Democracy Moves

Democracy Moves is a growing global network of young leaders who fight for democracy, human rights, and social justice in their home countries, primarily Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the MENA region.

Restless Development entered into a formal collaboration with Democracy Moves, an organisation previously incubated by the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Launched in 2020. The  vision is to have young people in Democracy moves and the Youth collective  lead the way to more inclusive, lawful, and participatory democracies that protect civic spaces and good governance.

We are confident that young people have the power and potential to lead the way to more inclusive, effective, and participatory democracies where all voices are respected and heard. In this regard, we develop, connect, and inform youth activists who collectively improve the global state of democracy. Furthermore, we strive to connect young people from different parts of the world fighting for a just society and a healthy democracy to learn from each other across cultural and geographic boundaries. This collaborative network shares and learns across contexts, in real-time – creating and implementing solutions to pressing challenges, ranging from armed conflict to corruption to gender discrimination to voter apathy. 

The overall goals of Democracy Moves are to increase national, regional, and international cooperation between youth activists and organizations focused on creating more democratic communities and countries, strengthen the institutional capacity and impact of our members, contribute research and ideas to the global conversation on democracy, and to advocate to governments for increased access to youth civics education and opportunities for young people.

Democracy Moves is focused on the following three principles:

  • Building authentic and effective connections between youth activists from around the world;
  • Providing capacity building and support to organizations supporting youth activists;
  • Elevating best practices in youth activism through case studies, the publication of a journal, and a parallel scholars network.





Although the Democracy Moves network has been adopted as an initiative of Restless Development, the network is still run and led primarily by existing members and advisors. The Democracy Moves network is advised by a Board of youth members from the network. As the work evolves and given grant funding, we aim to compensate these members and elevate their role to include more leadership of network activities themselves. This Board plays a crucial role in the training events and conferences, which we hope to improve through the requested grant funding. Restless Development aims to strengthen meaningful youth leadership of the network to improve long-term sustainability. 

At Democracy Moves, we believe a better world is possible. We believe more just and participatory democracies are possible. We believe that young people have the power to create change in their communities and countries.

To achieve these goals, we are building a global movement for democracy, led by young people. Youth organizations can reach across cultural and geographic boundaries, learn from each other, and apply proven methods.

That’s where we come in.

Our track record:

With the support of SNF and the Porticus Foundation, Restless Development and Democracy Moves embarked on a learning journey aimed at identifying the most effective solutions and strategies for engaging young people in the realm of democratic governance. This initiative seeks to provide essential funding and opportunities for young people to enhance their networks and establish meaningful connections.

This project responded to the fact that young people, already tirelessly working to improve democracy in their countries, greatly benefit from networking with others and learning from strategies in multiple contexts. Importantly, donors and INGOs needed to learn how best to support the work of these movements without coopting or influencing their goals and approaches but rather bringing additionality to youth-led impacts. These youth movements are increasingly important, especially with a global trend of rising populism and closing civic space. Further, these movements are dynamic and intersectional. As donors and INGOs we do not want to pin these actions into siloed approaches.

Democracy Moves members have discussed and learned from Zambian efforts to engage and register voters in advance of their 2021 election, discussed and solicited ideas on combating closing civic spaces in countries as diverse as Uganda and Thailand, and created engagement on the role of the free press in a democratic society. Additionally, members have received microgrants to mobilize 80 activities, including taking action against an acute water shortage in a rural area of Zimbabwe, carrying out a grassroots mass voter education campaign aimed at reducing voter apathy amongst young people in the sub-region of Nigeria, and educating young people on participatory budgeting in Mexico.

Similarly, members of the affiliated Democracy Moves Scholars Network recently held a series of three virtual meetings to build relationships among activists and researchers focused on sharing practical strategies to counter shrinking civic spaces. In the most recent one, a scholar of youth democracy activism in Thailand shared findings from her research about the role of young people in multigenerational democracy protests, including their creative digital organizing strategies and commitment to non-violence. The DM Scholars Network brings scholars together who are committed to advancing social justice and providing research support to activists, such as by co-designing training materials, analyzing data relevant to a campaign, supporting youth participatory research, or sharing organizing strategies. 

Key results: 

  • Global annual meetings: Restless Development supported Democracy Moves in 2023 to conduct an annual conference Themed: Youth Redefining Democracy and Advocating for Rights Which led to the launch on the Democracy Moves declaration 2023. Preparation have started for the June 2024 annual conference. These annual meeting create a virtual platform for learning, spotlight youth impact, explore new trends and analysis, and connect youth movements with donors and institutions.
  • Youth-led research grants: Based on the gaps in knowledge identified by the the State of Youth Civil Society Report 2023, Restless Development  identified and provided small grants to  young researchers to design new, critical research that can bridge these gaps. Together with the Democracy Moves Scholars Network , a research task team was created to commission research on big issues impacting young people’s democratic rights specifically on the impact of civic tech tools and elections in Nigeria and online facilitated Gender Based Violence and identifying challenges that impact youth movements. These small commissions supported young researchers drawn from the Democracy Moves Scholars Network to gather data, learning and unique insights that informed the ways that institutions, donors and governments need to support intersectional youth movements. Restless Development provided training and support to the identified researchers, based on our youth-led research approach and experiences. 
  • Leadership Labs: A peer-led on-line series that brings together democracy activists from across the Youth Collective and Democracy Moves networks, and other stakeholders worldwide, to talk about issues related to democracy. Restless Development has provided support to Democracy Moves to conduct 4 leadership labs that brought together hundreds of  democracy activists from across the Youth Collective and Democracy Moves networks, and other stakeholders worldwide, to talk about issues related to democracy such as youth leadership in politics, climate justice for youth and gender equality. Young representatives from the Youth Collective and Democracy Moves lead and share participatory research. 
  • Democracy Moves has also launched the Democracy in Action blog series, bringing together stories about young people creating better futures for themselves, their communities, and their countries.