From the rich experiences and lessons of various youth formations and movements1, the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN), a youth-led and youth-serving Philippine NGO, has evolved a home-grown and organic model of working for and with young people. For the longest time, this model while recognized has not been given a proper name. On the occasion of CYAN’s 15th year of formal foundation, and the International Youth Day, CYAN’s Youth-Centered Development Model (YODEMO) have been finally conceived and named.

YODEMO encapsulates and articulates CYAN’s raison d’etre. It is a model that puts young people at the front and center. It recognizes the unique characteristics of young people, their rights, their roles, and their value in the society. It is a lens to analyze and highlight the plight of young people. YODEMO recognizes the role of young people as “agents of change” and partners in community development and nation building.

YODEMO Essentials

YODEMO is further characterized by four essential elements (the YODEMO Essentials): you/th awareness (youth agency), social consciousness, engagement, and enabling environment.

The very first essential element of YODEMO is ‘you/th awareness’ or ‘youth agency’. For young people like us, it means the Y.O.U. in youth. Youth awareness means better understanding of ourselves, our experiences, and the environment that we are in. For people working with youth, it means a shoe to step and walk in. This element brings a deep understanding of youth: characteristics, demographics, rights, issues and challenges, and value. It answers the questions: what does youth mean? How do you characterize youth?

There are different ways to define and characterize youth. However, whichever definition one uses, it will point out to “a critical stage of development”. In biology, youth is when a lot of physical changes are happening. It is a time for raging hormones2, awkwardness, and the proverbial ‘ugly duckling”. Psychologically, it is the time to deal with issues of identity, sexual orientation, acceptance, belongingness, and peer pressure. Sociologically, it is the time for defining one’s t role in family and part in society, of challenging the concepts of right and wrong, and a period for angst and rebellion.

Even our Constitution and laws recognize that youth is “the critical period in a person’s growth and development, from the onset of adolescence towards the peak of mature, self-reliant and responsible adulthood…”3

If this period is not well understood and managed, all of these changes contribute to confusion and to stress. Not managed well, these could result in stunted growth and development, with long lasting impact .

The second essential element of YODEMO is ‘social consciousness’. Youth is also the time when people find their space, niche, and role in their society.

YODEMO traces back the historical role of young people as ‘agents of change’. From Jose/Dimasalang/Laong Laan, 24, who wrote Noli Me Tangre; to Boni/Maypag-asa, late 20s, who founded and led the Katipunan; to Oryang/Lakambini, 17, who led the women-wing of the Katipunan; to Emil/Pingkian, 19, who was the ‘brains of the Katipunan’; to Goyo/“the Boy General”, 21; and, Mac, who joined the Katipunan at 16, and was 24 when he became the President of the Republika ng Katagalugan. During the Spanish occupation, young people fought against abuse and injustice, young people fought for independence. This is also true during the American and Japanese occupations. Young people also stood to challenge Marcos’ abuses during the First Quarter Storm, and offered their lives and limbs to fight the dictatorship. Young people as ‘agenst of change’ is true to the lost generation of Lorena Baros, Lean Alejandro, and Edgar Jopson and many other martyrs that lit their candles for the democracy and human rights borne of their revolution.

Young people’s historical role as agents of change is echoed in Jose Rizal’s allusion to youth as the “fair hope of the motherland”. This role is enshrined in our 1987 Constitution that recognizes the “vital role of youth in nation-building”.

‘Engagement’ (Pakikilahok o Pagkilos) is the third essential element of YODEMO. Engagement defines how young people will take on their role as ‘agents of change’ and ‘nation-builders’. Young people are called to protect, preserve, and cherish our independence; to further build and develop our democracy; to promote and fulfill our human rights – the gifts from young people who came before us. Further, young people are also called to continue unfinished struggles against inequality, to ending hunger and poverty, to fight continued injustice and exploitation in present times.

There are debates on the ways and means. On one hand, to take up arms once again and topple the existing order; on the other, through building gradual but long lasting reforms within.While there are debates on means, there are no debates on the fundamental call for young people to engage, makilahok at kumilos.

