Program Examples


    Program Features

    • One Year, Standalone program, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy
    • Took place in three cities: Coban; Guatemala City; Quetzaltenango
    • Style of debate: Policy debate

    Participant Profile

    • Approximately 60 participants, age 18-24
    • participants were college students; active members of civil society organizations; and either affliated with or members of political parties
    • demonstrated active political or community engagement experience prior to the start of the program
    • The cohort was gender-blalanced and inclusive of Indigenous youth and youth from both rural and urban areas

    Program Phases

    1. Policy Dialogues
    2. Debate Training Camps
    3. Regional Competitions
    4. National Competition

With financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), NDI developed a policy dialogue and debate program to support young people develop a range of political assets, increase the profile and credibility of their political voices, and connect them with public policymakers. At the start of the program NDI, in partnership with the Washington Urban Debate League , developed a dialogue and debate methodology incorporating NDI’s youth theory of change, in-house debate expertise, and lessons learned supporting youth debates globally, including the Ana Usharek program in Jordan and the Challenger program in Moldova.

NDI developed the “Youth Leading Debate” (Jóvenes Liderando Debates) program in Guatemala as a pilot to help politically active young people, ages 18 to 24, learn the art of competitive policy debate and use their debate skills for policy reform. During the program, young people from urban and rural areas gathered in three cities: Coban, Quetzaltenango, and Guatemala City to participate in policy dialogues and debate instruction camps. These activities prepared them for a set of regional and national competitions where they confidently displayed their analytical skills and their ability to speak publicly in front of senior political leaders and other citizens.

Policy Dialogues

The debate program began with over 100 young people participating in three policy dialogues in Coban, Quetzaltenango, and Guatemala City. These events provided participants with an opportunity to identify issues that matter to them, learn from policy experts and discuss pressing policy issues facing their communities and their country. Elected officials also joined the dialogues to provide their expertise and political insights. For many participants, this was their first opportunity to have a discussion with an elected official who represented their community.

Debate “Bootcamp”

Following the policy dialogues, participants were invited to apply for a three-day debate “bootcamp”, designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to policy debate. The debate bootcamps quickly accelerated their learning and provided a safe environment to explore a range of polarizing topics. There were twenty participants at each camp and the curriculum was facilitated by one debate expert and three to five experienced youth debaters. Participants developed interpersonal skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, active listening and communication. Participants also developed practical political skills, such as the ability to research issues and develop and defend comprehensive policy recommendations. This combination of political skills, coupled with “soft” skills, strengthened their ability to better understand Guatemala’s political climate, and take part in discussions around policy reform. Taking part in the camps helped the participants better understand perspectives on both sides of complex public policy issues, minimized polarization over controversial political topics, and helped participants build respect and understanding for each other, despite geographical, ethnic, and economic differences. These positive interactions increased constructive collaboration and paved the way for the productive exchange of ideas.

Regional & National Competition

After the bootcamps, debate teams utilized the skills they learned to prepare for regional and national debate tournaments. During the preparation period, all teams were given a list of topics to research. The topics stemmed from the policy dialogues and represented a wide range of local and national concerns. In addition to strengthening their debate skills, the tournaments provided the participants with an opportunity to continue developing peer-to-peer networks. These young people were able to connect with political actors and peers from different regions of the country who were also passionate about taking political action. For these young leaders, who are active members of civic organizations, political parties, and student organizations, participation in debates goes beyond competition. Public debate provides an important entry point for political participation and a vital platform for demonstrating the value of young people’s contribution to policy reform efforts among decision-makers.

Media & Communications

Throughout the program NDI also worked with participants to develop a communication strategy and produce digital content, including social media posts and videos, that underscored young people’s knowledge, showcased their newly developed skills, and demonstrated the necessity for political processes and structures that are inclusive of young people. The communications strategy and the consistent, targeted messaging allowed participants to increase their political platform and reach.

Monitoring & Evaluation

Based on the pre- and post-tests, 86 percent of participants stated that their knowledge of public sector reform increased and that the program activities increased their political leadership skills. Evaluations were also conducted that assessed the participant's interpersonal skill development: 98 percent of participants reported that their self-confidence improved; 99 percent of participants reported increased empathy and; 96 percent of participants reported an increased perception of peer support. Participants were also given a baseline assessment to evaluate their skill development prior to the start of the debate bootcamp and a final evaluation after the national competition. Over the course of the program, the skills most improved were critical thinking and argumentation which is the process of reasoning systematically in support of an idea, action, or theory.

