There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today, nearly 90 per cent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries — the largest cohort ever.

Yet globally more than 200 million adolescents are out of school and youth unemployment is 13% globally; 3 times higher than the rate for adults. There are many different reasons for this, ranging from escaping conflict to disability to education systems that don’t provide the skills young people need for employment today. But the common challenges are a lack of opportunity and systems that fail to provide skills for work and for life.

UPSHIFT is an opportunity to support youth and adolescents to become a force for positive social and economic change, contributing to a competitive labour force, sustained economic growth, improved governance, and vibrant civil societies. The UPSHIFT programme blends leading approaches to youth and adolescent development with social innovation and social entrepreneurship. UPSHIFT empowers young people to identify challenges in their communities and create entrepreneurial solutions to address them.

The UPSHIFT approach

UPSHIFT is designed to build transferable skills and create opportunity, with a focus on the most disadvantaged young people.

The core UPSHIFT content is modular, allowing UPSHIFT to be adapted to different contexts and delivered in different settings – ranging from youth innovation labs to schools and non-formal education centres. Through a combination of Outreach & Inspiration, Human Centred Design workshops, Mentorship & Coaching and, in some cases seed funding, participants gain valuable transferable skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and leadership. You can find the UPSHIFT facilitation guides here.

UNICEF Innovation

UPSHIFT is an adaptable and scalable approach, which supports the development of skills for life and livelihood and supports youth to positively engage with their local communities as change-makers.

The programme is recognised as a promising solution for youth employment within the World Bank’s Solutions for Youth Employment Impact Portfolio.

UPSHIFT is recommended as a potential solution that can create results at scale for young people by Generation Unlimited and has formed the basis for developing the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge.

UNICEF Innovation

Results for adolescents and youth

UPSHIFT delivers skills that support future opportunities for life and livelihood for the most marginalized and vulnerable youth. Young people develop transferable skills through both the training elements and the opportunity to work collaboratively, in a supportive environment, to identify and solve social problems.

The ’recipe’ for UPSHIFT looks different in each country, depending on identified needs, but will focus on 4 different areas:-

  1. Building of transferable skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and leadership skills
  2. Adolescent and youth empowerment, including confidence, resilience, and sense of agency
  3. Civic engagement, with young people engaging in their communities and earning respect.
  4. Entrepreneurship, as both a skillset and a mindset

UPSHIFT in action 

UPSHIFT started its journey in Kosovo in 2014 and is now in 22 different countries, but more importantly, it is impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people.

UNICEF Innovation

By design, UPSHIFT specifically seeks to engage disadvantaged communities, including girls, young people with disabilities, young refugees and ethnic minority communities. UPSHIFT can be focused on specific issues (e.g. climate change adaptations, water and sanitation solutions) or can be entirely youth-led, with young people selecting the issues that most affect them and their communities.

To read more about the Programme go here:



This publication has been prepared within INDIGISE project. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the project coordinator and may not always reflect the views of the European Commission or the National Agency.