatives happen. Engage parents, families and communities wherever possible. Youth do not exist in vacuums; they are a part of social networks, communities, and families. Holistic engagement of the networks that they are already a part of is essential in ensuring that your work is culturally and socially relevant. This broader engagement will also support the long-term participation of young people and will help expand your network’s engagement.


When developing your strategy consider that youth are experiencing significant transitions including potentially moving, going to school, finding work and becoming youth alumni. That means that it’s important for you to be prepared to be flexible and adaptable in how youth participate in your work. In addition, you should consider and create a plan for how youth can continue to engage despite these potential changes. Ideally, your youth engagement strategy will fit seamlessly into your overall engagement strategy, in order to ensure that as youth grow, they can continue to grow into their role within your organisation.

CARE INTERNATIONAL - EGYPT ENABLING AGENCY AND OWNERSHIP CONTEXT Egypt OBJECTIVE To engage youth as active participants in the monitoring and evaluation of projects, in order to improve monitoring and evaluation processes. STRATEGY CARE designed a new social accountability tool called “Third Party Monitoring” through which youth groups were trained and empowered to monitor some government public works and community development projects in Egypt. OUTCOME CARE successfully engaged youth in this project and improved its own monitoring and evaluation system. Following the four-year project, these youth groups are now working with a semi-governmental entity to institutionalise the tool into the semi-governmental entity’s operation manual. WHY IT WORKED This initiative was successful because it empowered youth to make a substantive contribution to the organisation’s work, it supported youth access to decision-making processes, and it provided youth with the opportunity to create a long-term impact. By empowering youth to take ownership over a program that is very important to CARE’s work the organisation demonstrated trust, and enabled agency. The outcomes of those actions were that the youth continued to engage beyond the official end of the program in order to institutionalise their work.


CENTER FOR INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE ACADEMY YOUTH CAPACITY BUILDING CONTEXT Macedonia OBJECTIVE To support the development of leadership skills among youth. STRATEGY The Centre for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) has developed a program called CID Academy for Young Leaders, which aims to develop skills to support young people in becoming leaders of society. The CID hosted a main training, and then a series of 16 one-day trainings on a variety of different topics ranging from facilitation, to conflict management, to writing skills. OUTCOME During the training sessions, participants got to know each other and created advocacy initiatives based on the needs of young people in their local context. One of these advocacy initiatives involved creating high school unions, through which they hosted seven debates in different high schools in their city. After these debates they hosted an open dialogue at city council, where they presented the results from the debates and underscored the need to create a common working group to unify all the high school unions. WHY IT WORKED This initiative was successful in engaging youth and achieving advocacy outcomes because it viewed youth participation as a process rather than as an end. CID used an approach similar to the engagement circle presented. The Center first provided training to participants and then fostered further engagement by encouraging collaboration among participants and supporting the ongoing advocacy efforts of the youth participants. In addition, the capacity building opportunities provided enabled them to effectively engage stakeholders and decision-makers on these youth-related issues. . These opportunities allowed the participants to become increasingly engaged and achieve impactful outcomes, which would also encourage their continued participation.

CAMEROON YOUTH PARTICIPATION ENGAGING YOUTH IN POLICY AT A LOCAL LEVEL CONTEXT Cameroon OBJECTIVE This project aimed to engage youth in policy development. This goal was created 70

in response to a concern regarding the lack of knowledge among youth about the activities, functions and responsibilities of their municipal council and officials. STRATEGY Through capacity-building workshops, action-learning meetings and town hall gatherings, youth learnt about how they could engage with municipal activities. OUTCOME From this participation and training, the youth involved developed a “Youth Policy Framework” and a “Youth Action Plan.” The outcomes of the Framework and Plan include increased entrepreneurship and employment, a strengthened culture of volunteering, increased visibility and credibility for youth public participation and higher levels of youth interested in engaging with local actors. WHY IT WORKED By offering training and development opportunities to youth, young people were empowered to become increasingly more engaged, particularly in learning about their potential to influence through advocacy. The youth that participated gained skills, connected with a community of like-minded youth, and were able to develop a concrete outcome, from which they could further engage.

