NDI announced the release of two new online resources -- the Youth Political Participation Programming Guide and the Change My Community platform -- for strengthening youth political participation. These resources respond to the aspirations of young women and men around the world to become more politically organized and active, and make their voices heard. Despite facing barriers -- including cultural norms that label youth as undeserving or incapable of public leadership and a lack of formal avenues for youth to meaningfully participate -- NDI is encouraged by the number of youth who are committed to playing a positive role as political leaders and activists.
Governments and communities need to provide space for today’s young women and men -- who comprise more than half the global population and the largest generation in world history -- to meaningfully participate in addressing public issues that affect them. Creating constructive pathways for youth political participation can allow them to channel their energy, innovation and talents into creating more vibrant, and prosperous societies.
"Investing in young people is critical to the future of democratic societies," said Thomas A. Daschle, vice-chair of the NDI Board of Directors. "We must provide youth with opportunities to shape their societies through meaningful political leadership roles. These resources provide guidance for effective programs to strengthen youth political influence and useful tools for young activists."
The Youth Political Participation Programming Guide is designed to help NDI staff and democracy and governance practitioners work more effectively to support the political inclusion of young women and men. The guide distills the findings of a recent NDI study that included a review of contemporary literature on youth development, an examination of NDI programs involving youth, and discussions with other democracy and governance assistance organizations. Most importantly, the study involved a series of consultations with young political leaders and activists from four continents on their political challenges and assistance needs, grounding the contents of the guide in the real-life experience of young people themselves.
The centerpiece of the guide is a refined theory of change for youth political participation, which unifies the different factors that combine to increase meaningful, sustained youth political participation. The theory envisions the need for programs to build youth agency and intentionally seek to foster an enabling environment for youth participation. The guide unpacks the theory and lays out lessons for how it can be operationalized in a program, highlighting examples of NDI programs in Jordan and Kosovo. The guide also provides contextual information on the imperative of youth development and current trends in youth political activism and leadership around the world.
A graphic depiction of NDI's unified theory of change for youth political participation
The second resource -- the Change My Community platform -- contains tools and guidance for young people seeking to create positive change in their communities through organized political activism. NDI developed this practical resource in conjunction with the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas (KU), drawing on content from KU’s Community Tool Box. The resource is intended to touch on all aspects of organizing a campaign to solve a discrete, tangible local problem. This can often help young people begin to build the power and influence to lead change.
NDI hopes that its partners and other youth around the world will benefit from these new resources.