Rethinking Priorities,
Reimagining Possibilities

2015 IYF Annual Report

Nevinah Dollah and Victor Owako, recipients of sport-based life skills instruction and technical training through the Barclays-funded SKYE initiative in Kenya. Photo: Axel Fassio

The New

A revolution is underway in how we live and work. With artificial intelligence, smart factories and farms, and the sharing economy going mainstream, disruption is the order of the day. Caught in the midst of this kaleidoscope of change are today’s 1.2 billion young people. How do we ensure the largest youth generation the world has ever known has what it takes to navigate our rapidly transforming world?

In 2015, with a new, three-year strategic plan in place, IYF committed to redoubling our efforts to remove the barriers that prevent too many young people from reaching their full potential as employees, entrepreneurs, leaders, and change makers, and to ensure that youth are at the top of the global agenda.

Read on to explore three of our key priorities in depth.

Section one

Skills That Last a Lifetime

Students in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, plan a community service project through the Chevron-supported Zangar initiative. Photo: Kat Backof

Five truths about future-proof skills

Amidst unprecedented technological change and marketplace shifts, today’s young people struggle to find and keep jobs. Forget keeping pace; they need to be prepared for jobs that don’t yet exist with skills that will endure. What are these future-proof skills?

Experts agree that social-emotional learning, or the development of life skills, will serve a person through early adulthood and beyond. These non-cognitive abilities—knowing how to manage emotions, communicate effectively, make responsible decisions, and maintain positive relationships—are critical to being a good student, worker, and citizen.

With life skills at the core of IYF’s pursuit of positive youth development, we’ve identified five critical truths about these competencies:

  • Life skills are learned, not innate. While it was long believed that attributes such as grit and empathy were innate personality traits, research now demonstrates that these competencies can be taught and learned.1
  • Life skills can be learned through adolescence and early adulthood.2 Previously, educators believed that life skills—if they could be learned—needed to be acquired in early childhood. Our own work with Passport to Success® is proof of the transformative value of social-emotional learning for youth.
  • Life skills become even more valuable over time. Technical skills can quickly become outdated, but employers are always looking to hire people who manage their time well, think critically, and set goals effectively. These skills are hard to find among entry-level job seekers,3 and they prove increasingly valuable throughout a person’s career.4
  • Young people with well-developed life skills tend to achieve better career outcomes and experience fewer social problems. Equipping youth with social and emotional skills improves their chances for success in school, life, and work. It may offer even greater safeguards than socio-economic environment, family stability, and cognitive skills.5
  • Life skills can and should be measured. Mounting evidence shows not only that life skills can be measured, but that properly done assessments position youth for success by validating their competency across a range of sought-after skills.6 IYF is currently developing a workforce readiness assessment, in partnership with ProExam, experts in non-cognitive skills testing.

“I never say goodbye [to my trainees], because who says goodbye to the future. Rather, my message is: ‘I’ll see you on the road to success. Know I’ll always be there for you.’”

—Arsen Kambalov 22-year-old Passport to Success trainer for Chevron-supported Zangar initiative in Kazakhstan
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“To begin with, our aim was to support a project that helped those in need. We later realized that many of the young people had a great deal to offer our company. The project benefits young people, society, and companies such as ours.”

— Pilar Vilca Selection Analyst at Cantol SAC, a metallurgical company in Peru that has hired graduates from the Caterpillar Foundation-supported EquipYouth initiative

Section two

Big Challenges Demand Big Solutions

Technical school students in Chihuahua, Mexico, gain aerospace assembly quality control skills through the USAID-funded Rutas initiative. Photo: Ignacio Mendoza

Scaling up for exponential growth

To be effective, youth programs and approaches need to reach young people in the places and spaces where they spend most of their time: schools (including universities and technical training institutes), community centers, sports fields, and online. The question is how do you reach youth in these settings at scale?

