image of animated youth using tools to share their voice.
Publication | Report/Paper

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

IFES, in partnership with KDI, a youth-focused nonprofit organization in Nigeria, conducted a global survey to solicit young people’s insight on impactful civic education strategies that effectively engage diverse groups of young people. Over 900 responses from young people across 71 countries, survey data, and focus group discussions informed, In Their Words: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young People in Civic Education. This guide outlines actionable tips for young leaders and practitioners to develop effective civic education programming for meaningful youth participation. 

In Their Words explores how nonformal civic education can be leveraged to build more youth-inclusive and democratic societies. Engaging young people through civic education, even before the age of enfranchisement, can instill lifelong patterns of political and civic participation and build and sustain resilient democracies. 

Learn more about the diverse youth who informed this publication!

FLOW: In Their Own Words

Table of Contents


Glossary of terms. 



Figures 1-11 (carousel 1)

Figures 12-16 (carousel 2)


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


Preface by Bukola Idowu, Executive Director, Kimpact Development Initiative


Overview of publication

  • Introduction to Civic Education
  • The Power of Nonformal Civic Education
  • Demographics of Young People Engaged in the Survey and FGDs
  • Key Findings from the Survey and FGDs
  • Tip 1: Recognize Social Media as a Platform for Leadership
  • Tip 2: Apply a Mixed Media Approach 
  • Tip 3: Acknowledge Young People with Intersectional Identities 
  • Tip 4: Make Civic Education More Accessible
  • Case Study: Inclusive Digital Advocacy Toolkit 
  • Tip 5: Engage Young People Under Age 18 
  • Tip 6: Incorporate Peer-to-Peer and Intergenerational Learning
  • Tip 7: Include Civic Education Throughout the Electoral Cycle 
  • Case Study: Kimpact Democracy Schools 

What's next?

  • Annex 1: Survey Respondents by Country 
  • Annex 2: Tips and Guidance for Young Leaders and Practitioners


In Their Words: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young People in Civic Education would not have been possible without the significant contributions of Joshua Olu’Seun Esan, Oluwafemi John Adebayo, and Bukola Idowu from Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI). Their input on the research approach, support with survey outreach, conducting focus group discussions in Nigeria, and analyzing data was crucial in assessing opinions from young people across the world. The authors genuinely appreciate the KDI team’s time commitment and passion for this project.

We are indebted to Dr. Cassandra Emmons for her extensive contributions in analyzing a plethora of data and helping us interpret the findings. We truly appreciate her patience and time spent double-checking data points and creating an interactive data visualization.

The authors are thankful to Chris Donn, Nicole Alcantara, and Matt Emery for their support with desk research and survey design. We are also grateful to Gio Kobakhidze, Meredith Applegate, Erica Shein, and Virginia Atkinson for their technical reviews and invaluable feedback.

The authors were pleased to partner with IFES staff and youth leaders Khaled Bali, Rashyd Bilalov, Karama Ghribi Houssein, Shakira Galarza Quinchiguan, Anojitha Sivaskaran, and Oleksandr Tkachynskyi, who helped coordinate and lead focus group discussions with young people from Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

The authors enthusiastically thank all the young people, youth networks, and youth-led and youth-focused organizations that helped to publicize this research opportunity and those who shared their experiences and ideas. This publication is a reality because of your support and words.

In Their Words: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young People in Civic Education was made possible through the generous support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).


Ashley Law, Youth Engagement Specialist
Sarah Timreck, Youth Engagement Program Officer

Contributing Author:
Dr. Cassandra Emmons, Senior Democracy Data Analyst

With Contributions From: Kimpact Development Initiative


About IFES

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) advances democracy for a better future. We collaborate with civil society, public institutions, and the private sector to build resilient democracies that deliver for everyone. As a global leader in the promotion and protection of democracy, our technical assistance and applied research develops trusted electoral bodies capable of conducting credible elections; effective and accountable governing institutions; civic and political processes in which all people can safely and equally participate; and innovative ways in which technology and data can positively serve elections and democracy. Since 1987, IFES has worked in more than 145 countries, from developing to mature democracies.

IFES uses a rights-based approach to empower young people to participate in democratic processes and acknowledges young people as partners and positive change agents. IFES applies an intersectional approach to its work, ensuring that programming is tailored to and inclusive of young people who identify with multiple marginalized identities including girls and young women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) youth; young people with disabilities; Indigenous youth; conflict-affected and displaced youth; and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minority youth.

Recognizing that a healthy democracy enables and supports the engagement of children and young people, IFES aims to foster lifelong patterns of participation in community and public affairs through formal and nonformal civic education programs and by promoting youth engagement in elections and conducting advocacy and leadership trainings. IFES programs enhance young people’s knowledge and skills and involve community and global actors such as election management bodies, civil society, government and ministry officials, educational institutions, and community leaders to build constructive partnerships and opportunities for young people to engage in civic and political life.

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