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Practitioners review: How Youth initiatives influence Public Policy

As part of the Empower Youth for Work program and YAC Learning Community, a review process has been conducted to increase our understanding how youth initiatives can influence public policy. On July 13th 2017, Empower youth for Work and the YAC Learning Community hosted a webinar to showcase the findings from the second phase of the review process: a review of practitioners’ views and approaches and what we can learn from five notable youth-led initatives that have succesfully influenced policy.


Youth participation must be seen as a means to achieve social change. Christina Bacalso

The webinar started with a presentation from Cristina Bacalso from Youth Policy Labs, who has carried out the Practitioners’ Review. Cristina shared what the review explored and the main findings.

Some critical reflections were discussed on the strategies and frameworks used by key global donors, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations in international development

A wide-range of reflections were shared, including the ‘issue of informality’ – how in many strategies and frameworks there is a challenge to engage in formal partnerships with and provide funding for informal youth groups and movements.

Another example is that only a few strategies focus on what needs to be done to support the collective action of already organised young people. Development actors often  approach  participation at the level of the individual and how they can become active in for example their own organisation’s channels.

The presentation went on to discuss what we can learn from five “notable” youth-led initiatives that influenced policy. Lessons include amongst others how as an official national youth council you can advocate and push for policy change from the inside and outside of the formal centres of power; and around how youth-led initiatives that grow and formalize as an organisation can still stay true to their roots and flat decision-making structures.

Some overarching conclusions from the review include how youth participation and empowerment cannot be an end in and of itself – it must be seen as a means to achieve social change. A twin approach is needed by practitioners to continue to support individual youth (with emphasis on vulnerable and marginalised) while bolstering collective youth action.


During the second half of the webinar, the moderator asked  two key participants to reflect on the findings within the review – what do they recognize in their own work and what inspires them to do differently.

Mohammed Jemal, Project Manager EYW Ethiopia, reflected on the review findings from a programme perspective. Mohammed debated the review findings and what can and cannot be done as a development organisation working with youth in a restricted environment.

There can be already interesting policies in place, but not fully implemented. We aim to work with youth to improve the actual implemention Mohammed Jemal

Maisha Kanita, member of the Youth Advisory Panel Plan Bangladesh, shared amongst others how she experienced first hand how the youth movement she was part of grew and formalized. She recognized the importance for th growing movements to remain a flat organisation when formalizing.

We never lost the flow and were always spontaneous because in our coalition every youth had equal opportunity to participate rather than someone pulling the strings Maisha Kanita

Practitioners’ Review Report

Webinar recordings