Skip to main content


Youth Organizations Forum – Go-For
Ankara, Turkey

Names of the participants from the organization:
Özge Samuk, Fırat Demir replaced by Furkan Uruç
(Diyarbakır Environment and Development Association)
Sinan Cem Aslanoğlu, İlke İzmir (Nilüfer Youth Council)
Tuba Akın, Gökçe Yetkin replaced by Gizem Dikmen (Harass Map)
Selçuk Aslan Mert Haskan replaced by Mısra Kılıç
(Association of Back to Nature)
Areas of work: Youth Policy, Youth Advocacy, Youth Representation

Youth Organizations Forum (GoFor) is a platform to which organizations maintaining rights-based studies are affiliated. Youth Organizations Form aims to ensure the participation of youth organizations engaged in rights-based work, in the studies implemented with regards to youth policies. GoFor advocates that public institutions and non-governmental organizations should act together to constitute and secure a universal youth policy.

The Belarusian National Youth Council – RADA
Vilnius, Lithuania

Names of the participants from the organization:
Özge Samuk, Fırat Demir replaced by Furkan Uruç
(Diyarbakır Environment and Development Association)
Sinan Cem Aslanoğlu, İlke İzmir (Nilüfer Youth Council)
Tuba Akın, Gökçe Yetkin replaced by Gizem Dikmen (Harass Map)
Selçuk Aslan Mert Haskan replaced by Mısra Kılıç
(Association of Back to Nature)
Areas of work: Youth Policy, Youth Advocacy, Youth Representation

Belarusian National Youth Council “RADA” is a voluntary union of 27 youth associations, being created with the purpose of consolidating youth organizations and initiatives of Belarus. “RADA” operates in the areas of representation, promotion, and defending common interests and freedoms of youth organizations and young people of Belarus.


Program Summary:
Similar to one another, shrinking democratic space, the polarisation of the political landscape, violations of the rule of law and a lack of sustainable resources characterise the atmospheres of Belarus and Turkey within which GoFor and RADA operate. RADA and GoFor are not recognized by the state as “National Youth Council” although they both act as de facto NYCs in their respective countries. Both organisations have been struggling for recognition for years. To have a stronghold in such environments, RADA and GoFor, similarly, need to include an ever-growing diversity of youth actors in their structures to amplify voices against forces that infringe on the rights of citizens. The organisations need to produce policies and positions on human rights, gender equality, environmental issues to be able to speak to changing needs and interests of young people.



With this project, GoFor and RADA aim to empower their member organisations to better advocate for youth rights and take a stronger position against shrinking space in international contexts. Adapting new methods of inclusion and innovative ways of advocacy, RADA and GoFor adapt a discourse of #expandthespace to replace the negative shrinkage discourse with a positive outlook. Building on that, GoFor and RADA provide participants with training to build capacity on the theory of advocacy, digital tools of campaigning. The training then are supported with a study visit to ensure the realisation of program objectives:

1. developing the existing capacity of participating organisations to ensure inclusion and participation of different segments of youth in their advocacy efforts,
2. (2) expanding the shrinking space by fostering an exchange of information and experiences of youth advocacy and policy making,
3. strengthening international cooperation by nurturing relationships among RADA, GoFor, DNK and participating organisations,
4. developing an understanding of mechanisms of international advocacy and civil society-public cooperation mechanisms work at the European level.

All of which adds to the strengthening of young civil society and wider in the development of more democratic societies in both countries.



1. Call for applications
The call was made on 20 June with a deadline of 5 August. Due to the low numbers of applications or difficulties faced by applicant organisations in getting two people to participate in the program for the reasons linked in the footnote (challenging situation in both countries), the application deadline and selection processes have been extended until the end of August. To ensure fair conditions of acceptance, priority would be given to initial applicants. To ensure full participation, applicant organisations were contacted via email and phone to confirm their sustained interest and availability after the extension and changes in the schedule. After applicant feedback, it was not deemed necessary to make a wide-ranging call again.

