What are the tools and mechanisms that youth workers, project managers and other staff working in civil society organisations use to boost youth participation? How can they improve these tools and how can good practices be propagated across continents? These are some of the questions that were answered during the mapping seminar held in Johannesburg, South Africa, between 9-16 of May 2018. The seminar is the first activity in the project ”Youth Participation Parkour”, which is a global partnership between 10 countries led by CID with a focus on developing the advocacy capacities of youth organizations and young people towards civil society in general, and developing competences of staff of civil society organizations to become champions of youth participation.

The seminar encompassed activities that ranged from presentations of various topics by experts to discussions, simulations, debates and field visits. It covered the following aspects of youth participation: what is youth participation, what mechanisms and tools the partner organisations use in their local context, what is evaluation and monitoring and how to ensure the quality of this process, how to implement an awareness-raising campaign, etc.

The seminar was hosted by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which is a global network with its headquartes in Johannesburg. Some of the sessions were facilitated by representatives and staff of the network. Other sessions were facilitated by members of the YAT (Youth Action Team), which has experience in improving the level of youth participation in the network. Finally, members of CID have facilitated sessions that guided the participants through the process of identifying the good practices of youth participation on local, national, regional and global level, which will afterwards be compiled in a publication and made available online and offline as an intellectual ouptut of the project.

One highlight of the seminar was the joint sessions held together with the members of the AGNA group (Affinity Group of National Associations), who gathered representatives of civil society associationas from all over the world. This cooperation has brought even more expertise to the table and has enriched the compilation of good practices in the field of youth participation. Another highlight of the seminar was the field visit, conducted in one of the socially vulnerable areas of Johannesburg, located next to the Ponte city building. The group visited the 105-story building and learned about its history of racial and economic segregation and exclusion, and walked on the streets of the neighborhood, learning about the challenges connected to social protection of the local population. But most importantly, the group discovered the impressive efforts that some organisations are putting into developing a youth center and giving youth a safe space to learn a new skill, make friends and find support, by using social entrepreneurship as a tool for being sustainable.

We asked Elisa Novoa, Youth Engagement Officer in CIVICUS, about what it meant for CIVICUS to host this mapping seminar:

The Youth Participation Mapping Seminar in partnership with AGNA (Affinity Group of National Associations) was the first meeting CIVICUS has convened between the two networks focusing on the added value of youth participation in the current state of civil society. Traditional civil society networks sometimes integrate youth-led or focus organisations or work with young people as beneficiaries of their programmes or volunteers. However, in the current scenario where world demographics are changing so drastically, youth population is representing almost half of the world population and civic action for social justice no longer takes place through formal mechanisms or organizations but through spontaneous movements, digital campaigns or even arts exhibitions. That is why hosting a peer-exchange between two important networks around the different initiatives young people is leading and models to use around meaningful youth participation within intergenerational civil society organisations. This means learning about how to integrate youth in leadership spaces, programme design and implementation, resource mobilization and giving feedback to monitor and evaluate the impact of the work done by the organization to the realities and interests of young people. This was the beginning of a continuous conversation that not only will take place within CIVICUS networks but also across civil society around the world and by that strength together the sustainability and resilience of our work.

And while the publication on good practices is in the preparation phase, CID is looking forward to the implementation of the second mobility – a youth exchange which will be hosted in July in Fiji.

The photo album of the seminar can be found here.