Throughout the program the participants had sustained access to a network of 44 young political activists and community leaders, 22 established or promising policy experts and political leaders, and representatives from 17 community-based civic or political organizations. During each phase of the program, NDI developed social media materials, including five video productions, to develop the political profile of the participants and expand their reach locally and nationally. The video productions were also developed to illustrate the importance of debate and civil political dialogue for advocacy and policy reform. Each video production had over 1,000 unique views and reached 3,000-5,500 people respectively.

    Program Features

    • One year project, part of USAID-funded CEPPS program
    • Currently in its seventh iteration (Challenger VII) - will continue in 2021 with Challenger VIII and Challenger for Russian-speaking minorities
    • The debate component is one phase of a broader youth political participation program
    • Currently takes place virtually (prior to Covid-19 the program took place in Chisinau, and participants conducted field-based research projects in rural towns and villages across the country)
    • Extensive alumni network - alumni serve as mentors and judges in debate competitions

    Participant Profile

    • For youth under the age of 30 (primary focus is on ages 18-24)
    • Interested in politics and advocacy with little to no prior experience with research, debating and politics
    • Alumni (greater than 70 percent) go on to work in civil society or politics in Moldova as a result of their experience and connections made through the program
    • Alumni from two Challenger groups (Primaria Mea “Romanian for ‘My Town Hall’” and DeFacto) have created and officially registered CSOs that are subgrantees under NDI Moldova’s USAID-funded CEPPS program

    Program Phases

    1. Training and hands-on practice in grassroots political organizing and identifying issues, including going door-to-door
    2. Training on policy analysis to address an issue, including a debating exercise
    3. An extended case study on formulating policies to address a real-world problem
    4. An additional phase of the program, value-based debating was added to Challenger VII
    5. “Manifesto” Development

Training and hands-on practice in grassroots political organizing and identifying issues, including going door-to-door

During the first phase of the program, NDI’s trainers lead participants through a series of grassroots political organizing exercises. Most new participants have an interest in Moldovan political life but have little or no experience. The first phase consists of several workshops and mentoring sessions led by NDI’s political trainers and Challenger alumni during which participants learn the basics to identify a community-based problem through grassroots outreach and practice analyzing the problem - using tools such as problem tree analysis - to elicit the root causes of the problem. Groups traditionally focus on issues that specifically affect youth in various parts of Moldova. This exercise includes practice unofficially surveying Moldovan youth in-person, or over the phone on the issues of top priority in their communities.

Training on policy analysis to address an issue, including a debating exercise

During the next phase of the program, the youth, in partnership with NDI’s political trainers, identify one overarching theme from their preliminary grassroots outreach as a central focus for the debating exercise during this phase of the program. Challenger alumni and NDI’s trainers provide group and individual mentorship sessions, teaching participants the basics of argumentation and counter argumentation, as well as, public speaking, professional writing and other skills relevant to policy development and debating. Youth are divided into small groups, which serve as debate teams. The entire cohort of participants watches a mock debate between Challenger alumni to learn the basic format and rules of the debate. At the end of this phase, participants hold a formal debate, judged by alumni of the program and NDI’s trainers. Some groups represent the government, while the others represent the “opposition” which is traditionally done using parliamentary-style debate. Groups receive feedback on how well they prepared arguments, as well as each individual group member’s preparedness, presentation and public speaking skills. The judges select the most successful debaters and these individuals continue on to the next phase of the program.

An extended case study on formulating policies to address a real-world problem

The debate program began with over 100 young people participating in three policy dialogues in Coban, Quetzaltenango, and Guatemala City. These events provided participants with an opportunity to identify issues that matter to them, learn from policy experts and discuss pressing policy issues facing their communities and their country. Elected officials also joined the dialogues to provide their expertise and political insights. For many participants, this was their first opportunity to have a discussion with an elected official who represented their community.

Value-based debating

Following the policy dialogues, participants were invited to apply for a three-day debate “bootcamp”, designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to policy debate. The debate bootcamps quickly accelerated their learning and provided a safe environment to explore a range of polarizing topics. There were twenty participants at each camp and the curriculum was facilitated by one debate expert and three to five experienced youth debaters. Participants developed interpersonal skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, active listening and communication. Participants also developed practical political skills, such as the ability to research issues and develop and defend comprehensive policy recommendations. This combination of political skills, coupled with “soft” skills, strengthened their ability to better understand Guatemala’s political climate, and take part in discussions around policy reform. Taking part in the camps helped the participants better understand perspectives on both sides of complex public policy issues, minimized polarization over controversial political topics, and helped participants build respect and understanding for each other, despite geographical, ethnic, and economic differences. These positive interactions increased constructive collaboration and paved the way for the productive exchange of ideas.