To achieve sustainable, long-term change, IYF is taking its knowledge and experience gained over 26 years and applying best practice approaches within large-scale systems. While every experience brings unique challenges and opportunities, there are key elements that, when combined, can exponentially increase the likelihood of success:

  • Lay the groundwork. Taking time to understand local needs—and listen to youth views—is critical. In Africa, embracing young people’s need and desire for mixed livelihoods is helping IYF, in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, better support local organizations working to deliver tailored solutions. By beginning with an understanding of the importance of having more than one job, including self-employment, we can maximize opportunities to drive positive change.

  • Flexible tools and trainings lead to more sustainable results. A potent example is our online Quality Standards Assessment tool, built in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank through its Multilateral Investment Fund and its Labor Markets Unit.. Under the New Employment Opportunities (NEO) initiative, the tool is being used in Latin America to facilitate conversation around change rather than dictating a course of action. As a result, local youth service providers are able to reflect on their work, process tailored feedback and coaching from IYF’s regional experts, and commit to a plan for achieving desired outcomes.
  • Lasting change is most likely to result from policy change paired with building the capacity of local youth-serving organizations. In Chile and Argentina, where new youth employment policy priorities paved the way for reform, IYF is working in partnership with Walmart to scale retail-specific training and job placement to reach thousands of youth.

  • Identify champions within systems who can advocate on your behalf. Cultivating relationships with people inside the system who support your work—and will advocate for new ways of operating—can exponentially increase impact. In Palestine, mainstreaming quality career guidance within universities required working closely with mid-level directors, who played a key advocacy role with the university leadership. Equally important was working with partners like Silatech and Microsoft to develop an online employability portal to streamline services.
  • Changing systems takes time. Build in time to accommodate new ways of thinking and operating within large-scale systems. Our most comprehensive initiatives that achieve scale are implemented over three to six years.

“With advice from IYF specialists, we made changes in our management systems and developed a plan for employer outreach. The workshops provided us with tools for planning our youth services and assessing our trainers. We hope to use the tools we learned in all our work with youth.”

—Alis Muñoz Hernández Director ICENF, a community-based organization in Colombia that benefited from the Quality Standards Assessment tool
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“Thanks to Z:W for equipping us with great marketing skills. I am now very confident with my product, and my vision has changed from being local to national and international.”

— Rudo Muzvruzvu Home decor entrepreneur and participant in Zimbabwe:Works an initiative of IYF, USAID, DFID, and the Embassy of Sweden

Section three

Youth As Drivers of Development

Women’s rights advocate Samira Dehri displays a life skill she learned through the USAID-funded IDMAJ initiative in Algeria: the art of saying no. Photo: Hajer Derar

Young Leaders Pioneering Change

Long relegated to the periphery of development discussions, youth needs—and youth-led solutions—are taking center stage. Recognition is growing that youth programs and policies are far more likely to succeed when young people are engaged from the start.

How do we leverage the extraordinary contributions of young people, while encouraging more youth to be part of the solution? Change begins with shifting the narrative of how young people are perceived. The first step is to recognize the many roles they play in creating positive change in their communities and economies and within larger institutions:

  • Innovative young leaders are responsible for some of the most creative solutions to local and global issues. IYF has seen the power of their work through our signature social entrepreneurship initiative, YouthActionNet®. Dr. Carolina Candelario, who delivers mobile medical care to isolated indigenous communities in Mexico, and Ayaz Hassan, who empowers women refugees to combat gender-based violence in Iraq, are just two of the almost 1,400 YouthActionNet fellows around the globe that we’ve supported through our network of 23 leadership institutes.
  • Young people are job creators, not just jobseekers. We know the broader benefits of supporting youth entrepreneurship. When young business owners succeed, their ventures contribute to the local economy and create employment opportunities, especially for fellow youth.
  • Youth voices are essential at all levels, and especially for higher-level decision-making. At IYF, the fresh, locally-rooted perspectives of our two designated youth board members help ensure that our organization truly responds to youth priorities and needs.
  • Working peer-to-peer, young people make powerful trainers and mentors. Who knows young people better than other young people? We’ve witnessed the unique way young Passport to Success® life skills trainers and mentors in initiatives like Youth:Work Mexico connect with participants. Through YouthActionNet, University Connect has proven a powerful way for social entrepreneurs and college students to share knowledge, while inspiring students with the notion that social change can—and should—be part of any career path.

