Examples of Youth Activism and Youth Movements

#BlackLivesMatter, which was born in response to the suspicious deaths of multiple African-American young people at the hands of police and the subsequent investigations in the USA, has a decentralised model with each chapter able to decide their own actions, with little hierarchy or coordinated actions.

Black Lives Matter - We Won't Be Silenced - London's Oxford Circus - 8 July 2016. | Youth Activism & Youth Movements | Participation Resource Pool

#FridaysforFuture, also known as School Strike for the Climate began after Swedish school student Greta Thunberg staged a protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish parliament, holding a sign that read “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for the climate”). Many global strikes protesting about the inaction of governments to adopt effective policies against human-induced climate change have been held in 2019, culminating to date in a series of 4,500 strikes across over 150 countries in September 2019. Arguably the largest climate strikes in world history, the 20 September strikes gathered roughly 4 million protesters, many of them school students, including 1.4 million people on strike in Germany.

Fridays for Future | Youth Activism & Youth Movements | Participation Resource Pool

The power of #MarchForOurLives is intensifying because students, not organisations, have responded to a wave of events and outrage in the USA over high school shootings.

2018.03.24 March for Our Lives, Washington, DC USA 00847 | Youth Activism & Youth Movements | Participation Resource Pool

The indignados movement (also called 15-M), founded in 2011, became the third largest political party in the Spanish parliament in 2017 as Podemos turned a social movement into a political force. It had its origins in social networks such as Real Democracy NOW and Youth Without a Future, and at the core of this was the resistance to extensive austerity measures implemented by the government and the staggering youth unemployment rates across Spain.

Indignados | Youth Activism & Youth Movements | Participation Resource Pool

New power

Such movements evoke passion, mobilise people and emphasise the ability of individuals and communities to make change. While many of these movements started online, they blend with the physical world – as street protests, visible actions and in-person meetings. The typical campaign actions happen, but how they form and operate is different. New power campaigns do not rely on traditional leaders and they harness the willingness of individuals to contribute in different ways,  whether through providing funding, coordinating their own actions or sharing their expertise. In new power, there is an implicit trust in people.


Martti Martinson
Martti Martinson

Martti Martinson is an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Australia and his research and advocacy work is focused on the enabling environment for youth participation in decision-making processes. He is a strong advocate for the concept of human rights based youth work and legislating youth participation.