Youth Participation

Involving young people in all aspects of youth programming and research can be viewed as an end in itself or as a means to an end. Some organizations emphasize youth participation as a basic right: if a program is designed to benefit young people, they should have input and involvement into how the program is developed and administered. Others see youth participation as a means of helping to achieve program goals for youth or communities. Youth participation can lead to outcomes such as improved knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors.

Programs use many different strategies to involve youth. In the past, youth participation generally meant peer education, youth advisory boards, and youth focus groups. In recent years, organizations have made efforts to integrate youth into programming, including advocacy efforts, governance, and evaluation. However, involving youth in meaningful activities can be challenging. Organizations must consider issues regarding selection, recruitment, and retention of young people, whose needs, skill levels, and backgrounds will vary. Also, the involvement of young people may require significant examination of organizational capacity and shifts in attitudes. 


Twenty Years After International Conference on Population and Development: Where Are We With Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights? 

This article, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, discusses key recommendations for youth in the context of the International Conference on Population and Development and the post-2015 agenda, including a focus on youth participation (2015).


Ensuring Youth's Right to Participation and Promotion of Youth Leadership in the Development of Sexual and Reproductive Health Policies and Programs

This article, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, details concepts of adolescence and youth, summarizes models and frameworks developed to conceptualize youth participation, and assesses research that has attempted to evaluate the implementation and impact of youth participation in the SRHR field (2015).


Ensuring Youth Participation In Sexual And Reproductive Health Policies And Programs: What We Know

This fact sheet, based on a Journal of Adolescent Health supplement, looks at which interventions have been undertaken thus far to foster youth participation, the key elements, and what has been successful. It also outlines relevant UN agreements and key resources for developing effective programs. The research and review articles were developed as part of an expert group meeting convened by the World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund, and the International Women’s Health Coalition (2015).


USAID’s Youth in Development Policy

This policy puts forward an overarching goal for youth devel­opment along with related objectives and outcomes to be achieved. It outlines a conceptual approach to youth in devel­opment and provides guiding principles and operational practices in support of USAID’s efforts to mainstream youth in development, carry out more effective programs, and ele­vate youth participation (2012).


YouthLens No. 4: Youth-Adult Partnerships Show Promise

Increasingly, donors and nongovernmental organizations involved in HIV prevention and reproductive health issues are attempting to make young people a more prominent part of programming. Youth should be involved from the start as full and active partners in all stages from conceptualization, design, implementation, feedback, and follow-up, advises the World Health Organization. In the reproductive health and HIV/AIDS fields, information about the impact of youth-adult partnerships is limited (2003).


Learn without Fear—Youth in Action Against Violence in Schools

Plan Germany brought together children from Colombia, Germany, Ecuador, India, the Philippines, Tanzania, and Uganda to create a manual with exercises and activities to address school violence. Activities include identifying areas in school grounds which are less safe, understanding stereotypes, and helping someone who has been hurt or bullied (2009).


Youth Participation Guide: Assessment, Planning, and Implementation

This guide seeks to increase meaningful youth participation in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programming at an institutional and programmatic level. The target audience includes senior and middle management, staff involved in implementing activities, and youth who may be engaged in an organization's work. It includes an assessment and planning tool, a training curriculum, and a conceptual overview of issues. The background handouts discuss such issues as impact and include case studies of successful youth involvement (2005).


Move Together Now! Community and Youth Mobilisation for HIV Prevention Among Young People in Uganda

This guide covers basic ideas on community mobilization, youth participation, and participatory tools with examples from Africa. It provides tools, processes, and activities for mobilizing young people and communities to address youth sexual reproductive health, including HIV prevention (2009).


Youth-led Organizations and SRHR: A Step by Step Guide to Creating Sustainable Youth-led Organizations Working on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

This guide is a resource for young people interested in developing sustainable organizations, specifically those that address youth sexual and reproductive health rights. It draws on the experiences of two independent youth-led organizations and outlines strategic planning, governance structures, fundraising, communications, decision-making models, best practices, and lessons learned (2011).


Youth Participation in Development: A Guide for Development Agencies and Policy Makers

This guide, created through an innovative process led by young people, aims to help build and harness young people as assets to development programs. The guide demonstrates how young people can positively contribute to development in four operational areas: organizational development, policy and planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. It also draws together case studies, resources, and practical "how to" guidance from around the world. Readers can also browse the guide and a number of associated resources directly online, section by section (2010).


Young People We Care

This document contains a training guide that aims to prepare young people to become active in their communities, and some suggested community activities (2005).


Engaging Communities in Youth Reproductive Health and HIV Projects: A Guide to Participatory Assessments

This manual discusses how to conduct participatory assessments with youth and community members for improved youth reproductive health and HIV prevention, drawing on YouthNet’s experience in Namibia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia with youth-led projects using these tools (2006).


Youth Participation and Leadership: An Effective Tool in Combating HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa

This paper shares promising examples of where National AIDS Authorities (NAAs) are working with young people to showcase activities and methods of youth participation that could be replicated; demonstrate the benefits to NAAs of working with young people; and start sharing solutions to some of the common barriers to working with young people faced by NAAs. The paper concludes with recommendations and general principles for youth participation (2010).


​​Literature Review of Youth Engagement in Development Evidence Base

This review identifies and consolidates the existing body of academic and institutional research around youth engagement in livelihoods, sexual and reproductive health, and governance with a specific focus on the impact youth engagement has on development outcomes. The review draws from documents produced by NGOs, international agencies, governments, and youth organizations, to illustrate a point or widen the scope of the discourse, but the focus is on academic research. The review incorporates any documentation that refers to adolescents, young people and youth, and includes them under the general term youth (2016).