“The unrelenting resilience that has historically characterized African populations is slowly, but surely, turning into sustainable problem-solving by youth committed to locally-led development.”

— Peggy Mativo Founder of PACE, which trains Kenyan high school graduates as volunteer teaching assistants; 2014 Laureate Global Fellow and IYF board member
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“We are delighted to be a key partner in IYF’s YouthActionNet initiative with its 23 youth leadership institutes around the world. We couldn’t be more proud of the 15 Laureate Universities that have joined this initiative and the outstanding young social entrepreneurs selected annually as Laureate Global Fellows. They are an inspiration to us all.”

— Douglas L. Becker Founder, Chairman, & CEO, Laureate International Universities

Section four

Letter from the President & CEO

Through Un Millón de Niños Lectores, Laureate Global Fellow Teresa Boullón builds libraries in low-income Peruvian schools.

Youth: A Global Imperative
Bill Reese,
President & CEO

Ours is a unique moment in history. More young people are coming of age than ever before at a time of mounting global challenges and unprecedented change. Equipping youth with the enduring skills needed to navigate today’s changes lies at the heart of IYF’s mission.

Over 26 years, our work has impacted the lives of nearly 20 million young people in 100-plus countries. Our efforts to scale effective initiatives and approaches are made possible through an expansive network of nearly 500 local, national, and global partners. The premium we place on partnership is reflected in IYF’s role as a founding member of Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)—a global coalition that has set ambitious goals for achieving dramatic change in youth employment over the next 15 years.

Today’s global challenges demand greater investment in youth—and greater recognition of their role as innovators and problem solvers. Achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is no exception. To eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, we must ensure—today—that marginalized youth receive the support they need to secure decent livelihoods and to prosper in life. Meeting the SDGs also demands that we leverage the creativity, idealism, and passion of youth like never before.

IYF’s mission and work lie at the nexus of these two global imperatives—preparing youth for productive work and supporting their role as leaders. In 2015, we put forth a bold new strategic plan to maximize our impact in these areas. We also introduced exciting new initiatives:

  • Partnering with The MasterCard Foundation to drive sustainable changes in the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and entrepreneurship systems in Mozambique and Tanzania
  • Launching our first-ever initiative in Kazakhstan, funded by Chevron, to better prepare youth for 21st century jobs through a combination of life skills and STEM instruction
  • Working in Mexico with technical education providers to develop new curricula, upgrade teachers’ ability to develop students’ socioemotional skills through PTS teacher training, and improve students’ access to relevant information on job opportunities, thanks to our partnership with the PepsiCo Foundation.
  • Laying the groundwork to train educators and service providers in our home city of Baltimore to deliver IYF’s signature Passport to Success® life skills curriculum

Beyond these efforts to scale effective programs, we seek to influence how youth work is carried out. Our partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a premier think tank, offers a platform for high-level dialogue around youth issues—and solutions. CSIS rightly understands that youth needs and youth voices must be part of much larger conversations when it comes the environment, economic growth, and global security.

With a heightened focus on youth issues globally, this may well be remembered as the time when young people garnered the attention and resources they so deserve. And that’s good news for all of us.

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“IYF is the leading global voice calling for more attention and resources to address the challenges of youth unemployment, which is one of the most important issues of our time. Hilton is proud to partner with IYF on this vital initiative and to support the next generation of leaders and workers who will shape the future of our world.”

—Christopher J. Nassetta President & CEO, Hilton Worldwide


Annual Report 2015

Rethinking Priorities,
Reimagining Possibilities