This publication from the International Youth Foundation (IYF) offers global case studies and leassons from youth participation programs. While the majority of the world population is aged 15 to 24, they are often portrayed negatively or given little importance. Media headlines will often focus on drug and alcohol abuse among youth, teen pregnancy, the rise in youth gangs, or school dropout rates. Even when the media’s message about youth is positive, it often conveys the idea that youth are «the leaders of tomorrow.»
The IYF uses a positive approach to youth development, that applies holistic strategies to address the complex set of child and youth needs worldwide. It recognizes the importance of ensuring that young people develop the skills, values, and attitudes they need to succeed today, as well as in the future. It also demonstrates in a crucial way that young people are not problems to be solved, but are problem solvers themselves. This emphasizes that youth are assets to the community, and active agents of change who can contribute their energy, idealism, and insights to a community’s growth and progress.
The IYF emphasizes programs and strategies that promote youth participation in schools, communities, and places of work and focuses on youth participation as a key indicator of a youth program’s success. Yet as critical as youth participation is to the notion of positive youth
development, it remains a subject that defies easy description. So, what does youth participation mean in different cultures? What inhibits or encourages youth participation? What attitudes do young people and adults hold when it comes to ensuring young people a greater voice in decision making? How does lack of access to technology hinder youth’s ability to participate on a national or global scale? What lessons have we learned from existing youth participation programs worldwide?
This publication is aimed at policymakers, business leaders, and youth program practitioners to learn best practices in the area of youth engagement, and the critical role youth play in developing civil society, and in a broader sense, democracy itself.