2. Online KickOff/APV in June & July ’21
KickOff-Advanced Planning Meeting was planned to take place in Belarus in June. Due to Covid-19 restrictions on international travel, political persecution of civil society members in Belarus 1 , it has then been carried out digitally since June 18. Re-adjustment of which included weekly meetings of RADA&GoFor and active use of a shared Google Drive Folder and instant messaging app Telegram, all of which added value to the partnership strengthening ties between and improving a sense of organisational memory across the two. Since RADA and GoFor have been partners for years, it was rather easy to adjust to the digital means of communication and maintain constructive dialogue to achieve project tasks. Minutes of the meetings can be found on Google Shared Drive to improve cross-organisational memory.

3. Online Training on Introduction to Advocacy Theory and Practice September ’21
Titled Training on Introduction to Advocacy Theory and Practice, this activity was planned to take place in Eskişehir, Turkey on 17-21 August. Several factors forced the cancellation of the event to be carried out digitally. First, devastating forest fires in Turkey 2 and closure of member organisations of RADA in Belarus 3 challenged full participation. Then, a blanket ban on civil society activities in Eskişehir was put in place for the dates 07 to 21 August by the city’s Governor 4 which was a defining move that this event would not be held face-to-face. Before that, tickets of 4 Belarusian participants and an international trainer were already purchased. These tickets were returned which is reflected in the financial report with relevant correspondence. Minutes of the preparation meetings can be found in Google Shared Drive. The event was re-organized to be carried out digitally over two following weekends in 25-26 September and 2-3 October. The training had an introductory nature on advocacy and policy advocacy containing elements of types of advocacy and tactics, approaches, tools, thematic campaigning, reporting, evaluation, policy briefs as an effective and a practical tool, practical information for lobbying, and campaign planning and implementation. Planned this way, participants would be able to zoom out and better understand the wider context around youth advocacy, reflect, theorise and act on the change that their organisations are aiming for while also developing a common understanding of the subject. All of which would help participating organisations build capacity to carry out youth advocacy campaigns in their respective countries.



4. Online Training on Digital Tools of Advocacy in December ’21
Training took place on 11.12.2021. It was facilitated by Ö.M. Kütküt who also joined in the first training session. Digital tools training covered introduction to visual designing on Canva, video editing on Lumen5, Kapwig, campaign management and planning on Google ecosystem, utilisation of Twitter. Training was combined with a publication. The publication included a catalogue on applications covered and some others. It was then printed and distributed to participants as well as other potentially interested parties. Minutes of which can be found on Google Shared Drive.

5. Offline Ankara Visit & Harvesting Workshops in February ’22
This event replaced a study visit to Berlin co-financed by DBJR. Initial activity was planned to take place in September – October period in Germany. As a result of delays in initial activities, and constantly changing covid-19 restrictions, study visit to Berlin was postponed several times. However, RADA and GoFor maintained fortnightly meetings with DBJR to achieve study visits and further developed their partnership all along. Relevant documents can be found on Google Shared Drive. Partners eventually decided to carry out a study visit in Ankara on 22-26 February which was complemented with a digital session hosted by DBJR as part of the Ankara program. Digital session helped finalise ongoing meetings between all three parties within the project period. This session had an introductory nature to allow DBJR, its member organisations and participants of the project to get to know each other. Partners also agreed on carrying out an offline meeting entirely financed by DBJR on 16-20 May which is beyond the project period.

While the activity was taking place, Russian invasion of Ukraine began. This was a major source of stress for participants especially for those of RADA as Belarus was involved in the war in many ways. Participants were asked if they would like to carry on the program as planned. There was a consensus to continue. Yet, there was a call from the Romanian National Youth Council to other national youth councils around the Black Sea to discuss the latest developments the same night. For that, a brief session was carried out to collect rapid response from Exchange the Project! participants which were then passed onto the Black Sea NYC session by RADA. As a joint decision participants of the project together with the coordinating team, RADA created statements and an info-pack in English with all the urgent information for international refugees who tried to find the way out of Ukraine but couldn’t receive information in Ukrainian or Russian. The info-pack was updated for 1 month and made available online.

