Alliance Live Session 7: Youth Participation and Leadership

Road traffic injuries have been the leading killer of young people worldwide for over a decade and are often tokenized without meaningful engagement. How can NGOs involve and empower youth in building programs that also improve the lives of youth? At YOURS, we strongly believe in empowering young people to advocate for road safety and sustainable mobility solutions.

Jacob Smith, Regional Ambassador, Youth for Road Safety (YOURS), leads a panel of young people from different sectors to explore the need for organizations to meaningfully engage and involve young people in solutions that are relevant to their lives and their realities.

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Key outcomes

Better decisions will be achieved if there is meaningful engagement from start to finish with youth at ground-level.

Youth engage with issues that matter to them: road safety can be linked to these.

Key Opportunity for NGOs

Show young people that they are part of a community, show them how to participate and give them opportunities and be the bridge between youth and government.

Key Points

  • Most of the decisions being made affect young people more than the people who are making the decisions
  • Young people are out protesting and it is changing the way that people perceive the issue. They are deciding to act instead of waiting for global leaders. Young people’s action is speeding up government action.
  • Projects don’t have to be huge and reach millions of people, low-cost projects that make a change to a single life also matter.
  • Political will is important.
  • Youth need to build experience by learning from more experienced people: give them opportunities to take part and make sure that they have opportunities for career progression or, if that is not possible, learning goals. Through experience in NGOs they can learn many skills, such as how to work in a systematic way, how to raise their voice, the process of work etc.
  • Employment is an important factor in participation. Without the right conditions for young people to live and thrive, they cannot participate in change and democratic process. 67.6 million young people were unemployed in 2019, 13.6% of young people. This will be increasing due to the pandemic. 20% of those are not in education, employment, or training (NEET) and are particularly vulnerable. Of those with jobs, many are working in te informal economy without social protection – especially NEETs and women, and 17% are living on only US$2 per day.

Strategy for NGOs

  • Start early: engage with the ‘seeds of society’ – school children – they are the ones who see things at ground level and they can start to create awareness among others and come up with ideas
  • Channelize youth, they are the future of the country and channelizing them can create wonders
  • Be the bridge between young people and government.
  • Connect the issues – make them relevant to the things that interest young people
  • Listen to the issues that are important to youth and address their real issues: ensuring youth participation is ensuring current issues.
  • Gather information from the ground-level. This will give you authentic information about young people’s experiences.
  • Connect your issue to issues that young people care about. Find out what these issues are by analyzing the community, what young people care about, their activities outside of school. They will be more likely to engage.
  • Make sure that young people are aware of global issues through learning opportunities both in and outside school. Young people in the climate change movement have learned to go out of their way to find out more, to ensure that they know what is going on, to create platforms to engage and speak up, and to put pressure on institutions that they want to change.
  • Make sure that participation is meaningful, continual throughout the process, and is not just tokenism. Review progress: you cannot assess the full impact after just 6-8 months.
  • Make social media posts engaging and fun so that people want to engage and research more. If you get one person engaged and they share it with their followers that share their interests, your message will spread. Young people like to feel that they are making a difference “if we do this, it will make a change in society”. Remember to tag authorized people who can put change into action.