Manifesto development

At the end of the case study, Challenger groups produce a “manifesto” outlining the issues that they have identified through door-to-door (or virtual/phone) surveys of citizens, as well as proposed policy solutions from across the political spectrum. These solutions are based on research and analysis carried out over the course of several months, which received rigorous feedback from NDI’s trainers and Challenger alumni. Each iteration of the Challenger program (I-VII) has produced its own manifesto of issues affecting youth and policy proposals to address those issues. At the end of the year-long program, NDI connects the participants with political and civil society leaders to share their manifesto and receive feedback. At this stage, participants graduate the program and receive a certificate. Some groups of participants will continue to organize advocacy campaigns or projects beyond the end of the program, around the case studies they carried out throughout the year-long program. Most notably, three groups of alumni have either created or are in the process of creating official CSOs to address these issues and have received in-kind grants and physical office space and resources, as well as guidance from NDI. NDI also offers mini grants, not to exceed $500 to groups if they wish to continue research with a focus on a new aspect of the issue they have identified.

    Program Features

    • Recurring activity since 2018 as part of NDI’s broader youth programming portfolio, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
    • Collaboration between NDI and the MTV-Lebanon television program “Sar El Wa2et” (“It’s About Time”)
    • Each television episode features two teams of three competing live on air, and each is a mix of women and men.
    • Style of debate: Policy debate

    Participant Profile

    • Several hundred young people have participated in NDI’s policy debate training since 2018 and serve on the roster of potential audience members and debaters for Sar El Wa2et.
      • The number of participants in a training can vary widely, from political party youth wing trainings with less than 10 participants, to a cohort of over 100 young people.
    • Participants include university students, members of civil society organizations, and members of political party youth wings.
    • Participants come from across Lebanon and represent its diverse sectarian and political communities.

Overview

Sar El Wa2et premiered in the fall of 2018 as a mix of traditional political interviews conducted by Lebanese political talk show host Marcel Ghanem, and opportunities for Lebanese youth to ask questions and participate in policy debates. The show’s format and collaboration with NDI stemmed from attempts by Marcel and NDI to hold Lebanon’s first formal political debates prior to the May 2018 parliamentary elections. Although party leaders and candidates did not agree to debates at that time, Marcel asked for NDI’s assistance incorporating debates into a new program he was developing for MTV-Lebanon in order to create more opportunities for youth engagement and to mainstream the concept of debates in Lebanon in preparation for the next round of elections.

Sar El Wa2et’s studio audience is composed mostly of Lebanese youth who take turns participating in policy discussions with guests, which include ministers, members of parliament, and party leaders. At the end of each episode, two teams of three youth debate an issue raised during the program—the first live policy debates of their kind in Lebanon. Over the course of the initiative, NDI has trained hundreds of Lebanese youth to improve their skills for data-driven policy debates, and the Institute developed a scoring system so that the series of debates can serve as nationally-televised competitions.

Policy Debate Trainings

With the assistance of NDI staff from Jordan experienced conducting training for policy debates, NDI has helped MTV-Lebanon develop a roster of hundreds of young people from diverse political and sectarian backgrounds who are now qualified to ask questions from the audience and participate in televised debates. Not only does NDI teach the rules and formats of the debates, but the Institutealso helps young people develop necessary soft skills like active listening and public speaking, as well as helping them access research resources in order to formulate data-driven arguments. Guest issue experts provide participants with policy knowledge and credible sources, which the students then use to practice debating during training sessions.

Debate Policy Competition

NDI developed a scoring system based on a mix of technical debate skills and the quality of data-driven issue-based arguments. A guest issue expert from each episode sits alongside an NDI staff member to perform the evaluations not only of the teams, but of each individual participant. Over the course of a season, the scores determine who advances to future rounds, culminating in episodes dedicated to semi-finals and finals, effectively a nationally televised debate competition.

Cultural and Political Impact

Marcel Ghanem and MTV-Lebanon hope that by expanding debate culture in Lebanon and by proving that young people can debate, they will pave the way for hosting Lebanon’s first debates between national political leaders before the next elections, currently scheduled for 2022. The show has achieved broad viewership and has resulted in viral moments on Lebanese social media. Some political leaders have remarked that they tune in specifically to watch the youth debate segment. This anecdotal evidence indicates that the debates are having at least some success shifting Lebanon’s political dialogue away from sectarianism and clientelism and toward data-driven problem solving.

