There is a large volume of literature on youth participation in development, including on the benefits of involving young people in local, national, regional and global governance initiatives. Although not as voluminous, there is also a significant body of work on youth participation in civic life, though much of this focuses on issues of education and employment (Oxfam 2016) as well as health (particularly initiatives related to HIV/ AIDS). It was not possible to identify a large body of literature around more multi-faceted and holistic initiatives (for example, involving different themes and connecting at different levels). Youth participation can take a variety of forms: at various points in a programme cycle (e.g. planning, monitoring, evaluation), with diverse forms of engagement (e.g., legal frameworks; policy processes; setting up organisations); and at different levels (local, national, global). Given the time limitations for undertaking this research report, the case studies included are not intended to serve as a comprehensive and exhaustive list, but rather as examples of the range of available interventions to help trigger further thinking on youth participation.
Key findings include:
- Much recent youth participation literature concerns itself with how to enable genuine and meaningful youth engagement. A common theme includes acknowledging the agency of young people, and the multiple roles that they can hold including as beneficiaries, partners and/ or leaders.
- The youth participation in governance literature is expansive. Case studies were identified on participatory planning and budgeting (e.g., youth consultations and panels, participatory budgeting and budget advocacy); participatory monitoring mechanisms (youth social audits, ‘reality check’ field visits); participatory research; youth parliaments; mobilisation and awareness raising. Many of these interventions are state/donor or NGO-led and often take a top-down approach. The risk with top-down interventions are that they can result in a lack of genuine interaction and youth involvement, but appropriate measures taken by implementing organisations (for example, capacity building training and follow-up support) can mitigate these risks and ensure more meaningful and continued involvement of young people in governance processes.
- Although the literature around youth participation in wider civic life is less voluminous, case studies were nonetheless identified related to community-based resource management; community justice; information dissemination; theatre/ music/ arts-based initiatives; and participatory research. The level of available detail and analysis of these interventions was often more limited (with regards to process, outcomes, lessons learned and good practice) than those examples drawn from youth participation in governance.
- There is a growing interest in media and ICT-based interventions to enable youth engagement and participation in both governance and civic life. These interventions aim to capitalise on both the increasing use of ICT by young people and using innovate and creative approaches to capture their interest. Additionally, tools such as radio and social media can be used to engage with youth in more remote areas.
- Although many youth interventions claim to be participatory, the extent to which these really are so can vary. There is therefore a growing interest in, and emerging body of literature around, youth-led approaches to participation. Youth-led interventions aim to enable young people to participate on their own terms and aim to put them on more equal footing with government officials and adult community leaders and decision makers (Huxley 2015). Participatory action research, for example, intends to empower youth to identify