YODEMO identifies different mechanisms for youth participation and recognizes their potentials and limitations, from the National Youth Commission (NYC), the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), the National Youth Parliament (NYP), and the National Anti-Poverty Commission – Youth and Student Sector, to non-govermenntal organizations like CYAN, and various youth and students formations at the national and local levels.

There are existing mechanisms and ways, but young people create new ones and find new ways. From such a thread, various causes and campaigns emerged, like the SK Reform Coalition, the Youth for Mental Health Coalition (Y4MHC), the Students Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Coalition, and Youth Resists, to mention some. In these examples, what is fundamental, again, is for the youth to engage and take action.

The fourth essential element of YODEMO is ‘enabling environment’. Enabling environment takes into account the factors that promote young people’s participation, outside of youth agency (awareness, social consciousness and engagement). This pertains to laws and norms, as well as actual practices and mechanisms that enable young people to achieve their full potentials, and to actively participate in their family, school, and community processes. It recognizes that young people need the support, guidance, and partnership of adults (as against imposition, manipulation, and patronage) in order to fully develop. It reaffirms that youth is the critical stage of change and development when support and guidance from adults are of similarly critical importance.

Enabling environment accounts for factors that either hinder or facilitate youth engagement or participation.

On the PRO-side: 1. we have a long history of active and progressive youth and student movement that we can relive and build on; 2. we have the 1987 Constitution and laws (RA 8044 – Youth in Nation Building Act of 1995, RA 8425 – Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act of 1998, RA 7160 – The LGU Code of 1991, RA 10742 – The SK Reform Act of 2016, among others) to turn back to for policy and guidance; and, 3. we have mechanisms and institutions in place, the NYC, NAPC YS, SK, CYAN, and other youth and student organizations.

On the CON-side, we have traditional politics (trapos) and regressive culture. We have trapos, teaching SKs ‘SOPs’ which has turned the institution into a breeding ground for corruption. We have trapos who use NYC as a house for their pets, and trapos that only take your participation as a token. We have elections that effectively marginalize first time voters. On the regressive culture side, there is massive consumerism that defines a persons’ worth with how much they can buy; entertainment and mass media that distract our attention and bombard us daily with trash; and a cycle of defeat that paralyzes young people in a collective curse of learned helplessness.

Young people are currently in an environment that does not nurture their development and provide opportunities to contribute to their society. In education for example, based on CHED data (2018), only 28% of the youth are in college; while according to DepEd (2016) only about 50% of young people are able to graduate from high school. The access is poor and the quality of education is dismal. According to the 2015 National Achievement Test (NAT) Results, the average score of elementary students was 69%, and 49% for highschool. Twenty five percent (25%) of young people are considered #officiallytambay, neither in school nor at work. Furthermore, in a study in 2015, 75% of young Pinoys want to work abroad. On an average, it takes 1 year for a college graduate to land a job, and 3 years for a high school graduate.

While 60% of the population are ages 30 and below, and 1/3 are young people, 15-30 years old, young people are not proportional represented in public spaces, and share of resources and prioritization of the country. For example, median age of legislators was 54 in 2018; while only 3/10 are female4. Budget for education is about a mealsy 2% of the GDP.

Recognizing these, YODEMO puts forward proposals on what can be done by young people to create an environment that enables their meaningful participation.

First, to find and work with champions and allies within the government. For example, the passage of the SK Reform Law was because of the concerted effort of SKs, youth groups, and the champions in Congress, and partners in NYC and DILG. The same for the passage of the Mental Health Law. It is a tried and tested formula that we can use to further our campaigns and agenda, such as SOGIE, STRAW, Anti-ENDO, etc. At the local level, we can also find champions and allies, perhaps the Barangay Captain or a Kagawad, or the Mayor or a councilor. Finding and working with champions and allies from within will help us do the work.

