International Youth Foundation

by International Youth Foundation

They are young, unemployed, and out-of-school. Referred to by different labels—disconnected youth, opportunity youth, youth who are not in education, work, or training (NEETS)—their numbers exceed more than 600 million globally. In the United States alone, more than 5.5 million youth, ages 16 to 24, are disconnected from education and employment.

Whether a disconnected young person resides in the global south or an industrial giant like the United States, they experience strikingly similar realities. A majority come from impoverished communities and face very real obstacles such as violence, incomplete educations, housing instability, discrimination, and involvement in the justice system. While growing knowledge—and solutions—exist around the globe for helping youth connect to supportive mentors and institutions, too little dialogue is taking place between nations on how best to support these youth. 

Through a new two-year initiative, (Re)Connecting Youth: Exchanging Global Lessons, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) seeks to bridge this gap. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, (Re)Connecting Youth will research innovative global approaches for increasing youth connection and resilience and share these findings with U.S. practitioners, policymakers, and funders.

“With one in seven youth in the U.S. considered disconnected, now is the time to maximize our collective global knowledge and best practices around this issue,” said IYF President and CEO Bill Reese. “For 26 years, IYF’s work has focused on identifying and supporting proven solutions for young people around the globe. We couldn’t be more pleased to be working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to bring valuable international lessons to bear on the challenges facing America’s opportunity youth.”

“We know good ideas have no borders,” said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Director Karabi Acharya. “We’re eager to see what we might learn from overseas to help young people in America survive and thrive.”

Drawing on IYF’s extensive experience in promoting positive youth development and global network of partners, we will:

  • Identify and examine effective approaches from across the globe for reconnecting youth;
  • Distribute learnings through videos and case studies;
  • Facilitate knowledge-sharing through events and exchanges; and
  • Establish a global advisory committee of topical experts.

Ultimately, we seek to encourage global learning and energize support for holistic solutions that will provide millions of young Americans with chances to lead healthy, productive lives.

Sometimes a light from the outside can inspire new strategies, applications, and ideas. We look forward to igniting this spark.


Today's 1.2 billion young people must navigate a complex landscape of unprecedented technological change and marketplace shifts. In the forward-thinking 2015 IYF Annual Report "Rethinking Priorities, Reimagining Possibilities," we reflect on how to continue breaking down the barriers that hinder too many young people on the path to success.

Including a whiteboard animation, videos, blog posts, photos from the field, and quotes from young people, employers, and partner organizations, this annual report is not list of accomplishments. Rather, we are examining what has worked and how, in our ever-changing world, the development community can think creatively and practically and act purposefully to drive real change.

The report centers on three key priorities based on our new strategic plan, completed in 2015:

  • 5 Truths about Future-Proof Skills: Employers and educators now agree on the critical value of life skills, or non-cognitive skills, which are at the heart of IYF's commitment to positive youth development.
  • Scaling up for Exponential Growth: How do you work within existing systems as effectively as possible to reach as many young people as possible? Learn the five elements we have seen to be key.
  • Young Leaders Pioneering Change: With their passion and creativity, young people like our YouthActionNet® Fellows have shown their power to shape the future for the better.

In more than a quarter century working to put youth at the top of the global agenda, IYF has learned countless lessons. While so much has changed since 1990, our unwavering commitment to supporting young people as they reach their full potential has not.

Read the full 2015 IYF Annual Report, "Rethinking Priorities, Reimagining Possibilities."


Like their counterparts around the world, one of the main difficulties Peruvian companies report is finding trained staff with technical knowledge and good soft skills. According to Cantol S.A.C., a metallurgical company that has been producing locks and other security products for more than 40 years, they have found a solution by hiring graduates of the EquipYouth initiative.

Launched by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and the Caterpillar FoundationCaterpillar's philanthropic organization, in 2012, EquipYouth trains young people to acquire in-demand technical skills. In complement, program participants learn valuable life skills such as teamwork, punctuality, and goal-setting through IYF’s Passport to Success® curriculum. Cantol took its first EquipYouth graduates in June 2013, and today the company works directly with IYF local partner TecSup

Pilar, Selection Analyst at Cantol, sees the value of the initiative's combined technical and life skills approach. “The profile of the project graduates has fit what we need and expect,” she says. “The experience we have had with the young people from this project has been extremely positive.”

