Our Perspectives


Calling all superheroes for civic engagement

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kids in BurundiYouth in Burundi frame themselves. Get involved in #YouthDay like them by sending in a photo of yourself and civic engagement. Photo: UNDP Burundi/Rossignol

“Civic engagement.” The superhero term of our time is facing a big problem. It is virtually meaningless to the exact group of people (those between the ages of 14 and 25) which it is supposed to inspire and engage. Walking the halls of UNDP, you often hear the sentiment that if we could just get more youth to engage in their communities, the world would be a much better place to live. Yes, civic engagement is how modern day superheroes are born and you could be one of them.                               

But what exactly is “civic engagement”? What does it entail? What is it not? And how can youth really take part in it? Hang on tight, as we decipher the meaning and ways in which you, the world’s youth, can use this phrase to make a real change in our world.

First things first: What is civic engagement?

It means active participation! Picture yourself as the principle of your school or maybe even the president of your country. As such you have the authority, power, and resources to improve the lives of your community. What would you do? Where would you start? Who would you ask for help? In answering these questions, you are becoming civically engaged, as you are coming up with ways to actively participate in the life of your community in order to improve its conditions and shape its future.

So, is it cool to be civically engaged?

Of course it is! When you are civically engaged, you are empowered to speak your mind, share ideas and propose practical solutions to daily challenges faced by the community you are working in. If your ideas are good, others will get on board and offer to help turn them into reality. In doing so, you are taking steps to becoming someone’s superhero. In short, when you civically engage you become a leader and a trend setter. Now, who wouldn’t want to be that?

How can I get involved and be a superhero in my community?

There are infinite ways that you can become an active agent of change in your community. For inspiration, here are some ways and examples of UNDP youth civic engagement programs that we have supported:

  • In Sudan, 200 fellow youth volunteers from East Darfur are tackling the biggest social issues that affect young people in their region, such as a lack of economy and high youth unemployment. The volunteers have been trying to change this by training and mentoring Darfur’s young university graduates, who then go forth to train rural communities in both business and environmental skills.

  • This year, youth in Libya participated in a UNDP-supported workshop which gives youth a voice in shaping Libya’s new proposed Constitution—very critical in a country that has experienced a lot of political upheaval and needs youth support for its future peace and stability.

  • Last year, a team of youth led #Hack4Tourism, which challenges Belarusian youth to find innovation web-based solutions to attract tourists to Belarus’ growing tourism industry, thereby creating jobs and economic growth.
youth day graphic

There is never a better time to start than now. So if you are ready to roll up your sleeves, here is our first assignment for all of you “superheroes-in-training”. Send us a photo on Twitter of your civic superhero powers, tagged with #YouthDay, and show us how you are protecting the environment, teaching others to read, helping in a neighborhood cleanup, or simply transforming your community by speaking up and taking action. We can’t wait to see all the great things that you can do wherever in the world you might be.

Good luck!

Youth Guergana Botchoukova-Farkova Governance and peacebuilding Civic engagement

UNDP Around the world