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Sophie Foreman was at a workshop for the new and exciting consortium that makes up the Development Alternative. She spoke to the five partners who led the Focus Group Discussions (in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Uganda and Mada) who can best speak to what CSOs are saying at the grassroots. 

We know that young people have the power to lead change in their communities. However, without the skills, environment and power to access resourcing, youth civil society is currently being inhibited in their ability to effectively respond to the needs of young people.

You might have already heard about The Development Alternative, a consortium of innovative agencies, that have come together to address this problem by testing new ways of working with grassroots youth organisations, networks and movements in co-creation with youth civil society.

As part of this process, The Development Alternative consulted with over 200 youth-led civil society actors in 32 countries through a global online survey and seven in-country focus group discussions at the beginning of 2019. We asked a series of questions, along with a rapid evidence review, to understand the barriers preventing youth-led civil society from being most effective and exploring potential solutions to strengthen their work.

In February 2019, we brought together all the voices and evidence generated, along with 20 global youth experts and young leaders at a three-day workshop in London to design a strategy for supporting southern-based youth civil society to thrive. Whilst discussions involved tackling issues from power-imbalances and political contexts to the diversity of civil society and their needs, we wanted to share a brief snapshot of the types of blockages the sector faces.

So, with youth experts from across the the world in one room, we challenged them to answer the two core questions we’d been battling over in the workshop, but instead of three days,  we only gave them one minute:

1. What is the biggest barrier currently facing youth civil society?

2. What do you think is the solution?


Osama Muhammad, Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability & Learning Officer

War Child UK, Iraq

Biggest barrier: “They don’t have the capacity to start operating as an agency, all efforts are from individual organisations. Civil society is beyond agencies, it’s youth unions, student movements etc., but they are working randomly without coordination or strategy”

Solution: “To start clustering or cohorting the efforts. They need to map the gaps and provide the solutions, and our role is to facilitate that.”


Cheska Patow Barrios, Strategy and Regional Director

TECHO, South America

Biggest barrier: “The system itself, the credibility we give to young people and the way the have to prove their value when they already have value enough to participate in different spaces. And also our education.”

Solution: “A better education system to build capacity in young people to believe in themselves and know how to access the system. A more agreeable environment.”


Nader abu Amsha, Program Director

Beit Sahour YMCA, Occupied Palestinian Territories

Biggest barrier:  “Being able to achieve what they are dreaming of. Mainly resources and long term resources. They might get money for a project, but they want their long term dreams to be accomplished. This needs resources.”

Solution: “To find mechanisms to be financially sustainable.”


Faith S. Kaoma, Co-founder & Partnerships Director

Copper Rose, Zambia

Biggest barrier: “Lack of funding, I come from a background where if you don’t have money, you don’t have a say in anything, you just look like a bunch of kids that are passionate about a cause, but you don’t have the right resources (funding, skills). You could be passionate about climate change, but you’re terrified of speaking to an audience who might have the resources you need to push an agenda forward. An inability to be approximate to where the resources are”

Solution: “Actors in the sector should be more open to teach you the new entry points into the sector, as well as taking time to share best practices. If we eliminate ‘trying to be the best’ we can have a united voice”

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