6. Preparation of a Position Paper in March ’22
Workshops carried out in Ankara were taken as an opportunity to harvest participant input to come up with a position paper on the shrinking civil space in Belarus and Turkey. RADA and GoFor are now working with an expert to draft a position paper which will create the basis of an international policy advocacy campaign to help expand civil spaces for youth in both countries. Initially, partners intended to submit the paper to the online Human Dimension Meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe 5 . However, the event was postponed due to the war in Ukraine and would be carried out face-to-face. The paper will now be submitted to the European Youth Forum to seek alliances to carry policy advocacy campaigns in future.



Partnership Dynamics:

As with most youth organisations, Both RADA and Go-For as well as their member organisations seem to have similar problems associated with the need for capacity-building when it comes to issues such as funding and resources, cooperation and networking, volunteer management, project writing and implementation and so on. However, their most distinct similarity comes from their governments’ failure to recognize these organisations as national youth councils. All of these create a harsh environment that enables external factors, which often operate outside the organisations’ sphere of influence, to undermine the functioning of the organisation and its members. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the two and member organisations to acknowledge drivers, trends and forces in the external environment to sustain their efforts. Flexibility then becomes a significant aspect of their work to deal with constantly changing environments and upcoming challenges. Dealing with similar issues, both organisations have been working together across multiple partnership projects proving the significance of flexibility. Beyond this, youth advocacy here remains an overarching way of overcoming their challenges, strengthening their position and increasing sphere of influence in youth affairs in their respective countries.

Program Design:
GoFor and RADA have a joint history of advocating for youth rights and empowering their organisation to do so. With the current program, the two and participating organisations will be able to increase the impact of their expertise in the area of policy advocacy through the international mobility framework. In doing so, the program consists of four phases that build on top of each other. First, the existing capacities of participating organisations are developed through individual development of member organisation representatives. Then, participating organisations which work in different thematic fields and with different segments of youth, are invited to bring their expertise and share those. It helps expand the scope of experiences in the attempt to produce a position paper to contribute the efforts to expand civic space in their countries. This then created the basis of RADA and GoFor’s joint commitment to harvest a position paper as a result of the project.

We had 4 participating organisations from under the umbrella of partners. Every organisation participated via 2 representatives. For Belarusian participants it was difficult to follow the Program since Belarusian government started a huge campaign against democratic civil society organisations by cancelling their registration or forcefully closing them. Fearing for personal prosecution many activists from RADA member organisations as well as from other Belarusian civil society organisations left the country and needed to settle in a new environment. It imposed low participation in digital webinars but this was compensated for by RADA representative’s efforts. It was ensured that those who did not attend the digital sessions read all the materials before attending the visit in Ankara. Due to the disruption 2 of RADA’s participating organisations didn’t continue and were substituted in November 2021 with special consultations and webinar to get them on par with other participants.

Capacity Building Areas:



We find the Civil Society Exchange model very useful – it gave us an opportunity to try out our own exchange mechanism, to test how it works, what it demands on organisation and partnership level. As RADA we are already using the results of the CSE model in another project with Belarusian civil society actors and internationally to provide mentorship and exchange opportunities for Belarusian youth. It is especially important since many EU funded exchange opportunities are unavailable for Belarusian youth due to repression of the democratic youth organisations in the country.

From participants we received feedback that now they are not afraid to try advocacy but it would be too optimistic to say that they already have it on a systematic basis. At least they know the tools and they see the road but it is on their own now to practise it. They are familiar with different sides of advocacy (policy, campaigning, raising awareness, information and digital advocacies) they are aware of how to plan and theory of implementation of advocacy actions. Who to focus upon in advocacy actions, how to involve and increase supporters.

As national youth councils partners made it clear that if they have additional questions on advocacy campaigning and actions they can always reach out. At the same time during an offline seminar in Ankara when war in Ukraine started participants were involved in joint advocacy actions and contributed to development of policy documents and info-pack as an urgent response to the situation. So they contributed to the advocacy actions in a practical way.


News from Exchange