Youth Development

The UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre has a particular focus on research, evaluation and programme development activities in the area of Youth Development. Such interventions aim to enable young people to thrive and engage fully with their own development as well as that of their communities.

Our work in this area reflects the UNESCO Centre’s core principles of social support, resilience and children’s rights, while also embracing concepts such as participation, civic engagement and leadership.

Some of the themes evident in youth development programmes are:

  • A positive approach to promoting the well-being of young people
  • A desire to enhance the social support available to young people, for example, through mentoring programmes involving adults or peers
  • Building the resilience of young people by strengthening protective factors and minimising risk factors where possible
  • A recognition of the potential for young people to take leadership roles and contribute to their communities
  • Promoting the rights of young people
  • Supporting youth organisations with the establishment of practices that promote best practice and enable reflection and evaluation of their work

The UNESCO CFRC’s work in this area includes the following:

UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth & Civic Engagement

The UNESCO chair held by the CFRC has the objective of promoting civic engagement for children and youth by providing relevant expertise in research, teaching, policy and good practice. The Chair has created sustainable partnerships in Universities and organisations in Ireland, Northern Ireland, USA, New Zealand, Canada, Zambia, Czech Republic. 


Youth mentoring as an approach to supporting young people has been the subject of considerable research over the past decade in particular. The body of evidence suggests that youth mentoring programmes can enhance outcomes for young people in terms of emotional well-being, education and risk behaviour. youthdevelopment_small.jpg

The UNESCO CFRC has undertaken a major mixed-methods study of the Big Brother Big Sister community based mentoring programme in Ireland, incorporating the first randomised control trial conducted in a youth work setting in Ireland. The findings of this study, as well as additional studies and academic work in relation to youth mentoring, enhances our understanding of the outcomes and processes associated with this approach.

The UNESCO CFRC is also undertaking a study of the school based BBBS programme in Ireland and an international comparative study of youth mentoring.

Foróige Partnership

1. Volunteer-led youth work

Foróige Ireland’s leading youth organisation, currently engages with over 50,000 young people in the country. At the core of its youth work in Ireland is the local volunteer-led youth club. The UNESCO CFRC is undertaking a study of the volunteer-led model of youth work on behalf of Foróige, focusing on the outcomes for young people taking part.

2. Evaluation of youth work

The UNESCO CFRC is developing an evaluation framework and training for Foróige which will enable staff to adopt a focus on evaluation and monitoring of their work.

3. Civic Engagement and Civic Action

The UNESCO CFRC is currently engaged in an evaluation of the Foróige Youth Citizenship programme, one of the largest civic engagement projects for young people in Ireland. This programme involves young people in developing awareness of issues relevant to their communities, taking action to address them and evaluating their work. The study, which focuses on the history of the programme, the perceptions of stakeholders and the outcomes from participation, will be complete in late 2011.

Youth Cafés

A significant aspect of policy development for young people over the past decade has been the development of youth café’s. On behalf of the office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, UNESCO CFRC produced a toolkit and best practice guide to support the running of youth cafes.

Key Resources