Under Youth Supporting Participation, Action, and Civic Engagement (Youth SPACE), IFES’ youth leadership program, young people are empowered to step into leadership roles and gain more insight into democratic processes such as elections, advocacy, and community engagement. Youth SPACE supports participants in developing a solid foundational understanding of their rights and responsibilities and equips participants with the skills to effectively lead, communicate, and mobilize stakeholders while also supporting young people to build trust in and constructive relationships with democratic actors and processes. The Youth SPACE training is a bedrock from which young people can more confidently serve as leaders in their communities.
While Youth SPACE is tailored to young people’s interests and lived realities and can be easily contextualized to country environments, there are core modules that are inherent to each program iteration. The core modules include leadership qualities, ethical leadership, communication principles, youth participation, community mobilization, and stakeholder engagement. The Youth SPACE program is comprised of three separate thematic tracks, which focus on youth participation in the electoral cycle, youth-led advocacy, and youth, peace, and security.
The elections-focused track of Youth SPACE builds knowledge around the importance of young people’s engagement throughout the electoral cycle and highlights the many ways that young people can take on leadership roles in the pre-electoral, electoral, and post-electoral phases. This training track is often implemented in the lead up to an election to motivate and empower young leaders to actively engage in multiple ways during elections including as voters, temporary election workers, or conducting voter education outreach.
The advocacy track of Youth SPACE supports young people in strengthening their advocacy skills while becoming more ethical leaders, mobilizing their peers and communities to raise issues and advance causes important to them. This training track can be implemented across the electoral cycle and can be tailored to participants’ interests and identified issue areas in their communities. The track encourages young people to utilize advocacy tools and strategies through activities such as social media campaigns, policy platforms, and in-person community engagement.
Young leaders are integral to building and sustaining peace. Under the peacebuilding track of Youth SPACE, young Peace Mobilizers learn about the global YPS agenda and how to integrate democratic and ethical leadership into their own peacebuilding efforts through tools such as dialogue, promoting human rights, and positive peace narratives which counter harmful messages.
Following the implementation of these trainings, participants gain experience in practically applying what they learned through developing and carrying out their own community initiatives, which could be voter education or civic education campaigns, social media awareness raising, or conducting dialogue activities in their communities.
Youth SPACE Outcomes: Since its development in 2020, Youth SPACE has trained over 400 young people. Overall, participants’ knowledge on topics covered by the training has increased, as well as participants’ confidence as leaders and community mobilizers. When Youth SPACE has been conducted around elections, training alumni have organized their own voter education activities, informing their peers on key electoral topics and encouraging fellow community members to vote. The Youth SPACE training thus provides a solid foundation from which young people can more confidently serve as leaders in their communities.