Monitoring & Evaluation

Based on self-evaluations taken before and after NDI’s debate training, participants improved their capacity to build strong arguments from 3.3 to 4.6 out of 5. When rating their ability to use debate skills in practice, their confidence increased from 3.5 to 4.6 out of 5. Additionally, NDI staff have observed that the quality of the televised debates and the participant scores have improved over time.

    Program Features

    • A featured debate competition within the Usharek+ program
    • University-based program
    • Conducted in four stages: debate training; internal competitions within each university first; regional competitions between the universities of each region; National Debate Competition between the winning teams of the five regions.

    Participant Profile

    • Approximately 200 Usharek+ participants each year, ages 18-24
    • Participants are college students; active members of civil society organizations; and either affiliated with or members of political parties
    • Each cohort is gender-balanced and inclusive of indigenous youth and young people from both rural and urban areas

    Program Phases

    1. Debate Training
    2. Internal Competitions
    3. Regional Competitions
    4. National Competition

With financial support from USAID under the Consortium for Elections and Political Processes Strengthening (CEPPS), NDI launched the Ana Usharek (“I Participate”) youth political participation program in 2011. The program aims to increase engagement among youth in Jordan’s electoral and political processes through civic education, active learning, and targeted participation. The Ana Usharek cycle begins at the start of each academic year and consists of discussion sessions led by NDI’s coordinators on a variety of topics, including democracy, human rights, conflict resolution, gender citizenship, and local governance. A select number of graduates move on to the advanced Usharek+ program, in which participants utilize the knowledge acquired from the civic education curriculum and apply it to active participation and advocacy campaigns on local and national level issues. Usharek+ students also apply their skills through the National Debate Competition, a month-long event where Usharek+ students from different participating universities debate a variety of issues.

  1. Debate Training: NDI’s Ana Usharek coordinators train Usharek+ students on debating skills and techniques as part of the Usharek+ curriculum. Participants learn the basics of debate, including researching issues, and developing and defending policy views. Participants also develop interpersonal skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, active listening, and communication. Taking part in this training helps participants better understand perspectives on both sides of issues of concern to the public, develop an understanding and respect for others, and provide an outlet for youth to constructively share their perspectives.
  2. Internal Competitions: Usharek+ students form debate teams within their universities. Internal debate competitions are held between these teams at each university.
  3. Regional Competitions: Winners of the internal university debate competitions, then compete within their regions.
  4. National Competition: The series of debates culminates in a National Debate Competition between each winning team from the five regional competitions. The National Debate competition is attended by government officials, members of parliament, civil society representatives, and fellow students. Debaters in the national competition compete on several trending topics, such as youth engagement in decision-making processes in Jordan, the impact of new tax regulations and reforms, the decentralization law, and other topics of importance to young people. Arguments are assessed by a jury of civic and political activists and in front of a public audience, and winners are selected through jury votes and audience feedback. The event is live-streamed on Facebook and receives thousands of views of every year, as well as coverage from many media outlets within Jordan.

Social Media

NDI utilizes social media in a variety of different ways throughout the program to promote the activities across Jordan and help build excitement. Through the Ana Usharek Facebook page, debate teams can showcase their preparations and conduct online polls on debate topics. Furthermore, the results and winners of each round of debates are posted on the Facebook page. Allowing for the event to be live-streamed attracts viewers from all across Jordan and allows for it to be a country-wide event. Finally, through social media, attendees of the debate competition can share their views on the debate topics and whether their views have changed as a result of the arguments put forth by the debaters.

Monitoring & Evaluation

As an outcome of these activities, Usharek+ program participants better-equipped to use research and debate to promote policy solutions. Additionally, students have greater confidence to publicly defend their arguments. Since the National Student Debate Competition is live-streamed on Facebook, the program also has a multiplier effect by popularizing political and civic engagement among youth. As of September 2020, over 3,178 Usharek+ students have participated in the National Debate Competition and developed their debate skills. The 6th National Debate Competition was the last competition held for the 2018-2019 academic year. The 7th National Debate Competition was postponed due to COVID-19. The pre- and post-assessments administered to Ana Usharek and Usharek+ participants demonstrate the following:

  • The percentage of students who felt they could express their thoughts clearly increased from 63% to 77.7% following participation in the program.
  • The percentage of students who felt they were able to make a presentation or give a speech to a group of people increased from 46.5% to 66% following participation in the program.