The West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI)

Recognizing the Value of Youth

To increase youth involvement in decision-making.

Recognizing that 60% of Africa’s population is under 25, yet youth are not involved in policy formulation and are rarely consulted in decision making, WACSI created the goal of supporting youth participation in decision making. WACSI does this through training, mentoring and peer learning programmes. These programs include a six-month internship program, two-week leadership program, a research fellowship program, and a mentorship programme. All of these programs are earmarked for young people's development and leadership, promoting their participation and engagement in decision-making.

This strategy worked because the process put youth in the driver's seat and enabled them to create tangible change. In this case youth were not tokenized. Instead, they were the central actors in the process, as they came up with the problem and an idea for the solution. This model allowed the youth worker to simply guide the participants towards their end goal, rather than deciding on an outcome and then trying to engage youth. This model is not always possible, but where it is, it is a good practice.This initiative to engage youth was successful, in part, because it was based on an understanding of the value and need for youth participation and set out with the goal to enable youth to be included at decision-making tables. Because of this, WACSI’s intention in engaging youth was not tokenizing but aimed to promote mainstreaming and engagement at higher levels of decision-making. This intention created a successful program because youth participation initiatives were designed to enhance the capacity and accelerate the leadership potential of young people.

WACSI has instituted a highly successful six-month internship program as an opportunity for young people to gain skills and work experience. WACSI also runs the Civil Society Leadership Institute (CSLI), which is a two-week leadership program designed to enhance the leadership capacities of middle management West African civil society practitioners (between 18-25 years of age). In addition, the CSLI provides transformational leadership opportunities and matches fellows with mentors through an inter-generational Mentoring Programme where experienced civil society leaders can support young civil society actors. The Research Fellowship to Promote Leadership and Governance within Civil Society in West Africa is a 90-day fellowship that provides young researchers with an opportunity to conduct research on a specific area of civil society.

Does your organisation have a civil society youth engagement practice that you would like to showcase here? Please let us know in the form below – any language is welcome! If you have any questions, please let us know at agna@civicus.org

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