Adolescents & Youth

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To reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030—and to ignite a world in which every young person can access modern contraception when and how they say they want—we need to get youth-powered.

Learn how PSI is applying that approach through our flagship adolescent reproductive health and rights project, Adolescents 360 (A360).

Overview

Globally, two in five people are under the age of 25, and nearly half of this segment lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Young people have the potential to catalyze development outcomes in their countries and around the world, including economic and social progress, but only when governments and organizations prioritize inclusion and holistic youth development. When we build positive assets, protective factors and resiliency in young people, and reduce their access barriers to information and services, they will have the power to help us unlock the challenges ahead.

However, many young people still experience interlocked forms of discrimination, limited political inclusion, high levels of poverty and limited access to health systems, educational opportunities and decent jobs. In sexual and reproductive health, a persistent unmet need for reproductive health services exists among young people directly contributing to cycles of poverty based on economic and social exclusion.

We believe that one reason young people have unequal representation, care and support is due to a lack of inclusion and shared power, particularly in the design, implementation and evaluation of services created for their health and well-being. We need their voice to be a part of the solutions that serve them through meaningful youth engagement, participation and leadership.  Young people have the right to be included, and we have the responsibility to build their capacity for greater impact. To do so, we are honoring young girls and boys as the experts of their own lived experiences and elevating them as co-decision makers for the health solutions that serve them. We are prioritizing their voice, choice and agency in our work because if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—and nations are to achieve a demographic dividend that will propel their economies—the health and well-being of young people will be critical to their meaningful contribution and leadership to solve these challenges. By prioritizing our youngest consumers we can not only build lifetime contraceptive users but create healthy, educated and economically productive adults that can lift their families, communities and countries out of poverty.

Consent was obtained for all photos of young people that appear on this page. 

Our Commitments to Adolescents & Youth

By 2030, PSI pledges to identify, train and deploy a corps of 500 young people from around the world with the skills to co-design and implement adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programs alongside technical experts. These youth fellows will be employed as practitioners in programs within and beyond PSI, working as researchers, analysts, advocates and community-level champions who can counsel teams on how to apply meaningful youth engagement and design youth-powered programs. And, through inter-generational and peer-to-peer mentorship, they will be supported to develop the confidence and skills needed to successfully influence and deliver public health programming.

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Human Centered Design (HCD) is one approach to design-thinking, and is often paired with other health systems approaches to develop deep and nuanced understanding about what matters to people, on a deep, emotional level. There’s power in working with young people for the solutions that serve them. But that partnership must include protocols to ensure we protect young people’s integrity, dignity and wellbeing throughout our work.

That’s why PSI alongside A360 and the HCD Exchange—a representative group of implementers, designers and funders—developed the Commitment to Ethics in Youth-Powered Program Design to honor and uphold ethical principles when conducting HCD with adolescents and young people. Three pillars ground the Commitment’s principles: respect; justice; and do no harm to the young people we work with and for.

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Working in partnership with young people unleashes breakthroughs—but without proper guardrails in place, we can endanger young people’s safety and well-being. Alongside the members of the HCD Exchange, we launched the Commitment to Ethics in Youth-Powered Design at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in November 2018 to formalize principles for how we, as a community, can ensure that we respect, balance power with and do no harm to the young people we work with and for. The Commitment, in addition to the World Health Organization-led Global Consensus Statement on Meaningful Adolescent and Youth Engagement also signed during ICFP, reflects how we’re addressing the unique vulnerabilities that arise when working alongside young people, both during implementation and well after we leave.
We successfully met and surpassed our FP2020 pledge two years early. In the process, we exposed gaps in how we were assessing who was coming through the service delivery door. We did not have a long history of age disaggregated service delivery. We needed to know exactly who we were serving if our goal was to impact unmet need and reduce unintended adolescent pregnancies.
 