START PUTTING THESE PRACTICES INTO ACTION! 1. How can you encourage young people to participate in your work? 2. What are the benefits of or opportunities associated with engaging in your network? 3. How can you encourage young people to continue participating and increase their participation (based on the benefits listed above)? 4. How can you engage families, and communities in your youth engagement efforts? 5. How will you support youth in their continued engagement despite life transitions and changes? 6. How do the answers to these questions contribute and add to the development of your overall youth strategy? Add to the action plan portion of the engagement strategy based on your responses to these questions. 71


The work of networks and civil society organisations involve many different stages including inputs, processes and decision-making levels. The work of civil society requires staff, skills and resources. Processes conducted by civil society can include research, relations and advocacy. Each of these are different areas and aspects of a network or CSOs work. When engaging young people it is very important to make sure that in each of these areas youth voices are considered and youth are involved.


CONTEXT Canada OBJECTIVE Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC) aims to ensure that youth participation is not limited to “youth” events, but instead that youth are able to participate in and access mainstream global convenings, as active participants in those processes. Thus, one of YDC’s objectives is to create space for youth participation at higher levels of decision-making, where young people are otherwise often tokenized or not considered at all. STRATEGY YDC employs a digital advocacy model. Every minister in Canada is required to maintain an active Twitter presence, which allows YDC to facilitate interactions with key decision-makers over digital platforms. YDC empowers delegates to speak directly to decision-makers using platforms like Google Hangouts. OUTCOME This digital strategy has supported youth interactions and engagement with decision-makers. This approach has also enabled YDC to reach, engage and consult a broad array of Canadian youth, including rural, Indigenous and low-income youth. These efforts to engage more diverse youth have also enhanced the organisation’s reputation and network, which has further improved access to decision-making spaces and improved the quality and effectiveness of YDC’s advocacy work. WHY IT WORKED By mainstreaming youth participation within the organisation and in high-level decision-making spaces, YDC is able to engage more youth and better influence decision-makers. Using a digital strategy has enabled a broader cross-section of youth voices, increasing representational legitimacy and enabling access to decision-making spaces with limited resourcing. By mainstreaming youth participation and elevating youth voices, YDC has been successful in leveraging youth engagement to influence decision-making in Canada.

Part of mainstreaming youth participation is also measuring the results of youth engagement. Measuring results will help make a case for further youth engagement, and measuring the outcomes for youth could also help make a case to youth for their participation. Not to mention the fact that your research can support the field and civil society at-large. There are many resources that can be used for monitoring and evaluation of youth engagement, and one that we would recommend using as a great and easy to use resource is the Positive Youth Development Measurement Toolkit. 72






CONTEXT Nigeria OBJECTIVE To mainstream youth participation in the network. STRATEGY The Nigeria Network of NGOs recruits youth interns to support the work of the network on a volunteer basis and, at times, to also support the work of member organisations. While volunteering youth are also provided with a stipend to support them. The network has also collaborated with young people to support youth-led social good initiatives, and has partnered with youth to host seminars and workshops. OUTCOME The majority of the network’s staff are now young people and youth are now integrated into all aspects of the organisation’s work, including decision-making spheres. WHY IT WORKED In all cases, the network has shown that it deeply values young people and has given them space and opportunities to lead. The network has shown that in all areas of its work youth participation is important and, as such, the network has prioritized youth involvement. This approach has allowed the network to better engage youth, and has improved their work by making the network more inclusive.

CONTEXT Across the continent OBJECTIVE To transform the African continent by creating space for African youth to achieve their rights to peace, equality and social justice. STRATEGY AYM built alliances and networks of associations, youth groups and Universities to reach a broad cross-section of youth. They also collaborated with organisations to create a national database of youth-led civil society organisations. AYM trains members in different skills and capacities based on needs and hosts convenings including workshops, forums and events, where youth are able to meet with leaders to discuss social justice issues and advocate for solutions. OUTCOME AYM has connected young changemakers around the vision of pan-Africanism. WHY IT WORKED? AYM’s work has normalised and promoted youth participation at all levels of civil society, including leadership and decision-making levels. By sharing stories of youth leadership in civil society they are empowering and enabling other organisations to engage and mainstream youth participation in their work. The goal of AYM is to transform the African continent and it works to achieve this goal by creating space for youth participation. This broad goal, creates opportunities for young people to envision a different future for their country and continent and to imagine themselves as agents of change at the centre of that vision. In addition, AYM creates empowering opportunities for young people to connect with their peers as well as meet with and advocate leaders and decision-makers. START PUTTING THESE PRACTICES INTO ACTION! 1. Reflect on the different areas and levels of work of your organisation. Are each of those levels accessible to young people? 2. Do you need champions in each of those areas/levels to ensure they are all made accessible to young people? What might that look like? 3. Why is it important to have youth participating at each of these levels/stages? 4. How do the answers to these questions contribute and add to the development of your overall youth strategy?







