Though International Youth Day comes but once a year—Thursday, August 12, in 2021—young people are working 365 days a year to ensure that their concerns, ideas and even their own political candidates are being heard.
With support from supporters and mentors in offices ranging from the White House to the UN to grassroots campaigns around the globe, young people are advocating for youth advisors to governments, programs to promote young leaders, and votes for young people in politics.
The International Republican Institute (IRI) is also supporting the work and vision of young leaders and promoting their energy, expertise and engagement.
- Young people are crucial to the future of democracy in Africa’s most populous country–more than 50 percent of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 30. To help empower this huge group, IRI launched the Young Political Party Leaders Academy, a six-month training program focused on research on policy issues and participation in politics. The program empowers marginalized groups and, after they finished their work at the academy, several participants jumped into politics, acting as campaign managers, standing in local elections, and volunteering in party primaries.
- In Jordan, Youth Leadership Academies invite the best and brightest to learn communication and leadership skills, with a focus on advocacy. The program wraps up with team projects like a city-wide clean-up day, which not only has actual benefits on the ground, but teaches participants how to work with local officials and citizens. Since 2013, IRI has trained about 500 low-income women in communications, negotiation and public speaking skills.
- Bringing young people—indeed, all people— together to exchange ideas is an important part of IRI’s work. IRI developed an “Ideathon,” like a hackathon, a forum for young people to address the challenges they face in their communities. The Ideathon teaches soft skills, like collaboration, time management, and debating, and trains participants to tackle local problems. More than 660 Ideathon participants from communities across Haiti learned skills to build leadership and address civic and political apathy among young people, a growing demographic in the country. First conducted in Panama in 2016, IRI has held Ideathons in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Korea and Argentina, among other countries.
Generation Democracy is IRI’s flagship program for promoting youth engagement. It is a world-wide network of more than 400 youth leaders in 70 countries. Generation Democracy offers young people a platform to share ideas, best practices, discuss trends, access skills-building webinars and professional development opportunities to help create positive change.
- Digital natives (and young people with access to broadband are all defined as digital natives—the current generation of teenagers born after 1990 are second generation digital natives) around the world are plugged into the power—for good and bad—of communication. IRI’s Generation Democracy connects young digital natives on the social media platforms they grew up using. In Kyrgyzstan, a young woman musing about International Women’s Day used Facebook to connect with Generation Democracy members from Indonesia and Zimbabwe to host a virtual panel discussion on women rights around the world.
- Generation Democracy relies on digital platforms and harnessing the power of online communication is a core interest for many young people, so IRI teamed up with the Advanced Leadership in Politics Institute, ALPI, to facilitate a virtual training session on best practices for using social media. Participants used the skills they learned to make podcasts, videos and create online games, all with the aim of promoting democracy. One group made a Democracy Fight Club podcast that brings young leaders from Generation Democracy together to discuss political challenges and opportunities in their home countries.
Though IRI does its work in places as diverse as Central Asia and Latin America, it supports bringing young people into politics in the United States, where it is based, as well. To that end, the presence of young democracy advocates at the White House’s Democracy Summit, scheduled for mid-December, is key. All of this is important, of course, because encouraging young people to be politically active is as important in the United States as it is around the globe.Top