INVESTING IN YOUTH PEACEBUILDING CAPACITIES | Moving Towards Financial Sustainability | The Youth Cafe

The Youth Cafe is taking part in an online consultation on Youth and Peacebuilding at the invitation of Peace Direct and the United Network of Young (UNOY) Peacebuilders! The three days consultations are exploring what youth-led peacebuilding looks like in practice and understanding how to operationalise the principles behind the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.

Financial sustainability, i.e. the ability to operate on a long-term basis without threat of stopping work due to lack of financial means, is a critical challenge for all civil society organisations, particularly those engaged in peacebuilding activities which donors might view as ‘too political’ or risky. When organisations struggle to maintain the resources needed to carry out their missions, this reduces the ability of peacebuilding organisations to plan for the long term, develop autonomy, and react quickly to design and implement activities in volatile contexts.

This issue is particularly salient for organisations which rely on youth volunteers, or for youth-led peacebuilding organisations who face funding challenges. In the recent global study for UN Security Council Resolution 2250, an in-depth study of on-ground youth-led peacebuilding organisations revealed that half of the organisations participating operate on less than USD 5,000 per year, and most youth organisations tend to operate on limited-to-no funding, with an average of 97% of staff working as volunteers (UNOY, 2017). However, community members and key stakeholders view these organisations as key providers of the most effective and responsive peacebuilding work (UNOY, 2017Peace Direct, 2018). Despite this, they face a myriad of funding challenges.

When it comes to resource mobilisation, navigating complex donor bureaucracies requires particular skills, resources and experience, which many youth-organisations do not have. Language requirements and internet access can make submitting funding applications a huge hurdle, and  donors tend to expect planned youth-led peacebuilding activities to be informed by evidence and developed ‘theories of change’, which is a challenge for even the most professional and developed NGOs.

Compounding these factors, youth-led organisations tend to rely primarily on volunteer support, and thus struggle to gain formal recognition or visibility for their work, particularly in more rural locations. Furthermore, young peacebuilders end up spending a disproportionate amount of time on fundraising and reporting requirements, which becomes a huge trade-off for focusing on implementing activities.

In the progress study of UNSCR 2250, young peacebuilders reiterated the need for funding support focussed on building organisational capacity and long-term sustainable actions. However, to overcome the above challenges, many youth-led organisations have applied different and innovative approaches to ensure financial sustainability:

  • Raising small but essential amounts of unrestricted funding through their members (e.g. volunteers and staff), crowd funding, donations and in-kind support.

  • Pushing for visibility by participating in and actively joining local, national and international networks and social media.

  • Soliciting funding through traditional sources such as through institutional donor proposals, partnership with CSOs, media houses (radios, TV), and through foreign national governments, crowdfunding, academics and fundraising events.


  1. As young peacebuilders, what do you consider to be the biggest challenges to your financial sustainability? What key issues should we be thinking about on this issue?

  2. How have you worked in creative ways to ensure financial sustainability considering the various systemic challenges to accessing funding?

  3. What tactics have proven successful in gaining visibility and legitimacy for your work in order to secure funding?

  4. Can funding itself be a hindrance to your work as peacebuilders? Are there any ways that funding has negatively impacted your work? (e.g. loss of local credibility due to mission drift or the appearance that peacebuilding activities are externally driven)

  5. How do non-youth actors support the work of young peacebuilders/youth-led organisations? What are the main challenges they face?

Session summary

On the final day of our consultation, we kept the conversation going and benefitted from a broad range of perspectives and experiences, with over 100 comments from over 140 participants.

Today’s discussions looked more closely at intergenerational relationships in peacebuilding and how to bridge the gaps between age groups in order to provide opportunities for learning and creative processes for all. We also looked at issues around the financial sustainability of youth-led initiatives, and we had an open session for participants to broach topics and issues that we could not cover and provide feedback on the content and engagement over the past 3 days.

Some participants have continued to add further comments to the topics from earlier days, so if you wish to see how those conversations have continued to evolve, or if any of the below summary prompts you to share more thoughts, please do visit the platform again!

We are privileged to have learned from all the participants here, seeing communication and openness practiced on such a large scale on our digital platform for the last three days has been enriching and inspiring! Don’t miss your chance to share with us any key points or recommendations around youth and peacebuilding that we should consider.

We have also posted a closing statement on the platform which details next steps following on from this consultation - we hope you get the chance to check that out.

Thanks again to all participants for your time and dedication to this consultation!

Moving towards financial sustainability

In this session, we asked participants to share what key challenges they face to their financial sustainability and to identify what creative approaches and tactics they use to help gain visibility and fill in funding gaps. Furthermore, we asked them to consider if the focus on funding can be a hindrance to their work, and we asked non-youth peacebuilders how they go about supporting youth initiatives.

What came out of this exchange was that the focus on funding can sometimes hinder financial sustainability. Participants agreed, that the ‘race’ towards financial sustainability through funding and grants can be limiting. Creativity was again looked as a necessity and participants raised the notion of solidarity and support as an enabler for growth and sustainability. Participants identified the lack of experience in fundraising as one of the main shortcomings of youth organisations which, we are happy to say, prompted constructive replies on how to improve these skills. Finally, this rich discussion also went over the role of government and institutions in supporting or hindering financial sustainability for youth-led organisations.

Key points:

“As young peacebuilders the most challenging issue with financial sustainability is inadequate support from government institutions and lack of professional skills to apply for funding applications” Okoth Okoth

“The country where I live, young people have been struggling with funding [from] local, foreign and international donors because the older generation (with all respect to them) [was not] able to prove their honesty and the success of their project to their donors.” Farida Amiri

“@Okoth Okoth You have voiced something I have heard many times before: youth organisations don't necessarily want large amounts of funding - instead, we need adequate support through capacity building and flexible funding that meets our needs. Thank you!” Ludmila Dias Andrade 

“This [seems to be a] thorny issue for local peacebuilders who do not get much access to funding opportunities. It is known that many local peacebuilding organisations and youth movements are not receiving funding from donors nor from the governments.” Pife Muliro

“Some youth led organisation lack the skills of fund raising and hence conducting meaningful fundraising event to get additional support is always a challenge.” Denish Lubangakene

“The organisation needed funds for the materials and human resources, its founder worked hard and built her network with a wide range of young people and proved to them that she had been working hard, as result, local and international media's attention was drawn and featured her work” Farida Amiri