Empowering Young People in Creating an Inclusive and Livable City

The project helped enhance understanding of young people’s situation and improve the enabling environment for youth engagement in project areas. Photo credit: ADB.

Share on:           


A project in Mongolia mobilized ger youth to take an active role in community development.


The youth make up the largest demographic group in Mongolia, comprising more than a third of the population.[1] Many of them live in unplanned urban settlements, which are called ger districts because of the proliferation of traditional “ger” tents. These young people experience suboptimal development and engagement, which result in them being left behind in urban development initiatives.

A project supported by the Asian Development Bank sought to improve youth participation in urban community development and utilized participatory research, capacity building, micro-grants and action-planning with ger youth. It helped enhance understanding of young people’s situation and improve the enabling environment for youth engagement in project areas.

Enhancing Youth-Led Engagement for Creating an Inclusive and Livable City in Ulaanbaatar Ger Areas (Technical Assistance-6895) was implemented by the Municipality of Ulaanbaatar between June 2022 and June 2023, with support from Save the Children Japan, Mongolia Office. It used meaningful youth engagement principles, which promote the active participation of young people throughout the program life cycle and youth–adult partnerships that empower the youth.


Sixty percent of Ulaanbaatar’s population, including youth, reside in the ger areas and live in poor conditions due to limited development opportunities and inadequate infrastructure and services. [2]

Young people also face employment and health issues. Most of them either work in the informal sector where they work long hours and are exposed to exploitative labor practices[3] or are not in employment, education, or training.[4] Accidents are a leading cause of youth morbidity[5]. Two in 10 young women have experienced physical or sexual assault, and suicide, violence, and homicide rates are high among young men. [6]

There is limited knowledge on how to meaningfully engage with the youth in ger area development and leverage their potential. Existing youth engagement mechanisms are ineffective. There is a lack of intergenerational collaboration as well as high barriers to participation.


ADB is supporting two ongoing projects that aim to improve living conditions in the ger areas: the multi-tranche financing facility Ulaanbaatar Urban Services and Ger Areas Development Investment Program and the Ulaanbaatar Green Affordable Housing and Resilient Urban Renewal Sector Project (Green Affordable Housing Project). Both projects intend to involve young people in the implementation of activities through multi-stage initiatives.

The first stage is to create an enabling environment for meaningful youth engagement in the ger areas, and pilot youth engagement initiatives in Bayankhoshuu and Selbe subcenters. The second stage is to continue implementation and to scale up youth development and youth-led ger community initiatives.

The design of appropriate activities with the youth depends on the following two components, which the context currently lacks: (1) reliable and relevant information about young people’s needs, aspirations, and actions; and (2) an engagement-enabling environment for youth leadership in addressing community challenges and for promoting local ownership.


The project supported the development of youth-led methodologies, approaches, and tools to gather and analyze data on youth development and ger youth engagement issues as well as catalyze and demonstrate youth-led community solutions to urban development issues. These activities were expected to strengthen the enabling environment for meaningful youth engagement in the ger areas and produce findings and recommendations that will be useful for designing ongoing and future projects.

Meaningful youth engagement principles and participatory action research approaches were used to encourage young people to take active roles and strengthen civil society participation in urban development projects in Ulaanbaatar. The following approaches ensured that young people were leading the activities while fostering collaboration with ADB, the municipal government and the program management office:

  • Deployment of an intergenerational research team, which consisted of senior technical experts and youth researchers who jointly developed the methodology and carried out data collection activities;
  • Mobilization of youth under the Youth Urban Ambassadors program, which piloted peer-to-peer approaches to support project implementation in communities; and
  • Launch of a micro-grant competition for youth-led community initiatives in urban design, planning, governance, and development to catalyze youth action and crowdsource local solutions.

These strategies facilitated cross-learning between project stakeholders and the youth, provided concrete opportunities for young people’s participation in implementation, and leveraged the strengths and assets of local youth in their communities. For example, the research team combined adults’ technical expertise and youth’s understanding of their life experience for the youth situational analysis. The young people conducted human-centered design consultations and workshops to gather user feedback to inform the construction of facilities.


The project demonstrated how to meaningfully engage the youth in urban development by practicing the following meaningful youth engagement principles:

  • Youth diversity and inclusion. Youth ambassadors ensured that marginalized youth were reached and mobilized to join activities.
  • Intergenerational partnerships. Collaboration between the youth, government and ADB staff and consultants throughout the project cycle promoted cross-learning and leveraged strengths.
  • Engagement-enabling environment. Capacity building, funding, and technical support to the youth team and government prepared them for their roles and for working together in the project. Micro-grants enabled the youth to implement their own initiatives.
  • Quality participation. The young people had clear roles and were involved at each stage of the project cycle.
  • Youth empowerment. The youth acquired skills, knowledge, and networks, contributing to their development as they led activities targeting community-level change and contributed to future policy and program initiatives.

