Youth Engagement

The International Youth Foundation (IYF) creates programming by, for, and with young people that connects them with opportunities to transform their lives. At IYF, we believe young people everywhere possess dreams, ambitions, skills, experience, and the potential to develop themselves and their surrounding world. We focus our work in three strategic areas to help further our mission: increasing young people’s agency, expanding young people’s access to economic opportunities, and transforming systems to become more responsive to—and inclusive of—young people. Meaningful youth engagement (MYE) is foundational to achieving results and therefore crosscuts each strategic area.


Meaningful Youth Engagement (MYE) is a process of achieving desired outcomes and is a goal in and of itself. A core tenet of both positive youth development (PYD) and systems approaches, MYE recognizes young people’s inherent expertise in relation to their own lives as well as their rights and roles in creating sustainable, youth-responsive infrastructure within existing local and global systems. IYF is passionate about promoting MYE because our experience, and a growing body of evidence, shows that engaging young people in meaningful ways leads to increased academic achievement, civic engagement, economic opportunity, healthy behaviors and more. 


IYF’s MYE programming takes place in many different contexts and ways, with a diverse group of stakeholders, and for a variety of purposes. We facilitate MYE in projects, communities, and systems and use an array of participatory mechanisms. IYF’s framework and approach to MYE is designed to account for this complexity and be as useful to educators and employers as it is for health workers, policymakers, extension
agents, caretakers, and young people themselves.


Graphic, approach to MYE


Whether at the project, organization, community, or system level, IYF’s strategies thoughtfully consider and assemble the requisite pieces of a given MYE puzzle to elevate the role and influence of youth in:

  • ORGANIZATIONAL GOVERNANCE—one third of IYF’s Board of Directors are youth members. They have the same roles, rights, and responsibilities as other members.
  • CROSS-SECTORAL, YOUTH-RELEVANT ACTIVITIES—IYF is facilitating youth clubs, engaging youth participants in monitoring and evaluation, and providing leadership training to young people in asset management committees to increase young peoples’ participation in and benefit from the Takunda project, a resilience and food security activity (RFSA).
  • AGRICULTURAL MARKET SYSTEMS—Through the Via: Pathways to Work program, IYF expanded young people’s interest and participation in horticulture production by introducing new production technologies and strengthening relationships between young people and relevant market actors.
  • PHILANTHROPY AND GRANTMAKING—with support from the Oak Foundation, IYF is partnering with young people to design, implement, and learn from a grant fund that will increase awareness and adoption of best practices in providing accessible and inclusive programming for youth with learning differences.
  • CROSS-SECTORAL, YOUTH-FOCUSED ACTIVITIES—IYF is recruiting and training 100 youth facilitators to be peer educators and mentors and establishing a project-level youth advisory council (YAC) to inform the adaptive management of the Positive Youth Engagement (PYE) project in Palestine.

Download IYF's Youth Engagement Technical Brief.