Nearly 17 percent of today’s global population is comprised of young people between 15 and 24 years of age.  Young people are on average more than three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. Many of those who have jobs, especially those living in developing countries, are engaged in internships, temporary, or part-time work. The employment and livelihoods situation for millions of young people is dire, with the economic and social costs of the crisis expected to last for generations. The International Labour Organization predicts that youth unemployment rates will remain high, and may even rise, through at least 2017.[1] In the midst of this ecosystem, practitioners, policymakers, funders, educators, researchers, and young people are developing and implementing initiatives that aim to increase and improve economic opportunities for youth. They shared their experiences, lessons learned, evaluations, tools, and ideas at Making Cents International’s 2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference (GYEOC).

This publication is a consolidation and synthesis of the lessons learned, promising practices, common challenges, and recommended next steps that participants highlighted during GYEOC. Rather than an exhaustive review of global practice, the publication features the current state and evolution of the field. The experiences and ideas presented here detail how many members of the global community are building upon the past and working towards achieving ambitious goals for the future of the field. Their recent experiences, generated in classrooms, foundations, governments, and businesses throughout the world, represent the “real-time” evolution of the field.

The Conference and this publication were organized around five learning tracks, representing key sectors in the field: workforce development (WFD); youth enterprise development (YED); adolescent girls and young women (AGYW); youth-inclusive financial services and capabilities (YFS); and monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessment (M&E). Chapters reflect the insights, analysis, and recommendations generated by conference presenters and/or the synergy between presenters and participants.

How Should I Use This Publication?

Feel free to extract information and learning from chapters of particular interest or review all chapters based on your interests and needs. Programmatic examples provide additional insight and ground lessons learned within their operative contexts. In order to facilitate a quick read, certain examples include a small icon to help identify what the text box example offers.

New tools include training manuals, monitoring and evaluation resources, websites, publications, and any other resources that can be adapted and used in programming.

Hot topics refer to points of debate or discussion within the field. These may be topics that have recently emerged or that have consistently inspired debate amongst practitioners.

Bright ideas include new or interesting approaches worth highlighting. They may refer to an innovation relevant to the entire field or to a region or operating context.

Practical tips capture practitioners’ advice, techniques or some other learning crystallized from programmatic examples and on-the-ground experience.

Checklists, extracted from experiences shared at the 2012 Conference, help practitioners and others to review whether they have components necessary for programmatic success.

Voices of participants, presenters or other experts in the field make learning personal; describing anecdotes or experiences that shaped colleagues’ perspectives about an issue in the field.

Research Spotlight describes research findings and recent studies that advance our understanding of the YEO field.

Noteworthy Results share evaluation or other results from YEO programs operating throughout the world and include a brief description of the program.

Content on Adolescent Girls and Young Women is mainstreamed throughout the chapters. This icon indicates key findings or programmatic examples that highlight gender issues or AGYW-focused programs.           

Information related to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is noted, reflecting the Conference’s Spotlight on Technology.  



[1] Excerpted from comments of José Manuel Salazar, Executive Director of Employment at the International Labour Organization (ILO); statistics can also be found at:, pg. 3