Stefan Manevski is one of the founders of the Union for Youth Work Recognition in North Macedonia. He works for over 10 years in the youth sector, constantly maintaining links with local youth work in Kumanovo. He is an active trainer in the youth field mainly offering courses linked with youth work development, youth participation, intercultural dialogue and inclusion. He is involved in youth policy processes on local and national level and cooperates with different international youth organisations (Service Civil International, Youth For Exchange and Understanding, UNITED against racism and Out of the Box International).

The project Youth Participation Parkour is a partnership between 11 partners from different sides of the globe, both member and non-member organisations of CIVICUS.

Stefan is a member of SALTO SEE Pool of trainers for the EVS training cycle, YFJ pool of trainers and was the coordinator of the Pool of trainers of the National Youth Council of Macedonia. ERIKA RICHTER Erika has a Masters from Carleton’s Norman Paterson School for International Affairs, specializing in Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution. Erika currently works at the Canadian Council for International Cooperation as the Member Engagement Officer. Previously, in her role as the Community Engagement Manager at RESULTS Canada, Erika worked on public advocacy campaigns that influenced Canada’s international development spending and policies.

The project idea was developed by the Center for Intercultural Dialogue (CID), CIVICUS Youth and CIVICUS Youth Action Team, based on the identified needs connected to youth participation on global level. The main aim of the project is to develop the advocacy capacities of youth organisations and young people towards civil society in general (but also towards CIVICUS as a network), and to develop the competences of staff and volunteers of civil society organisations to become champions of youth participation. As specific outcomes of Youth Participation Parkour two publications were developed focusing on mechansims for youth participation in the civil society, as well recommendations for improving youth participation in civil society, and an online space for sharing of the mapped (but also new) good practices was created. The project was intended as a long-term process providing youth engagement and sharing activities, including a youth exchange and 2 seminars, as well a practice space with local, national and global initiatives.

The activities were as follows:

Through her role with RESULTS, she mobilized and supported Canadians in advocating global institutions such as the World Bank, and multilateral funding mechanisms, as well as Canadian Parliamentarians, Ministers and Party Leaders. She was particularly interested in engaging Canadian youth in this advocacy work. Erika has also spent five years working on conflict transformation programs for youth from conflict-affected regions. In particular, she developed a program for youth from Israel, half of whom identify as Palestinian citizens living in Israeli, and half of whom identify as Jewish-Israeli. Erika has also worked with CIVICUS, a global civil society governing body on a number of different projects and has been a part of global leadership programs including Hive Global Leaders and Young Diplomats of Canada. 76


1. Mapping seminar hosted by CIVICUS in Johannesburg, 09 – 16 May 2018. The seminar brought together project participants, CIVICUS Youth and AGNA members, where they all discussed and mapped different ideas and approaches for ensuring youth participation in civil society organisations, starting from a grassroot NGO, to a national and international network level. 2. Youth exchange ‘Youth participation parkour’ hosted by the National Youth Council of Fiji, in cooperation with the Pacific Youth Council. The youth exchange brought together 24 participants from Belgium, The Fiji Islands and North Macedonia, in Yavullo Village and Suva in the period 12 – 22 July 2018. During the exchange the young people spoke about what motivates them to participate and what are the obstacles in each of the realities for their participation. There was also a space for dialogue on the topic with many other relevant stakeholders from Fiji and the Pacific, sharing the practices, challenges and opportunities for increasing youth participation. 3. Each of the 11 partners involved in the project had the chance to use the gathered knowledge and mapped practices for youth participation, and test them out as part of the Practice phase within their organisation, network or context. They each chose one example of the ones showcased, adapted it and tried it out with youth and civil society organisations within their realities. Through this practice phase good examples were exchanged, and youth participation was increased in the respective organisations, countries and contexts. 4. As the last activity of the project there was a Final outcome seminar hosted by the Center for Intercultural Dialogue, between 10 – 16 February 2019 in North Macedonia. The seminar served as a space for sharing of the practice phase activities, as well as an Idea Lab aiming to conclude functional ideas for meaningful youth participation in the sector, both in terms of planning, implementation, evaluation and decision-making. During this phase, recommendations for youth participation were presented and finalized.

