Posted on March 11, 2014

A three-day event hosted by Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) has gathered policy makers, practitioners, academics and researchers to discuss evidence for the effectiveness of various approaches to increasing youth employment and productivity across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Held March 6-8, “The Doha Evidence Symposium: Increasing Youth Productivity in the Middle East and North Africa” was organized by the International Labour Organization in partnership with regional social initiative Silatech, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, and the Arab Urban Development Institute.

The Arab region has the world’s highest rate of unemployment among young people, at 29 percent. A substantial number of initiatives have been introduced over the past decade to improve employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth. While some of these interventions appear to have been relatively successful, the evidence for what works is relatively lacking. The region has yet to fully learn from and build upon the lessons of youth-focused interventions in the region and internationally.

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According to Silatech CEO Dr. Tarik M. Yousef, “Accurately measuring real programmatic impact—that is, substantial, tangible benefits in the lives of young people—is difficult. Moreover, there is a natural desire to paint unsuccessful programs as successes. Only if we are bold enough to be honest, to share our knowledge and our experiences openly, and to learn what approaches secure actual gains for young people can we then gain real traction in our efforts to foster youth economic empowerment in this region.”

Presenters at the Doha Evidence Symposium shared findings and recommendations from recently completed impact evaluations on youth employment, entrepreneurship and productivity. Participants were also introduced to basic methods and techniques for evaluating the efficacy and impact of programs. Conference organizers arranged for one-on-one meetings between youth service organizations and experts designed to provide organizations with specific, program-relevant advice on potential impact evaluation strategies.