Guide to Youth Advocacy

Around the world, the future of emerging economies depends on their youth. For progress to take hold, young people must play an active role in advancing democratic and market-oriented reforms. This participation comes in many forms—including voting in elections and engaging in entrepreneurial activity—but it most importantly requires that youth become involved in decision-making processes. When youth have the ability to contribute their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, they gain a stake in the process, which in turn solidifies their acceptance of, and reliance on, democratic dialogue.

Young people tend to be the most active participants in movements for democratic change, but they often lack the tools necessary to translate their enthusiasm and desire for change into concrete policy proposals. As a result, protests and other forms of activism are often the main avenue for expressing their opinions. While such activism can have a sparking effect for discussion around an issue, very rarely does it lead to direct policy response input. In the worst scenarios, over-reliance on protesting can lead to violent responses from authorities and the sidelining of youth actors. If young people around the world want to be heard, they must know how to move from being protesters to becoming reformers.

Youth engagement in decision-making provides substantial benefits. Young people can drive innovation in policy by injecting new ideas and solutions into the policy process. These new attitudes not only have advantages for developing policies that directly affect youth, but for other topics as well. Youth are generally the first group to adopt new technologies and behaviors. For these reasons, factoring in the attitudes, expectations, and behavior of youth is crucial for the development of sustainable policy solutions.

Of course, engaging youth in policy advocacy campaigns can be challenging. For starters, “youth” is a broad term that encompasses young people from different social and economic backgrounds, and its age boundaries are not well defined. Obviously, this diverse group is not going to share the same views on all issues. Additionally, while it is typically easier to mobilize young people, maintaining continued participation is difficult because advocacy takes time and effort.

This guide is designed to help you, leaders of youth organizations (or organizations that wish to support youth), as well as intrapreneurs who wish to develop youth campaigns within their organizations. For over thirty years, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has implemented proven advocacy strategies and capacity-building programs for private sector groups, including for youth, around the world to improve the quality of democratic and economic governance. Based on this deep experience, CIPE highlights best practices for organizing youth to engage in advocacy initiatives.

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