ABOUT THE PARTNERS CENTER FOR INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE, NORTH MACEDONIA Center for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) is a civil society organisation working to promote intercultural acceptance and active citizenship through capacity building processes, education and youth work. The organisation’s activity focuses on many aspects which are of interest for young people: from provision of services and information, to research and support for policy-making and networking. CID is working to create diverse responsible and cooperative communities where citizens are actively contributing to the social development and integration. Our mission is to ensure sustainable community development by creating opportunities for quality engagement of civil society, advancing learning opportunities, and active involvement of young people and other citizens. More about CID can be found on:

CIVICUS, SOUTH AFRICA CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. CIVICUS aims to create a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity. CIVICUS was established in 1993 and since 2002 has been proudly headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with additional hubs across the globe. They are a membership alliance with more than 4,000 members in more than 175 countries. Their membership ranges from non-governmental organisations, activists, civil society coalitions and networks, protest and social movements, voluntary bodies, campaigning organisations, charities, faith-based groups, trade unions and philanthropic foundations. It is diverse, spanning a wide range of issues, sizes and organisation types. More about CIVICUS can be found on:





Youth for Exchange and Understanding (YEU) is an international Non-Governmental Youth Organisation established in 1986. It is a member of the European Youth Forum (YFJ) in Brussels and considered as a European level non-governmental youth organisation by the European Union and the Council of Europe.

NGO React is a non-profit youth union founded in 2012 and based in Estonia with the aim to promote and facilitate non-formal collective learning opportunities among young people on local and international level. By creating opportunities, and being an information point for young people to broaden their worldview, and cultural and social cognition, they work so that opportunities are available to all young people in Estonia. The mission of NGO React is to create a bridge between various self-development opportunities and young people. The main targets of React are to foster collective activities of young people and create advantageous environment for that. They support and encourage young people to take leadership and initiative both on local and international level and through this to become an active European citizen. NGO React locally acts at South-East Estonia and is targeting young people until the age of 30 years. Special attention is paid to young people located in peripheral areas.

YEU’s mission is to promote peace and to increase tolerance and awareness between different countries, cultures and traditions, and to promote a greater level of comprehension. The mission of the organisation is achieved through the development of youth exchanges, seminars, conventions, meetings, study visits and training courses based on the principles of non-formal education, experiential learning and self-directed learning. In addition to that, YEU constantly analyzes the needs of young people all over Europe and aims to address them through their projects and programmes. YEU also pays a lot of attention in creating youth policies, participating in important youth events on European level and producing educative manuals. More about YEU can be found on:

NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL OF FIJI, FIJI The National Youth Council of Fiji (NYCF) initially began operating in the late 1960s when it was known as the Fiji National Youth Council (FNYC). It got registered in 1969 and is now the umbrella body for the two operational arms: the Provincial Youth Forum of Fiji Islands (PYFFI) and the Youth Assembly of Fiji Islands (YAFI). They were the highest consultative forum for youth issue with a direct link to the Minister and Permanent Secretary for Youth and Sports, that now form the National Youth Council of Fiji. The vision of NYCF is to create a valued, capable and knowledgeable youth contributing to a prosperous and sustainable Fiji, and they work in the areas of education and capacity building, youth voice and decision making, employment & livelihood, equitable service delivery, youth sustaining culture and heritage, environment sustainability, youth health and many more.


FONDAZIONE ISTITUTO MORCELLIANO, ITALY Foundation Istituto Morcelliano was established in 2001, though its origins are to be established in 1817. The activities of the Foundation are carried out in Oglio Nord-Western Commune of Province of Brescia, composed by 11 Commune, and a total of 94.441 inhabitants. As a non-profit organisation, their mission is to educate, help and support individuals, groups and the whole society, promoting initiatives in sector of training/development of minors and youngsters with a particular attention to individuals with social and material problems. One particular aim of ‘’Istituto Morcelliano’’ is to organize events and researches, trainings and meetings, become a trustable center for youth. Their aim is to improve the daily life of any youngster from the community involving them into social, economic and cultural life of Europe.




Project 2020 is a not for profit project organisation which develops innovative community projects to inspire long-term positive change. Our work focuses on; children, young people and families, community development and research. It is a non-governmental, organisation with an aim to inspire, support and empower young people. This is achieved through promoting, education and training in healthier lifestyles and greater social cohesion.