A formula was created to help us conservatively estimate our numbers reached against the data collected by USAID’s Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program while we enhanced our focus on age disaggregated data. We have since devised new formulas to help country offices better understand contraceptive use/need among youth from a wider lens. New youth projection methodologies have been created to better project country-specific short-term goals and Data2Action frameworks have been designed to track success.

How we
work

01
Asset 17

Consumer
Led

02
Asset 26

Market Development

03

Program
Design

04
Asset 9

Social
Enterprise

The Eight Pillars of our Work with Adolescents & Youth

01

We’re shifting from a youth-focused to a youth-powered approach.

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02

We take a holistic view on how to reach, and serve PSI’s youngest consumers.

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03

We speak to young people’s self-defined experiences & internal motivations.

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04

We see culture as an asset to transform and catalyze enabling environments.

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05

We reframe the narrative around contraception.

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06

We keep young people’s needs and concerns at the forefront of our work.

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07

We’re committed to meaningful and ethical youth engagement.

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08

We elevate youth voices and build youth skills for health design.

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Our Approaches

Adolescents 360 (A360) joined its young designers with a diverse consortium of experts to collect, interpret and analyze data—from formative research through implementation and beyond. Young designers support A360 to step deep into girls’ lives, to understand what matters to them today—and lend new and fresh insight from a youth lens. The result was interventions that girls perceive as resonant and relevant to their lives.

Youth self-segment, often in ways far more nuanced than the reproductive life stage approach often found in sexual and reproductive health programming. PSI’s youth programs aim to align the way young people tell us they want to be segmented, considering their own perception of the life trajectories available to them from childhood to adulthood—and the milestones along the way. 

We’ve learned that young people have many joys and aspirations over the course of their lives. But adverse socio-economic and gender realities bring them to narrow this list to aspirations that feel achievable—and for girls, motherhood is often at the top of the list. In this case, other dreams may be perceived as competing with this chief achievable joy. We position contraception in service of both achievable and aspirational goals, both as a way to protect fertility and attain financial stability.

Engaging powerful brands can help to build trust and credibility. Trusted brands communicate that “you are worthy” and can help motivate youth to not only seek care but continue returning to it. We understand and tap into compelling concepts that already have their own social momentum. This eases the pathway for young people and their communities to get behind our messages and programming.

We find and leverage youth-defined and identified safe spaces, whether they’re physical or emotional, both online and offline. These spaces bring providers and staff together with youth during counseling, which builds empathy so that providers see young people as equals, not just as clients. Youth contributions during our project implementations have increased empathy with and between providers, while data collection and analysis with girls has helped to refine the user experience using adaptive implementation techniques.

Our
Impact

By December 2018, we reached over 14 million young people under the age of 25 with modern contraception.

We reached

two years ahead of schedule

We work with

630+

young designers working in our youth programs

We power

71

youth activities across 21 countries

Featured Projects

Adolescents 360

Donor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

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Project Ignite

Donor: Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

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Jovenes 3.0: Innovative Approaches to Reducing Unmet Need for Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean

Donor: Anonymous

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Support for International Family Planning Organizations (SIFPO2)

Donor: USAID

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Vale-a-Pena

Donor: UK Aid (UK Department for International Development)

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Our
Technical Experts

Claire Cole

Senior Sexual and Reproductive Health Technical Advisor for Implementation Science & Learning PSI

Metsehate Ayenekulu

Project Director, RISE PSI Ethiopia

Fifi Oluwatoyin Ogbondeminu

Project Director, A360 Nigeria SFH Nigeria

Edwin Mtei

Project Director, A360 Ethiopia PSI Tanzania

Our
Programmatic Experts

Marie Fedra Baptiste

Country Representative PSI Côte d’Ivoire

Jennifer Pope

Vice President, Sexual & Reproductive Health PSI Global

Melissa Higbie

Director, Delivering Innovation in Self-Care (DISC) PSI

Olivier LeTouzé

Director, Project Ignite & Senior Technical Advisor, Market Research PSI Europe

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