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Webinar How Youth initiatives influence Public Policy

Ronald van Moorten facilitated the webinar through with further moderation and technical support by Lien van Mellaert and Louise Alves


Young people are the driving force behind the policy influencing initiatives

The starting point for the webinar was the Academic Literature Review that has been done by Daniel Sheppard as part of the Empower Youth for Work programme. Daniel highlighted, based on the existing literature, two main trends in the literature and six main strategies that young people use to influence policy.

Daniel  focussed on cases  on the work done by youth groups (literature from2000 onwards) with a focus on the Global South.

Two main trends became evident in the literature. First off,  there is increasing documentation of how young people are taking action to influence policies directly and autonomously. Secondly, n recent years, the literature has increasingly highlighted the efforts of young people to influence changes in policies at the local level.

Daniel Identifies in the Review six main strategies that young people have used to influence public policy:

  1. Directly involved in governance;
  2. Protests and strikes;
  3. Model Parliaments / Advisory Boards;
  4. Audits and Research;
  5. Prefigurative politics;
  6. Use of media, art and technology.

Organisations like Oxfam can support youth policy influencing through by linking them to policy-makers and each other, providing capacity building, and facilitating the access of under-represented young women and men to the existing youth initiatives.


The second part of the webinar had a panel to “Reflect on Findings” during which three presenters introduced different perspectives on Youth influencing public policy: the organisational perspective, programme perspective and youth perspective; and how those experiences link up to the findings of the Literature Review.

When you're delivering a project for youth is very different from when you're trying to promote youth to make that change

Olloriak Sawade, the Project Leader of Oxfam Novib’s Youth Team, presented her own experience from an organisational perspective. She highlighted the advantages on working with youth-led initiatives and the challenges they have faced as well. From her own experience, she believes it is important to understand the mind shift of working with youth and not for youth. Youth should be involved in planning and implementation of programmes in order to be effective.

However, there are many challenges on working directly with youth. Youth-led initiatives sometimes have to formalise their structure in order to receive funding and to fit in the donor’s audit standard criteria, even though many of the young people have no practical experience in running a NGO, and could prove harmful to the agility and flexibility of the youth group or movement.

She also emphasizes the importance of Oxfam as a big organisation on facilitating connections and to have motivated staff that would be willing to work upon that, especially in building capacity in young people.

Finally, she mentions the importance of including underrepresented groups and of defining who those people are and how should we target them.

As an organisation, we should promote learning and change how we design and implement those projects. We should lobby internally so we can have the mechanisms to support those youth organisations. And last, but not least, we should find donors who can think outside the box so we can support local youth-led­ initiatives.

We are searching for the narrative which attracts young people to work together

Md Khalid Hossain, Economic Justice and Rescilience Programme Manager in Oxfam’s Bangladesh country office presented from a program perspective his reflection on the review findings. He highlights the importance of raising awareness of young people’s rights, especially in regards to economic opportunities, so we can bring them together and motivate them to participate in society as active citizens.

We should not focus only on the national level, but find a way in which we can connect the local with the national/district-levels, considering young people’s practical realities.

From a project level perspective, Khalid believes we should build youth’s capacity on lobbying because he has perceived weak lobbying skills on those young people and that is the main strategy to change effectively public policies.

Plus, they have to facilitate connections among youth-led initiatives and policy makers and work on inclusion so various types of youth can feel represented by policies concerning them. 

Louise Alves, Intern at the Youth team Oxfam Novib, presented her experiences from the Youth perspective by being a young person participating in the Youth Council in the Rio de Janeiro’s state, Brazil. Although she realized most of the young people were very enthusiastic in participating and looking forward to influence in the state’s public policy, they faced many different challenges. Among them: the government management shifting; lack of respect to diversity, especially to LGBT community; lack of financial support to young people who need transportation to attend the meetings in the capital. She linked her findings with the Literature review trends by saying that the more local you go, more you have access to decision makers. And finished her presentation posing a question to the audience: To which extent political participation of young people leads to influencing public policy?



Finally, the webinar ‘Looked Ahead’, where Cristina Bacalso from Youth Policy Labs presented the upcoming research project during which the academic Literature Review will be complemented with a practitioner’s review.

Starting from similar research questions, this second part of the Literature Review will focus on the  what kind of different frameworks and approaches are used by (I)NGOs and international institutions to work with young people towards political participation.

Further, it will be explored in-depth how selected youth-led initiatives – using different strategies of influencing and considering a variety of participation spaces – have influenced policy, to inform and inspire development organisations and youth-led initatives themselves.



With a significant number of participants, the webinar ended successfully and left us many questions for the future. From the findings of the Academic Literature Review linked with various perspectives, we are able to look further into Youth and Public Policy influencing in a more critical way that will enable us to learn from it and use new approaches to ensure youth in all their variety have their say in the development and implementation of public policy.


Literature review by Daniel Shephard

Webinar recordings