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Youth Leadership

Engaging, empowering and connecting youth to peacefully participate in the political process.

Why Our Work Matters

In many countries, people younger than 30 are a majority of the population. Engaging young people to peacefully participate in their country’s political process and giving them a stake in their country’s future is a critical factor in carrying out successful democratic transitions. Through our youth programs, we increase the peaceful participation of youth in the political process and help develop the next generation of political, government and civil society leaders.

What Our Work Does

To increase the participation of youth in the political process, our work:

  • Engages young people in political participation;
  • Provides youth with needed skills and knowledge to engage their governments more effectively;
  • Helps develop the next generation of political, government and civil society leaders;
  • Involve youth in projects that help improve their communities; and
  • Connects young people around the world so they are able to share experiences, learn and support each other.

Connecting Young People Around the World
Launched in September 2015, our Generation Democracy initiative is a global network of more than 400 youth organizations representing 75 countries around the world. 

The network links youth with their peers in other countries to share ideas and best practices on increasing political and civic participation and giving youth a greater voice in the governance of their communities. Programming is carried out through conferences, workshops, direct consultation and access to resources from IRI’s most successful youth programs around the globe. 

Funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, Generation Democracy equips young men and women with the leadership skills necessary to become the next generation of democratic actors in their communities and countries.  Follow Generation Democracy on Twitter and Facebook to stay connected and to learn more about the network.

If you would like to sign up for Generation Democracy please fill out our membership form and email it to  

Helping Youth Engage Their Governments
Through our programs, we work with youth to give them a voice in the policy- and decision-making processes of their governments.  Bringing young people together, we provide them with needed skills and knowledge to engage their governments more effectively and lobby for issues important to young people.

In Jordan, we coordinate with the government to host political party fairs on university campuses to give parties a venue to share their party’s message to youth.  These fairs allow youth to directly lobby and engage with their government on issues most important to them.  And youth who attend these fairs are also given the opportunity to attend leadership academies where they learn how to engage their representatives and how to serve as leaders within political parties.

Developing the Next Generation of Leaders
We provide young people the tools, skills and mentorship needed to develop and prepare to be the next generation of leaders.  Through our leadership development programs, young people learn first-hand how to carry out successful community projects, how their government works and important leadership skills such as communications, management and public speaking.

Our Youth Parliament program in Kyrgyzstan offers politically-active youth an opportunity to participate in mock parliamentary sessions on societal issues most important to them.  During these sessions, participants work directly with members of parliament and government officials to discuss specific youth issues and conduct hearings.  A poll, sponsored by the Youth Parliament, led to draft legislation on educational reform, which several parliamentarians have said they would sponsor and support.

Engaging Youth in Community Projects
Young people today are increasingly active in their communities and are working together to address challenges and find solutions to long-standing problems.  Through our programs, we are empowering young people and giving them a voice in the development of their communities and countries.

In Cambodia, we support the Youth Council of Cambodia (YCC), which teaches young people democratic principles and methods for civic engagement in the democratic process.  YCC’s interactive and diverse programs include Youth Democracy Festivals and an active nationwide network of motivated and capable young leaders that make a difference in their communities through petition drives, fundraising activities and community development initiatives that serve to help their local communities.


Our Innovative Approach

Monitoring and Evaluation Strengthens Our Programs

Through our monitoring and evaluation efforts of our youth leadership programs we capture not just the results, but how those results affect the integration of youth into the political and civic life of the country, and more broadly to the emergence of an inclusive, democratic system. We do this through project monitoring that tracks activities and immediate deliverables, but also how those deliverables are used by young people to engage in civic and political life.

Through a randomized control trial methodology, supplemented with qualitative data from interviews and focus groups, we looked at whether our youth civic engagement project in Cambodia contributed to more active and meaningful community engagement among youth. By comparing the results of quantitative surveys and interviews between youth who had participated in an IRI civic education program and youth who had not, we were able to determine that our program not only increased participants’ knowledge of democracy concepts, but that participants were also more likely to initiate community development projects like building roads and organizing clean-up drives. The evaluation also suggested that this increased youth participation in turn promoted greater responsiveness of local government officials to citizens.

We use these results not only to measure the success of our program in Cambodia, but also to inform the design of youth leadership programs throughout the world.

Leveraging Media and Technology to Motivate and Engage Youth
Georgia & Cambodia

Using televised youth debates and competitions, we are engaging young people in political participation and in projects that help local communities. Television programs including our Youth Debate Series in Georgia and Next Generation youth talk show in Cambodia involve young people, and the broader television audience, in debating and finding solutions to community challenges.

Using online and interactive platforms, we offer on-line training courses to youth in issue-based advocacy, coalition building and voter education. Through our IRI Academy, we offer political party and civil society members in the Arab world access to on-line courses on topics ranging from new media strategies for campaign management to public opinion polling.

The generous support of individuals and corporations enable IRI staff and volunteers to carry out its mission around the world. With your help, IRI will continue its mission of hope for decades to come.

IRI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are tax deductible

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