Second, among ourselves, young people, we can collaborate and create networks for solidarity, for peer to peer learning. CYAN for example, links us in its expansive network of youth and student activists and progressive organizations, so we can work together and help push each other up.

Young people have spaces and mechanisms to reclaim, like the NYC, SK. The NYC, as a government mechanism, and SKs ,as elected officials, are duty-bearers that have a big role to create an enabling environment for young people at the community and national levels.


Aside from the essential elements, YODEMO can be distinguished from other modelr. There are different models and approaches to working for and with young people. Unfortunately, many of these models and approaches are traditional and dogmatic. If there are traditional politicians or TRAPO, there are traditional models or TRAMO.

What sets YODEMO apart from TRAPO is its foundation on youth awareness and understanding, the first essential element. It follows that YODEMO provides a unique perspective on the youth and the issues and challenges they face.

The difference between YODEMO and TRAPO is pronounced in looking at these issues and challenges. In the issue of rising cases of teenage pregnancies, STD and HIV, for example, TRAMO would highlight the lack of morals among youth or their exposure to porn and the internet or condom and sex that makes the young horny. The solutions that TRAMO would propose would be to ban talks about sex, ban condoms, ban porn and internet; then, more rigid morals inculcations. On the other hand, YODEMO, firstly, recognizes that due to raging hormones, puberty, and curiosity among young people, ‘horny-ness’ is but normal. Because it is normal, it should be talked about, and not treated as a taboo. Young people should be given access to age appropriate sex education and services, to ensure that when they do engage in sex, which they usually do, they have information and choices for safe and satisfying one.

TRAMO looks at budget for youth services as an additional burden if not wasteful. YODEMO sees it as critical expenditure for the development of young people, as an investment for a brighter future. TRAMO views young people as the problem, something to be fixed, or as beneficiaries at the receiving end of program and projects. YODEMO sees youth as part of the solution, and as partners in developing and implementing projects.

Youth Value and Demographic Sweet Spot

YODEMO recognizes the value of youth. Young people possess energy, idealism, imagination and passion. They are full of potentials that need to be developed and tapped.

The Youth in Nation Building Act recognizes the value of youth: “abilities, talents and skills and redirecting their creativity, inventive genius and wellspring of enthusiasm and hope” which can be channeled “for the freedom of our people from fear, hunger and injustice” (RA 8044, Section 2).

By sheer size, young people are a big resource. Economists point to a “demographic window of opportunity” “demographic dividend” or “demographic sweet spot”. The Philippines having a young population has this demographic window of opportunity for rapid and high economic growth. In countries that experienced this opportunity, like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Taiwan, a 35% increase in GDP was observed, dubbed as “East Asian Economic Miracle”.

However, the demographic dividend is not automatic. Economists point to three (3) important factors that may affect this: investment in education, health, and employment opportunities. These are primary issues and challenges among youth, necessary factors for an enabling environment.

With the rate of investments on and prioritization of young people, we could miss this demographic sweet spot. Aside from a missed opportunity, non-investment on young people could lead to youth delinquency, rebellion, and violence and extremism, as in experience of other countries.

For YODEMO, the choice is obvious.



1The Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking, CYAN, was officially registered as a non-governmental organization in 2005. Prior to that, CYAN has been operating a loose network of different youth organizations and formations, from what will compose Akbayan Youth, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP), and Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan (ALYANSA) – an alliance of different community-based youth organizations. MASP and ALYANSA have been disbanded will new organizations and youth coalitions have emerged and have joined the Network, notably the Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace),which advocates for peace and the participation of young people on the peace talks, the SK Reform Coalition, which lobbied for reforms on SK, the Bukluran UP-System, a coalition of students organizations under the University of the Philippines, and most recently, the Youth for Mental Health Coalition, which successfully pushed for the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Law.

2 Harvard Medical School. 2011. “The adolescent brain: Beyond raging hormones” The Harvard Health Blog.

3 RA 8044/Youth in Nation Building Act of 1995. Section 2.

4Bueza, M. 2019. “I8th Congress by the Numbers” Rappler.