Examining Why and How to Engage Young People in Global Development: A Literature Review

Our world today has the largest number of young people in history, both in relative and absolute terms. Half of all people are under the age of 30, and the vast majority of these billions of young people (90%) are in the developing world. Never has there been a more pressing need – or opportunity – to meaningfully engage youth for the development of themselves and their societies, in order to help solve some of the most pressing global problems of our era.

The objective of this literature review is to assess the “why” and “how” of engaging young people in global development. In focusing on these central questions, this two-sided approach synthesizes ideas and evidence at both the theoretical and practical levels in every section of this review, and across a wide variety of youth-related issues. The report is rooted in the central notion of youth inclusion, and examines both the costs and benefits of youth exclusion and inclusion respectively across three dimensions: politically, economically, and socially.

This sweeping desk review scanned a wide-ranging body of literature on youth engagement, predominantly literature published in the last decade, and predominantly coming from practitioner rather than academic sources (i.e. grey literature). This included well over 150 reports that were narrowed down from a broader set of initial sources, and several more websites that spanned a broad range of international development institutions, and organizations “for” and “by” youth in the Global South and North.