Furthermore, a youth situational analysis was developed, which consisted of multi-dimensional poverty and social analysis, gender analysis, labor market assessment for youth in the ger areas, and recommendations for improving support to existing youth development and youth participation initiatives in the ger districts. It also included a youth civic engagement roadmap, which identified opportunities, challenges, and priorities for promoting meaningful youth engagement in urban planning and development.


The key lessons from the project are as follows:

Empower young team members to lead initiatives. Proactiveness on the part of young team members, including the youth urban ambassadors, was essential to reducing communication barriers with target beneficiaries and addressing problems. In addition to capacity building, support from adult team members, government partners, and ADB staff and consultants boosted the youth’s confidence and motivation to have greater ownership of the project and its results.

Explore approaches to reach marginalized youth. Youth-led outreach in the target areas utilized strategies that best responded to the contextual realities of beneficiaries and were successful in engaging peers from their own communities. For example, they facilitated an interactive workshop to review the youth survey tool for the youth situational analysis and make it relevant to respondents. Engaging a national civil society organization with connections to target areas further improved reach to marginalized groups. An approach that could be piloted further is tapping local youth’s own networks.

Prepare non-youth partners for youth engagement. Ensuring partners also have the necessary technical expertise to support the youth is critical, whether this relates to research or urban development or to working with youth. Capacity building, especially in youth safeguarding and meaningful youth engagement, help prepare for intergenerational collaboration and increase awareness among stakeholders.

Manage barriers to participation. Various factors affect participation, such as seasonal changes, distance, length of engagement, and competition with other priorities (especially employment-related). When mobilizing the youth for several months, clarity on the duration of their involvement and frequent check-ins manage expectations and mitigate burnout. Consider finding alternatives, especially during the winter, or when youth participants have other obligations, such as employment or family responsibilities. Examples are hybrid delivery mechanisms, providing stipends/allowances, and online activities.

[1] Government of Mongolia, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. 2006. National Programme on Adolescents and Youth Development. Ulaanbaatar; and B. Gardi and A. Dashdorj. 2016. Effects of Rapid Urbanisation on Youth in Mongolia.

[2] G. Sing. 2017. Urban Poverty in Ulaanbaatar: Understanding the Dimensions and Addressing the Challenges. Washington DC: World Bank.

[3] International Labour Organization. 2013. Youth Employment Challenges in Mongolia.

[4] World Bank Open Data. n.d. Share of Youth Not in Education, Employment or Training, Total (% of Youth Population) in Mongolia. Accessed on 28 June 2023.

[5] D. Sugar. 2019. The Submission of the Mongolian Youth Council to the Third Cycle of Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

[6] Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). 2014. Gender Overview: Mongolia.


ADB Youth for Asia. 2022. Meaningful Youth Engagement Training. ADB eLearn platform.

E. Ozer et al. 2020. Youth Participatory Approaches and Health Equity: Conceptualization and Integrative Review. American Journal of Community Psychology. pp.1–12.

I. Caluag. 2021. Presentation of ADB Youth for Asia’s Meaningful Youth Engagement Framework. ADB’s 54th Annual Meeting Civil Society Program – Meaningful Youth Engagement for Inclusive Recovery. 05 May.

Plan International. 2021. Youth Voices in Youth Employment: A Roadmap for Promoting Meaningful Youth Engagement in Youth Employment Programs. New York: Citi Foundaton/Youth Employment Funders Group.

T. A. Argo, S. Prabonno, and P. Singgi. 2016. Youth Participation in Urban Environmental Planning through Augmented Reality Learning: the Case of Bandung City, Indonesia. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 227. pp. 808–814.

World Health Organization. 2020. Global Consensus Statement on Meaningful Adolescent and Youth Engagement. Geneva: PMNCH Secretariat.

Iris Caluag
Meaningful Youth Engagement Specialist, ADB Youth for Asia

Iris has been leading policy advocacy on women’s economic empowerment, youth employment, and meaningful youth engagement in the Asia–Pacific region. She has managed regional initiatives on young women’s economic empowerment that involved research, capacity building, and stakeholder engagement. She now supports the Asian Development Bank’s Youth for Asia in promoting meaningful youth engagement in ADB operations.

Swithun Rumble
Consultant, Asian Development Bank

Swithun Rumble worked as a consultant under the TA-6895 project. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University. Before TA-6895, he worked as a consultant for ADB Youth for Asia under the NGO and Civil Society Center, assisting in the design and coordination of meaningful youth engagement initiatives.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Asian Development Bank is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.

Follow Asian Development Bank (ADB) on
Leave your question or comment in the section below:

The views expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or its Board of Governors or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this publication and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. By making any designation of or reference to a particular territory or geographic area, or by using the term “country” in this document, ADB does not intend to make any judgments as to the legal or other status of any territory or area.