Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN)

YouthCAN is the leading global youth network dedicated to countering extremism, polarisation, hate speech and disinformation.

The YouthCAN community unites over 1,500 young activists, creatives and tech entrepreneurs in more than 130 countries to amplify their efforts worldwide.

YouthCAN works to:

Empower youth through training and resources which enable them to act independently as leaders for change

Increase the amount of effective youth-led and youth-focused content available to address extremist propaganda by working directly with young.

Elevate youth voices to policy makers to affect change, and encourage stakeholders to involve youth in a meaningful way in policy development.

Provide insight to policy makers and other stakeholders to help ensure programmes and policies which affect youth are informed and relevant.

Connect young people across the globe with other activists and professionals working in other sectors who can support their activism.

The online YouthCAN network engages young people and provides them with the tools they need to create effective content aimed at challenging hate speech and extremism. Offline, our Youth Innovation Labs provide young activists with the resources and expertise to develop and deliver counter-speech campaigns for tackling issues affecting young people in their communities.

In 2017, YouthCAN partnered with another ISD project – the Strong Cities Network – to develop the Young Cities project, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project aims to connect young activists and youth leaders with local policy-makers and municipal authorities, deliver training to build their capacities to enact change together, and establish a more permanent framework for dialogue.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the YouthCAN launch, Oslo, Norway, 2015

Participants at a Youth Innovation Lab, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2015

Participants at a Youth Innovation Lab, Kigali, Rwanda, 2016

ISD’s YouthCAN team

Moustafa Ayad
Moustafa Ayad

Deputy Director, Technology, Communications, and Education

Kelsey Bjornsgaard
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Kelsey Bjornsgaard

Senior Youth Advisor

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Kelsey Bjornsgaard
Kelsey Bjornsgaard

Senior Youth Advisor

Kelsey Bjornsgaard is a Manager, Technology, Communications & Education at ISD focusing on counter-narrative development and delivery as well as youth engagement and education. Kelsey is responsible for running the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) and organising ISD’s Youth Innovation Labs. Kelsey is developing new strategies for enhancing peer-to-peer messaging and works closely with young activists internationally to develop innovative youth-led initiatives to prevent and counter violent extremism. Kelsey also works closely with the Strong Cities Network to amplify youth voices amongst government and policy-makers at a city level. Kelsey previously managed marketing and social media strategy for an independent US-based IT company. She holds a Masters in International Conflict Studies from King’s College London and a Bachelors in European Studies from the University of Oklahoma.
Anisa Harrasy
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Anisa Harrasy

Manager, Technology, Communications & Education

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Anisa Harrasy
Anisa Harrasy

Manager, Technology, Communications & Education

Anisa Harrasy is a Manager at ISD, where she works across ISD’s youth empowerment projects, including the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) and Young Cities. Through these projects, Anisa delivers capacity-building workshops, oversees youth-led campaigns and initiatives and facilitates dialogue between youth and policymakers. Anisa also helps lead ISD’s strategic development in Sub Saharan Africa and specializes in promoting peace in East Africa specifically. Anisa has conducted significant research on the influence and effect of non-state actors in global affairs and politics. Anisa holds an MA in International Security from the University of Sussex and a BA in International relations with Arabic. She is bilingual Swahili and English, with basic Arabic proficiency.
Jasmeet Sahotay
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Jasmeet Sahotay

Coordinator, Technology, Communications & Education

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Jasmeet Sahotay
Jasmeet Sahotay

Coordinator, Technology, Communications & Education

Jasmeet Sahotay is a Coordinator working jointly on YouthCAN and Young Cities projects, including supporting the delivery of the Youth Innovation Labs, managing the YouthCAN communication strategy, and developing new project activities and strategies. Jasmeet was previously a programme coordinator at PATRIR, an internationally recognised peacebuilding think tank which is based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. There he developed and managed a series of projects focussed on countering violent extremism, hate speech and polarisation. He also has extensive experience in training and implementing campaigns centred around youth empowerment. He holds a Masters in International Law, Security and Terrorism from the University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy & Politics from the University of Leeds.