The Open Society Foundations Youth Initiative seeks to identify, inspire, empower, and learn from a network of young people to promote equality, justice, and open society values worldwide.
The Youth Initiative’s main office is in New York with staff in Kyrgyzstan; Hungary; Uganda; Ukraine; and the United Kingdom. Programs include Global Debates, a $20 million program that challenges universities to engage students in the policy issues that will have a lasting impact on their future. The Youth Initiative also supports youth debate programs and training outside traditional educational institutions in over 50 countries, with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa, China and Southeast Asia, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia.
The Youth Initiative works with its spin-off organization, the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), to support international debate events; provide technical assistance to local NGOs; and offer young people debate resources, information, and social networks at www.idebate.org. The Youth Initiative also supports the Youth Action Fund, a small grants program to fund youth-designed and youth-run projects in Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Nepal, Serbia, Thailand, and Uganda.
Additionally, the Youth Initiative promotes young people as partners in all aspects of the work of the Open Society Foundations. Along with the Open Society Media Program and five regional Open Society foundations, we developed a media literacy curriculum to engage young people in critical discussions of how they perceive and use the media. And as part of a broader effort to raise awareness of how public policy affects young people, we gave seed funding for www.youthpolicy.org, an online community and resource center on international youth policy.
Other projects we have supported include a training for young photojournalists who accompanied a photo exhibit from the Open Society Documentary Photography Project that traveled through the Middle East and North Africa; a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, for African youth with disabilities; and an international barcamp in Turkey that brought together young activists including former and current grantees to share their work on web communities for marginalized youth, young people in closed societies, and national youth policies.