Background to the Review Series

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) work to promote democracy around the world, and one of the most important aspects of creating an open society is engaging the youth. The Youth Initiative of OSF (OSYI) promotes youth advocacy and participation in all aspects of their communities. OSYI mainly works with youth directly, through debate programs and small grants for community projects, but wants to engage more on the youth policy level.

The first step to understanding is knowledge. Many countries have stated their youth policies, but are they executing them? To answer this question, OSYI has started a pilot program to analyze the public policies affecting youth in Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Nepal, Serbia, and Uganda. However, due to the political situation, the Lebanon project has been put on hold. Countries were chosen based on OSF’s National Foundation and Regional Programs’ interest in engaging with youth on their strategies. OSF sought to include conflict and post conflict countries, countries impacted by inward or outward migration of the young, those with minority and marginalized youth communities, fair geographical distribution, countries with a youth budge or aging population and those that have some degree of a stated youth policy.

The main goal of the project is to develop an OSF-specific approach to understanding how public policy impacts youth, particularly the marginalized. This will be important for research-based advocacy projects, comparing public policy and providing internal resources for OSF’s different initiatives. But the reports are not the only objective OSF seeks to achieve through these projects. They are looking to build the capacity of the youth sector and young people in the different countries to research and debate the policies that affect them. Through these efforts OSF wants to become a knowledgeable contributor to evidence-based youth policies and advocacy activities.

Evaluations will be made based on a matrix that breaks down all of the different aspects of public policies with direct or indirect effects on young people. The research will be published for the benefit of the youth sector as well as young people themselves, and the project will train young researchers capable of helping OSF in the future.

The reports will be composed of several different steps. First is desk research collecting local and international publications about the youth situation in the specific countries. Then there will be direct consultation with young people and interviews with relevant stakeholders. Based on the information they collect, a report will be drafted and ultimately conclusions will be made about the state of youth policy. The teams will then plan and execute and in-depth field visit with interviews of important government actors, local youth, youth organizations, experts, activists, and other important voices. To get an adequate understanding of the youth policy impacts, the team will need to travel beyond the capitals and plan trips to relevant cities and areas. The field work will substantiate the conclusions.

Each team will be made up of three youth researchers from the country, who represent the different groups within the country. Between the youth researchers, interviews, and surveys, youth will be included in all steps of the project from planning to evaluation because, after all, the goal is engaging youth.

The teams will also include an international advisor to help with the research and drafting and bring a different perspective, and a local OSF affiliated staff member to assist with the research, and local networking particularly for the field work, and follow-up evaluation and advocacy work.

Following the field work, a report will be finished and submitted to tge International Editorial Board set up by OSF for evaluation. The document needs to be published in the local language before English and hopefully disseminated in the country so that young people can engage with it. There should also be a youth-friendly version of it, and two different versions can potentially be published, one public that the government approves of, and one internal for OSF use, but that is not the ideal.

The impacts of the reports will vary, but they may lead to specific advocacy activities planned by the local OSF foundation, or youth civil society organizations in the country. They will surely inform the youth policy activities of the OSF and be some of the most comprehensive aggregated information on youth policy so that youth activists can more easily understand, engage, and voice their thoughts.

The planning for each of these projects started in the beginning of 2011, and starting in April 2011 the team started actively engaging in research and interviews. The matrix has been fully developed to serve as a guideline for evaluation, and each country has their team together and meeting frequently. Each team held an orientation and are now hard at work on research and drafting the different sections of their reports. Each team has identified the important stakeholders, and some have even started their interviews. As they progress forward, they are also scheduling meetings, and preparing for their in-depth field research in the fall.

Photo credit: Paul Vladuchick