In Their Words: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young People in Civic Education


Since becoming a Member of Parliament at the age of 25, and throughout my long career in politics, I have seen the importance of engaging young people in civic and political life and investing in them as leaders of today and tomorrow. To strengthen our democracies, we must include young people in decision-making processes and ensure their voices and perspectives are represented in government policies and strategies.

Global democracy is challenged by the rising tide of authoritarianism and undemocratic processes that exclude young people. Yet, one of the strongest tools in our democratic arsenal is civic education. It is imperative that young people are engaged effectively through civic education interventions to equip them with knowledge and skills of how to exercise their rights and participate in civic and political processes as informed and active democratic actors. Civic education commenced in childhood can instill positive behaviors and practices that carry into adult life—not only the desire to vote in democratic elections or the knowledge that governments ruled by elected leaders create better standards of living for their constituencies, but also the certainty that everyone has a voice, the right to be heard, and the responsibility to use their voice. Like a rising tide lifting all boats, civic education has the potential to create a groundswell for democracy in countries around the world.

This guide shares insight into how we may craft civic education strategies that engage diverse groups of young people, with findings and analysis derived from the perspectives of young people themselves. The guide also underscores the need to tailor civic education strategies to reflect the intersectional identities of young people—young people with disabilities, young women, and young Indigenous people. Engaging young people with diverse identities and unique experiences is instrumental to creating a truly representative and inclusive democracy.

As we reflect on the challenges facing the global community—including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, conflict and war, climate change, and digital threats to human security—we must partner with young people to find solutions and empower them to lead change in their communities. Young people are the protagonists in the current story of democracy. They must be engaged as architects in building sustainable and resilient democracies that deliver for all.

I want to thank Sida for the generous support provided to IFES and for their continued investment in young people. It is through work like this and organizations like IFES that the world will be able to deflect and overcome global threats to advancing democracy.

Margot Wallström
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and Former Minister for Foreign Affairs IFES Board Member