As part of The Development Alternative, INTRAC has contributed to a major new report on the status of youth civil society around the world. Published on March 30, 2022, the latest State of Youth Civil Society Report is subtitled “Youth Power in the Pandemic”, and explores the successes and challenges of youth civil society in the past year.

The report concludes that youth organisations and groups are stronger than ever, and make a crucial contribution to addressing today’s global crises and injustices. However, it also finds that these institutions are threatened. The report makes recommendations to help ensure a thriving, vibrant youth civil society that is well-placed to help communities adapt and respond to global crises.

The global report was coordinated by youth organisation Restless Development and The Development Alternative, a consortium for which INTRAC has been the learning partner. Compiled and written by young leaders sharing their first-hand experiences, the report offers a fresh perspective on how young people are leading change across the globe, and the challenges they are facing. The report includes voices from over 800 CSOs in 87 countries, including Fridays for Future, FRIDA, and the #EndSARS movement, and is available in multiple languages.

Key findings:

  • The report finds that youth civil society is under threat, with nearly 75% of the organisations surveyed facing funding cuts that significantly hamper their ability to create change. Over a third of organisations experienced cuts to existing funds, indicating donors have been actively withdrawing support to youth civil society.
  • The overwhelming majority (93%) said that their organisations or groups had to change because of the pandemic, including losing staff and cutting projects
  • In addition they have faced unprecedented emotional and physical stress, made worse by multiple crises including the climate crisis, the pandemic and unemployment.
  • Despite the challenging context, the report shows youth civil society is anything but weak, with nearly half of organisations (47%) saying they believe youth civil society is stronger than ever before. However, 92% feel youth civil society needs more support from power-holders.
  • The rejection of traditional power is what’s led to a stronger, more powerful youth civil society – despite the numerous challenges. Compared to civil society more broadly, youth civil society is able to be more innovative and take more risks because they are more likely to reject traditional, top-down approaches in favour of creative, community-led organising. 

INTRAC’s contribution

The INTRAC team has been involved with the design, administration and analysis of the State of Youth Civil Society survey with over 800 respondents. The results of this survey form the backbone of the report narrative, were compiled into a report chapter with a summary of the survey results (p56). INTRAC was furthermore involved with overall review of the report, and the conceptualisation of all data visualizations including an infographic (p21-26).

“The State of Youth Civil Society report is a very strong piece of advocacy work to amplify the voices of Youth CSOs and young people in general. It shows how the sector, and we at INTRAC, should not only focus on shifting the power from the global North to the global South but also between age groups. It would be great to include the voices of young people more into our work, tapping into the knowledge, power and resourcefulness of this traditionally marginalised group.”

Willemijn de Bruin, INTRAC Research and Programme Coordinator

“We’re delighted to have been involved in this publication, which brings together so many voices to advocate for youth civil society. It shows that youth organisations are strong, vibrant and have a clear sense of purpose, but many have been marginalised in responses to the pandemic by donors and powerholders. It re-iterates the case for shifting power within the aid system both from north to south, but also towards young people who have been traditionally marginalised by formal development cooperation.”

Dan James, INTRAC Principal Consultant

The State of Youth Civil Society report is available to download from the Restless Development website. A full recording of the launch event is also available.