Increasing Youth Engagement While Mitigating Potential for Conflict in Ethiopia

Increasing Youth Engagement While Mitigating Potential for Conflict in Ethiopia

Project Description

Research Team


Mesele Mengsteab

Mesele Mengsteab
Assistant Professor, Social Work and Social Development
Addis Ababa University

Embedded Research Translation Lead:

Fitsum Hailu

Fitsum Hailu
Executive Director
Initiative for Peace and Development

Supporting Partner(s):

Juan Tellez

Juan F. Tellez
Assistant Professor in Political Science
University of California, Davis

Jeremy Springman

Jeremy Springman
Senior Research Associate
University of Pennsylvania

David Dow

David Dow
Research Scientist
University of Arizona

Sewhareg Adamu
PhD Fellow
Addis Ababa University

Project Information

Title of Project: Increasing youth engagement while mitigating potential for conflict in Ethiopia

Sector: Youth development, Civic Engagement and Leadership

Country: Ethiopia

Lead Institution: Addis Ababa University

Final Budget: $ 229,350.6

Project Length: 12 months

Research Objective:

The primary objective of this project is to implement and rigorously evaluate the impact of structured dialogue forums designed to promote youth civic engagement, social cohesion, and economic development. Our Tolerant Engagement Forums6 (TEF) consists of two components. First, we bring together youth and high-level representatives of government, political parties, and civil society to connect youth to actionable opportunities to participate in formal political institutions and parties, work with prominent civil society organizations, and benefit from ongoing public and private youth development programs. Second, youth participants engage in structured inter-ethnic contact and political dialogue in small, diverse groups. TEF draws on validated behavioral interventions (described later in the document) and existing development programs to create maximum impact. Importantly, TEF is low-cost, short-term, and highly scalable. Therefore, the project aims to increase the chance that our intervention increases youth engagement, prior to small group dialogues, representatives of civil society, government, and parties will provide youth with actionable information about opportunities to engage in politics. 

Project Description:

The project is motivated by recognition that any efforts to increase the civic engagement of Ethiopian youth must be designed to address the key role that ethnic identity and interests play in Ethiopian politics, particularly with respect to youth political movements. Increasing youth civic engagement is a necessary step to render the government more responsive to the social and economic needs of youth and to secure the role of youth in shaping the political development of their country. However, increased political mobilization can also promote tension, instability, and conflict. Our proposal attempts to tackle these pressing social needs while producing rigorous evidence of impact.

We propose a randomized impact evaluation of Initiative for Peace and Development (IPD’s) Tolerant Engagement Forums (TEF) among students at Addis Ababa University (AAU). TEFs will combine insights from practitioners in youth participation and peacebuilding with validated behavioral interventions from social science. Quantitative survey and qualitative interview data will be used to assess the effect of the TEF intervention on important outcomes related to civic engagement, economic wellbeing and empowerment, and social cohesion and tolerance, both generally as well as separately for young men and women in our sample. Our research team will work closely with IPD to translate and disseminate actionable findings to stakeholders through policy briefs, intervention training materials, and public presentations (virtual and in-country).

Embedded Research Translation Product:

Research Translation Products and Dissemination Plan: By estimating the effects of TEF on important outcomes through a rigorous research design, we will produce research that can inform future efforts at increasing youth political engagement while mitigating the potential for conflict in polarized societies. If successful, these psychological and behavioral interventions can be implemented easily and inexpensively by government agencies or civil society organizations at scale. We anticipate a number of research translation products that emerge from our project:

  • A TEF Replication Manual outlining the intervention, the research findings, and a detailed guide for replicating TEF events in other contexts
  • A TEF Dissemination video that pitches the TEF model to government agencies and civil society organizations 
  • Intermittent events for the USAID mission to Ethiopia to solicit ongoing feedback on how translation products and dissemination activities can be made more useful for USAID and other stakeholders 
  • A policy brief describing our intervention, methodology, and results that provides information and recommendations for a policymaking audience 
  • Academic papers to be published in peer-reviewed journals, that link the findings to broader literature and highlight what our findings tell us about youth engagement and ethnic conflict more broadly 
  • Public presentations aimed at policymakers, university administrators, and other stakeholders to communicate the impact of the TEF intervention on important outcomes for youth participation and development  

Embedded Research Translation Audience:

With respect to our dissemination strategy, we will leverage IPD’s connections to civil society organizations and government agencies to share our findings with key stakeholders and encourage the use of the TEF model by government agencies and civil society organizations. These organizations will include, but are not limited to:

  • The Ethiopian Civil Society Forum, 
  • The Coalition of Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations, 
  • The Network of Ethiopian Women’s Associations, 
  • The Ministry of Peace, 
  • The Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth, and 
  • The Addis Ababa City Gulele Sub City Administration. 

We aim to disseminate our findings via public-facing presentations that translate our research findings into actionable insights accessible to a broad, non-technical audience. In particular, we expect that IPD’s prior work with the Minister of Peace and Dr. Mengsteab’s connections with the university administrators at AAU and elsewhere will allow us to disseminate our findings to key policymakers that can incorporate the TEF curriculum into government and university programming. IPD’s membership in the Peacebuilding Task Force, organized by the UNDP and Ministry of Peace, provides an especially promising forum in which the TEF model can be promoted to government agencies and civil society within Ethiopia. To promote the TEF model internationally, consultants at Duke University’s DevLab@Duke can leverage their ongoing partnership with two of the largest international peacebuilding NGOs, PartnersGlobal and United States Institute of Peace. Research outputs, datasets, relevant information and success stories will also be shared on LASER PULSE website ( In addition to connecting students with development interventions funded by the USAID Integrated Youth Activity (mentioned earlier), we also hope to leverage connections with IYA to disseminate findings through the extensive network of Ethiopian partner organizations that will be involved.  

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Project Details