Empowering Young People for Community Impact: Addressing the Funding Gap

Exploring the Vital Role of Young People in Community Development and the Urgent Need for Better Resourcing to Sustain Their Activism

Young people play a crucial role in community development. From engaging in clean-up campaigns within their communities to providing food packs for refugees and survivors of national disasters and responding to pandemics including Ebola to championing the rights of women and girls, young people undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the communities they serve. Since 2019, every State Of the Youth Civil Society Report (SOYCSR) conducted by Restless Development has consistently identified funding as one of the biggest obstacles young people face.

In 2022, 72% of respondents reported a decrease in funding; in 2023 more than 60% of respondents highlighted the need for unrestricted funding. Young Climate Justice found that only 0,76% of climate funding goes to young people. Additionally, in 2020, only 5,56% of the Official Development Assistance funds from the top 10 Gender equality donors were allocated to gender equality goals and to initiatives targetting 10 to 24-year-old young people. 

The gaps in funding for young people and the growing need to invest in their power inspired us to dig deeper into the type of resourcing that works in fuelling young people’s activism. In this year’s SOYCSR, Resourcing Youth Power to Thrive, Restless Development is working with young researchers to analyze the types of resources that enable youth civil society to thrive, identify alternative resourcing mechanisms, and explore the implications of failing to resource youth power adequately.

Meet the researchers

Yemi Knight

Yemi Knight is a 27-year-old Barbadian conservationist who works alongside a
coalition of LGBTQ+ advocates, campaigning for the inclusion of comprehensive protections for gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and environmental provisions in the Barbados constitution. Through their NGO, AnchorBridge, they recently collaborated with the International Organization for Migration to develop a policy brief aimed at safeguarding LGBTQ+ people in disaster planning and response. Yemi’s commitment to promoting environmental justice is the cornerstone of their efforts. They envision a future where their NGO, AnchorBridge, continues to grow and empower communities across Barbados and the Caribbean.
By designing and implementing inclusive climate and environmental policies and plans, Yemi strives to ensure that the vibrant ecosystems and diverse communities of the region are preserved and cherished for generations to come. Fun fact; Yemi used to be an NCAA track athlete, and The Walking Dead is their favourite TV series

Caroline Gonzaga

Professional with multidisciplinary training and dedicated to research and practice of Innovation over the last 9 years. I co-founded and worked as a manager at Instituto HUB, an innovation hub. Experience with technology and intellectual property transfer, promoting relationships between actors in the innovation ecosystem, articulating with startups, networks, communities and sources of innovation promotion. In addition, I worked on the development of innovation programs, people, startups and Deeptech businesses. Currently a master’s student at the UFRJ Institute of Economics in the Postgraduate Program in Public Policies, Strategies and Development where I research innovation policy and instruments for developing innovation capabilities in startups. And innovation consultant specializing in Deeptech businesses.

Zahra Al Hilaly

Zahra is an Australian lawyer, journalist, and activist, for human rights, interfaith dialogue, and peace building. As the former CEO of Oaktree Australia, Zahra led Australia’s largest youth-led development organisation, empowering over 500,000 young people in the Asia-Pacific region to become leaders of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Zahra currently works as a Programme Manager for Young Negotiators Academy, where they train young people to lead negotiations at the United Nations’ Conference of Parties. As a proud daughter of refugees from Palestine and Iraq, Zahra’s mission is to ensure refugee youth are being amplified in peace building agendas. In 2023, Zahra was named an Australian Women in Excellence and in 2024, she was named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia-Pacific list. 


Stacie (she/her) completed an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada in 2020 and a professional degree in Education from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada in 2022. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Canada. Recently, she was a Co-Chair of the Youth Advisory Council of the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Services Review conducted by the NB Child and Youth Advocate’s office. She is also an Interim Board member for the Women’s Nonprofit Network, a Groundbreaker with Frayme, and Director of Finance and Memberships for the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. She currently works as the Youth Programs Lead at the YWCA Halifax. She is passionate about school food, food insecurity, youth mental health, and youth engagement.

