Democracy in Action: Fostering Civic Engagement and Leadership in Teens

Alumni TIES
4 min readFeb 7, 2024


by Timi Olagunju

In June 2023, something unique started. The Youth in Motion’s Democracy in Action initiative, recognizing a crucial gap in our community, embarked on a mission: to empower young people with the skills and knowledge they need to participate effectively in civic life. We noticed a worrying trend — many young individuals, although they are the leaders of tomorrow, were missing key skills in communication, lacked a thorough understanding of civic processes, and were often unsure about how to step up as leaders. To tackle this issue head-on, we launched a dynamic three-day workshop, topped off with a hands-on field visit to the Oyo State House of Assembly and Government House Ibadan. The result? A group of 120 participants left transformed and ready to make a difference.

Our main goal was clear and ambitious — we wanted these young minds to master effective communication, get a solid grip on civic processes, and develop as future civic leaders. And guess what? The impact was remarkable. These young individuals were not just passively absorbing information; they were actively engaging, questioning, and thinking critically about their roles in society.

Preparing participants for entrance into the Oyo state Government House and Ministries

The transformation was evident right from the start. The students, who once hesitated to speak up, were now buzzing with ideas and questions. The excitement was palpable, and their enthusiasm was infectious. A visit to the Parliamentary Assembly was the cherry on top, giving them a real-life glimpse into the inner workings of government.

Addressing the participants in front of the office of the Oyo state Government’s Civil Service
Welcoming first batch of participants to the training on civic leadership and communication

Take Khadijat Omolade from Baptist Secondary School, for instance. She walked into the workshop quiet and reserved, but by the end, she was a force to be reckoned with — confident, engaged, and curious. It wasn’t just Khadijat- entire groups like those from Vale College and Ladigbo Baptist Grammar School showed us the true power of collaboration and civic engagement through their role plays. It was not just a learning experience; it was a journey of transformation.

Second batch of participants engaging in role play and networking.

The progression from a foundational workshop to an immersive experience at the Oyo State Government House was key. This wasn’t just about theories and concepts; it was about seeing those ideas come to life. What was one of the biggest lessons we learned? Practical, real-world experiences are invaluable. These experiences bridge the gap between knowing and understanding.

Based on the feedback we got, we spiced up our workshops with more interactive elements and focused more on applications in the real world. This approach was a game-changer — it made our sessions more than just educational- they were engaging, memorable, and impactful.

Looking forward, we’re not just stopping here. Democracy in Action is set to grow, reaching more schools and communities. Our mission is clear: to keep evolving and improving our methods to ensure that we’re truly equipping the next generation of leaders. We want to make sure that every young person, regardless of their background, has a seat at the table. That’s why we’re introducing scholarships and sponsorships to bring in students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It’s all about creating an inclusive platform where every voice matters.

Our vision extends even further. We’re in talks with educational institutions to weave elements of our program into the school curriculum. Imagine a world where principles of civic engagement and leadership development are part of everyday learning, shaping consistently engaged, informed, and proactive young citizens.

In conclusion, the Democracy in Action #AlumniTIES project is more than just a series of workshops. It’s a movement and a catalyst for change. It’s about lighting a fire of civic responsibility and leadership in young hearts and minds, and in doing so, laying the groundwork for a brighter, more engaged future for our society. As we move forward, we carry with us the belief that education is not just about imparting knowledge — it’s about transforming lives, and that is exactly what we are set to do.

The third batch of participants learn about institutions of governance and how to make lasting impact.

Timi Olagunju is a 2015 alumnus of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) from Nigeria. He participated in the November 2022 Alumni TIES seminar on “Youth and Opportunity: Defending Democracy and Advancing Human Rights” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).



Alumni TIES

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.