We believe that education is key to empowering young people to make the crucial transition from school to work, and from childhood to independent adult citizens of their communities. Unfortunately, many young people in our target countries struggle to gain a good education, or find it hard to access jobs or set up their own business.
In the Foundation’s Middle Eastern target countries, education systems often fail to equip young people with the skills they need for adult life. An emphasis on memorisation and rote learning in many schools makes it difficult for young people to develop analytical and creative thinking skills, and all too often school and university curricula lack practical application and links to the job market.
Once they leave education, unemployment is a serious risk for young people in all four of the Foundation’s target countries. In Palestine, some 47% of 15-24 year olds are unemployed, with unemployment highest among university graduates. In Lebanon, youth unemployment stands at around 17%, and for young Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, prohibitive labour laws mean they are barred from all but a handful of professions. In the UK, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population, and they are strongly affected by cuts in services. In Syria, devastated by war, millions of young people have been out of education for years and there are precious few jobs for those who do manage to finish their education. Millions of Syrian young people and their families have moved abroad in search of education and employment, often suffering terrible trauma on the way.
It is also difficult for young people to set up their own businesses as an alternative to employment. They often lack the skills, the network and the access to finance.
What we do
We believe that well-educated and engaged young people, working with others as active members of society – be that through a civil society organisation or a business or social enterprise – can make a genuine contribution to the development of their communities.
The overall objective of the Youth Empowerment Programme is to address the structural and systemic issues that restrict the education, vocational and entrepreneurship opportunities available to young people, particularly those aged 16 – 24 from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and the UK. To do this, we will:
- Support organisations and initiatives that contribute to the overall vibrancy, professionalism, effectiveness and accountability of the education systems in Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.
- Support organisations that work on entrepreneurship (whether business or social) and on education for young people older than 16, potentially including scholarships run by partner organisations. This area of work willb e developed further during 2018. We will not support youth enterprise or scholarships directly, but only through other organisations.
We will do this by:
- Providing flexible grants and accompanying individual and organisational capacity-building support to organisations and initiatives.
- Providing grants to support research into challenging questions that addresses systemic change or issues.
- Providing grants to seed or test new ideas or approaches by organisations that we believe are particularly innovative, have strong potential to help young people and are related to the thematic areas above.
- Providing grants for, or initiating processes that bring together current and past partners and alumni for shared learning, exchange and joint initiatives.
Further information on the Foundation’s current Youth Empowerment Programme partners can be found to the right. Organisations interested in applying for a grant should click here for details of how to apply for a grant.
Photo credit: © UNHCR/Shawn Baldwin
 World Bank, Unemployment, youth total (% of total labor force ages 15-24) (national estimate), West Bank & Gaza, 2018 (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.NE.ZS?locations=PS), accessed 8 July 2019.
 World Bank, Unemployment, youth total (% of total labor force ages 15-24) (national estimate), Lebanon, 2018 (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.ZS?locations=LB), accessed 8 July 2019.