The Generation Democracy Global Summit in Vienna, Austria was as a model example of how to meaningfully involve youth in political engagement.
When I arrived in Vienna, I was skeptical that European politics could be a model of active democratic participation in Africa. However, interactive presentations allowed me to look at the political context of my home country and contextualize the European democratic framework and critically apply how it may work in my community. Training sessions cemented the principle of inclusion—a significant challenge for youth across the globe—equipping each of the country delegates with tools relevant to their context.
The magnificent ‘Wiener Rathaus,’ commonly known as the Vienna Town Hall, took all of the Summit participants’ breaths away. The Town Hall reflected how the Global Summit’s participants from 35 countries make up a valuable reservoir of innovative development strategies that can be merged and modified for youth programs in Zimbabwe and around the world.
Generation Democracy exposed delegates to established political movements in Europe, such as the Sebastian Kurz campaign, which gave participants a first-hand view of inclusive youth democracy and citizen participation. Sebastian Kurz left Summit participants wondering why they are not running for office. Experiencing the campaign of a 31-year-old running for Chancellor of Austria was nothing short of motivation to explore the leadership opportunities that exist and can be created in our home countries.
From our discussion with the OVP (Austrian People’s Party) about campaign strategy, my key takeaways were their clarity of the vision and flexibility with which they allowed ordinary citizens to play a key role in branding the Sebastian Kurz “revolution” for Austria’s positive development. The character, energy, and vibrancy of the volunteers scattered across Vienna was a sight not to be missed. It gave us a glimpse of what freedom of political affiliation and participation looks like—something that is not common in many of our home countries. The entire experience was transformative and will remain a reference point to my future as a rising Zimbabwean leader.
Generation Democracy has provided me with a critical platform to learn and exchange new ideas to drive greater political and civic participation among youth. The power of change lies in providing youth the opportunity to share ideas and test these ideas within their individual communities.
Established in 2014, Generation Democracy is IRI’s flagship youth initiative that includes over 400 youth/organization members in more than 75 countries around the world. The Generation Democracy network connects young leaders with their peers in other countries, providing members with a platform to share ideas and best practices on increasing youth civic and political participation. This transnational network provides young people an opportunity to apply a global lens, and tap the collective knowledge and experience among peers to identify solutions to local, regional and global challenges.
In September, youth from 35 countries met in Vienna as part of Generation Democracy’s first Global Summit. The Summit provided young journalists, elected officials and civil society leaders with the opportunity to share their experiences, and discuss strategies for how to mobilize the youth vote.