While young people tend to be the most active participants in movements for democratic change, their involvement is often confined to staging demonstrations and other similar activist activities. However, in order for democratic reform — or any reform for that matter — to be meaningful and sustainable, youth must not only be involved in demonstrations, but also in the decision making processes that chart the way forward.
When they have a voice in the policymaking process, youth also gain a stake when it comes to implementation. Having contributed their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, they become staunch advocates when it comes to accountability and will work into adulthood to ensure that the solutions they helped create are realized.
In addition to building youth buy-in, engaging young people in decision-making processes has other benefits. Youth can help drive innovation in policy by injecting new ideas and solutions and also bring new tools to the table as they are typically the first group to adopt new technologies and behaviors.
Though it is vital to ensure youth are engaged in policy advocacy campaigns, taking this from idea to reality can be difficult. Youth is generally thought of as a singular demographic, but in reality, youth can be extremely varied. Young people come from different social and economic backgrounds and age boundaries are not always well defined. Additionally, mobilizing young people can be easy, but policy reform is a long term goal and it can be challenging to maintain youth engagement for the duration of a campaign.
Over the course of its history strengthening democracy through market reform, CIPE has developed and implemented proven advocacy strategies including for youth. To capture and share this knowledge, CIPE recently published its Guide to Youth Advocacy, meant to share experience and best practices for organizing youth and organizations that support youth to engage in successful advocacy initiatives. In addition to outlining strategies and approaches, the resource provides small case studies of CIPE supported projects from around the world that organized youth to advocate for real reforms.
Frank Stroker is an Assistant Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.