"On interviewing the first EquipYouth applicants, we were impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm to be a part of our company,” Pilar says. “It is inevitable that we make comparisons [with other staff], but we could clearly see considerable differences.

The company representative also sees the initiative as filling an important societal void. “This kind of project gives these disadvantaged young people something to aim for—gives direction to their lives, goals, and new plans,” says Pilar.

The benefits have been mutual. "To begin with, our aim was to support a project that was helping those in need,” Pilar explains, “But 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.”


Everything we do at IYF aims to support youth on the path to success in work and life, and educational institutions like the Arab American University in Jenin (AAUJ), in Palestine, are one key type of partner in achieving this mission. Voice of Palestine radio recently spoke with Dr. Nizam Diab, AAUJ's Vice President of Community Affairs, about the school's cooperation with IYF. The interview, conducted in Arabic, touched on the significance of such partnerships, a critical gap between student needs and what the university provides, and various IYF trainings that are preparing students for success after graduation.

Dr. Diab described IYF as being "at the forefront" of the AAUJ’s partnerships and Dr. Mohammad AlMbaid, IYF Country Director for Palestine, as a friend of the university. When asked about the value of such a partnership, Diab explained the ways IYF trainings augment a university education.

"Palestinian universities provide adequate academic and theoretical knowledge, but they lack the ability to prepare students for the labor market. We've notice that many students who excelled at their academics are unable to find a job," he said. "These programs qualify students and prepare them for the labor market locally, regionally or internationally, especially during times of high unemployment—which affects all of Palestine, particularly university graduates."

These trainings include Build Your Business (BYB) and Passport to Success® (PTS). While BYB uses blended learning to enable youth to develop their entrepreneurial skillset, PTS equips participants with the life skills such as teamwork and reliability that will help them excel in any setting, professional or personal.

Dr. Diab told Voice of Palestine that with IYF support they have conducted 10 rounds of PTS training benefiting 300 students. "PTS is a wonderful initiative that helps students differentiate between academic work/studies and the labor market by providing them with excellent life skills, leadership, and communications skills, among others," he said.

With IYF's ever-present, ultimate goal of sustainability, our model includes preparing local educators and community members to become trainers. Through the Youth Entrepreneurship Development (YED) initiative, funded by the USAID West Bank and Gaza Mission, IYF has trained more than a dozen AAUJ teachers and staff to be certified to train students and alumni in career guidance, life skills, employability, and entrepreneurship.

"We always ask the bold question 'how long will this last?'" said Dr. Diab, continuing, "Dr. AlMbaid always responds with: 'We want to support the Palestinian youth, and we want to put them on the launching pad, so that even if the support stops and MOUs and agreements with organizations end, the Palestinian youth would be capable taking off. In addition, we want to ensure that universities are able of continuing such programs.'"


When she was a young girl, Pratibha and her family moved to Delhi from their home in rural India. Living in the city gave her the opportunity to become the first member of her family to graduate from secondary school, but it took a toll on the family’s source of income, her father’s leather crafting business.

“I used to tutor other students and run errands for neighbors,” says Pratibha, 23, of her efforts to contribute to her family’s livelihood. While training to become a clothing designer, she realized her talents would be best spent reviving her father’s struggling business.

With support from Young Entrepreneurs (YE)—an initiative of IYF and The MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth—Pratibha did just that. In addition to receiving one of the over 500 loans disbursed through YE, Pratibha worked closely with a mentor to rebuild, rebrand, and redesign her family’s business.

Over the last three years, YE has provided 1,100 youth, ages 15 to 29, in Delhi and Mumbai with life skills, business, and financial training, along with mentoring and access to finance to launch or expand small businesses.

“Young Entrepreneurs honed my potential and taught me to encourage potential in others,” she says. “I no longer dream, but can see our business doing well.”

Hear more of her story in the new video Young Entrepreneurs: They Call Me Pratibha.

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Organization Information

International Youth Foundation

Location: Baltimore, Maryland - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Lindsay Vignoles
Director, Corporate Programs
Baltimore, MD United States

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