Ashiraf Mugalula

Ashiraf Mugalula is currently a Team Leader of the Tash-Jee Foundation, TJFUganda, a youth-led organisation. He is a youth alumni of Restless Development Uganda hub, a board member of Makerere Institute of Social Research, and a Guild Council Representative at Makerere University Guild. He is furthermore a community youth leader with a passion for development policy analysis and practice, capacity building and facilitation, youth engagement, inclusion and decolonization as well as enthusiastic to contributing to matters that affect him. Ashiraf is passionate about quality and equitable education and the situation of the youth. He understands that proactively including youths in the field of social justice and education construction is critical to building an inclusive and sustainable society (s) for all that is resilient for both the present and future generations. This motivated him to advocate for the full implementation of SDG4-Quality & Equitable Education at all levels. Ashiraf has worked extensively with individuals, organisations, and networks both private and public in Uganda, East Africa, the United States of America, North America-Canada & Central Asia.

Kudzai Mutemeri

My name is Kudzai Mutemeri, and I am thirty years old. I’m a curious and engaging person who enjoys exploring new topics and ideas, which explains my passion in research. I’m interested in learning more about the world around me and am not hesitant to ask questions. I enjoy getting to understand people’s motivations and personalities, and why they do what they do. I’m a dog and cat lover, and I believe their loyalty and independence resonate deeply with me, mirroring my own desire for close connections while still preserving my personal space. I’m thrilled to put my curiosity and interpersonal skills to use, and I’m excited to learn from and collaborate with others on this discovery journey. 

Himanshu Kumar

Himanshu Kumar is a generalist and theatre artist from India. He is doing regular advocacy on Gender, ASRH, Climate and Education from last 5 years. He has worked with various national and international organizations like Restless Development, HCD Exchange, Plan India, Abt Associates, Muheem etc. He loves to work with youth and their issues. He is also a trained theatre artist from National School of Drama, Varanasi. He uses theatrical activities to make work engaging and creative. Himanshu strongly believes in using various art forms as a tool to bring positive change. Apart from this he also involves in
film making. He worked with community radio and produced episodes on every indicator of SDG – 5. He has strong interest in research and documentation. He is a 26 years old and holds master’s degree in Arts. He loves traveling and exploring new cities, cuisines, culture and art forms.

Haja Mariama Bangura

Haja Mariama Bangura (Age 27) is a dedicated youth advocate in Sierra Leone, committed to empowering young people and amplifying their voices in decision-making. Growing up in underrepresented communities, Haja witnessed the challenges young people face, sparking her passion for making a difference. As the executive director of Girls Connect Sierra Leone, Haja leads efforts to empower young women and girls in northern Sierra Leone. She has extensive experience in youth-led development, governance, education, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and rights-based initiatives. With a proven track record in project management, community mobilization, public relations, and youth advocacy, Haja creates impactful social change in education, gender equality, health, and community development. Haja is part of several youth-led organizations and movements, known for her respect for diverse identities and open attitude towards others’ views. She believes in the potential of every young person to drive change and works tirelessly to create opportunities for their growth. Her initiatives have significantly improved the lives of marginalized young people in Sierra Leone. Haja serves as Vice President for the Community of Practice for Women’s Empowerment, Public Relations Officer for the Bombali District Women’s Peace and Security Coalition, and member of Community Power Voices Sierra Leone. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her advocacy work.

Darius Gervinskas

Darius Gervinskas is a human rights consultant, specialising in intersections of SOGIESC and young people. She is an Education Officer at Diversity Role Models, a UK-based LGBTQ+ education and anti-bullying charity. Darius is also an Advisory Panelist for International Collaboration at IGLYO – The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation, and a Policy and Research Volunteer at LGBT Foundation. Darius holds a BA in Education and an MA in Human Rights, where she focused on global LGBTI rights and movements. Darius finds joy in ice skating, reading, and nature.