World Vision for Education and Development (WVED) Cameroon is nonprofit organisation created in 2012.

It delivers programmes in Youth Development, Youth Leadership, Citizenship and Youth Education. It also promotes learning through diversionary and informal activities such as sport, media and creative or performing arts. It is a strictly voluntary organisation and voluntarism is something that it promotes amongst the young people it works with. It strongly supports community cohesion and engages positively with young people from different socio-economic and ethnic minority backgrounds to bring communities together through the medium of the said activities.

The mission is to improve on learning, educational standards, enrichment opportunities for youth and women, strengthen leadership development (youth focus) by supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that lead to improvement of quality of life for all people through a participatory approach. The overall objective of WVED is to promote educational, agricultural, health and sanitation, sports and developmental activities in the community and with a worldwide touch, through awareness raising/sensitization, training/capacity building on entrepreneurial skills, pedagogy and leadership, counselling, coaching, mentorship, participatory impact, monitoring and evaluation (M&E). More about WVED can be found on:

DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVES, IRELAND YOUNG DIPLOMATS OF CANADA (LES JEUNES DIPLOMATES DU CANADA), CANADA Young Diplomats of Canada (YDC) is a national, non-partisan, youth-led non-profit organisation that aims to break down barriers of decision-making at the highest levels of global diplomacy.

Development Perspectives is a development education NGO which works both locally and globally to achieve target 4.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals through Global Citizenship Education themes including critical thinking, problem solving, systems thinking and active citizenship. Development Perspectives explores theories, practices and challenges involved in utilizing transformative pedagogy.

Working locally and globally, YDC aims to develop the diplomatic leadership and international advocacy experience of Young Canadians, through handson training programs and key partnerships which give delegates the opportunity to attend and engage in high-level political and multilateral summits. Through these efforts, YDC hopes to mainstream youth engagement in big policy discussion within spaces such as the G20 and G7 meetings.

DP is a member of Concord, Hub 4 (Global Citizenship Education Network), GLEN (Global Learning Education Network). Development Perspectives has partners in many countries. Development Perspectives has formed strong relationships with many international organisations and hosted workshops for multiple organisations including UNESCO, Civicus, The Melton Foundation, GLEN and many others.

YDC is helping to bring together a generation of young policy thinkers and decision-makers, and building Canada’s next generation of global leaders, through which we aim to become the official national voice of Canada’s future foreign policy.

More about DP can be found on:

More about YDC can be found on: 82


BUREAU OEOQUMÉNIQUE D’APPUI AU DÉVELOPPEMENT, DR CONGO Bureau Oecuménique d’Appui au Développement (BOAD) is a non-governmental development organisation, set up in October 1997 at the instigation of key actors in North Kivu and as a partner of ACT-Netherlands, in order to contribute to reestablishing the credibility of local organisations in DRC. It aims to strengthen the institutional capacities of 12 local partner organisations. Since January 2000 BOAD has been a registered Congolese NGO under DRC legislation.

REFERENCES 1. Jeffrey, C. 2013. Geographies of children and youth III: Alchemists of the revolution? Progress in Human Geography 2. World Social Forum, youth-activism-in-social-movements-in-mena-and-mediterranean-countries/ 3. One Europe database on youth activism: youth-activism-in-europe 4. Obar, Jonathan; et al. (2012). “Advocacy 2.0: An Analysis of How Advocacy Groups in the United States Perceive and Use Social Media as Tools for Facilitating Civic Engagement and Collective Action” 5. Toshie Takahashi /14/creating-the-self-in-the-digital-age-digital-asia-hub/ 6. Culture of apathy course: 7. UNITED for Intercultural Action – 8. Alison Napier and Shamila Jansz, Intrac Oxford, Rights based approach training for European Youth Forum, July 2015 9. Alison Napier and Shamila Jansz, Intrac Oxford, Rights based approach training for European Youth Forum, July 2015 10. Brian Martin, Published in Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn G. Herr (eds.), Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007), pp. 19-27 11. Dr. Duncan Holtom Prof. Howard Williamson Jack Watkins, Better strategies for youth, Youth for better strategies, Croatian Youth Council, 2016 12. Sasha Costanza-Chock, article on Youth and Social Movements: Key Lessons for Allies






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