NDI has produced a global guidebook on youth consultative mechanisms at the local level, in partnership with ICMA and Restless Development, and featuring case studies from youth programming around the world.
This guidebook was developed for youth, youth development practitioners, and elected officials around the world who are seeking to counter trends of youth political disengagement by forming local youth councils: citizen advisory bodies composed of young people who engage with local political leaders in government decision-making processes. NDI generally defines youth as individuals between the ages of 18 and 30, but adapts this range to fit different country contexts. NDI recognizes the diversity of the global youth population, and any use of the words “youth” or “young people” refers to equal numbers of women and men, and includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) youth, youth with disabilities, ethnic and religious minority youth, and youth who are members of other marginalized communities.
Drawing from prior programmatic experiences and good practices and models from around the world, this guide defines and describes the value of youth councils, and provides step-by-step instructions for youth, elected officials, and development practitioners to establish effective and high-functioning youth councils. Research findings demonstrate that if youth councils are established in an environment with decision-maker buy-in, community support, inclusive pathways for involving diverse youth populations, and adequate resources, then a group of dedicated youth and supportive officials can collaborate to produce a youth engagement mechanism that results in meaningful participation in government decision-making processes. Youth councils are further strengthened if they capacitate youth to engage in research and seek input from their constituencies, develop strategies to engage elected officials to better represent the interests of youth, and serve as policy advisors on issues in their community.
However, there are numerous legal, financial, political, and cultural obstacles to establishing youth councils that provide continuous political engagement opportunities for young people. This guide identifies common barriers and pitfalls experienced by youth councils around the world, provides tools to design sustainable council structures and operating models that respond to these challenges, and describes good practices for building peer networks to share experiences and knowledge across communities and around the world.