The recently released Youth in Development policy from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) puts youth squarely on the map in international development. As a supporter of positive youth development, I was particularly happy to see support for the engagement of youth, “elevating their voices and ensuring meaningful opportunities to contribute to resolving issues and promoting positive change in their communities and nations.”
Putting young people in the driver’s seat of the development of their communities and countries actually works. Several years ago, on the hot, dusty streets of N’Djamena in Chad, I walked alongside pairs of energetic young people sporting white shirts, blue backpacks and baseball caps. The young women and men were interviewing community members in an outdoor market using a process we taught them called Community YouthMapping (CYM). Their goal was to collect data about gaps in services and opportunities for young people in the neighborhood. The same exercise was taking place throughout N’Djamena in diverse neighborhoods, northern and southern, Christian and Muslim, rich and poor. An analysis of the complete data set would be reported back to the communities and used by the youth and youth-led organizations to develop and implement social, cultural and economic activities for urban youth.