Listening to Youth Activists

The Potential of Activism in Fostering Sociopolitical Efficacy and Generating Hope

Roshn Najmeddin

Dr. Bianca Szytniewski


Youth engagement is often misunderstood or underestimated and the public opinion regularly views youth as being politically apathetic and disinterested. However, in my recent study, I shed light on narratives of Albanian youth activists, revealing a powerful force for sociopolitical change that defies the conventional narrative of disengagement. Albania, a country with a complex history and a vibrant youth population, offers a unique context to explore what drives youth to engage in activism and how it affects them. This blog unveils the findings of my recent study, unveiling how their engagement in activism cultivates sociopolitical efficacy and paves the way for meaningful change.

Understanding the Context

Albania’s history is marked by a challenging past, including decades of communist rule and subsequent socio-political transitions. Such a context significantly influences the way young people perceive and engage with sociopolitical matters. The findings counter prevailing narratives of youth apathy, highlighting their capacity for change within constrained circumstances.

“Activism is probably one of the best ways to address these issues we face every day. It’s like a step forward, doing something against that thing that is making your life hard every day, for no proper reason.”

Youth Agency and Critical Reflection

One of the standout findings was the proactive agency displayed by the young activists interviewed. Despite acknowledging the systemic obstacles that hinder their engagement, they underscored their capacity for critical reflection and the pursuit of positive change. Their narratives challenged the notion of inherent indifference and instead attributed disengagement to systemic and historical factors. By doing so, these activists provided a counter-narrative that disrupts the traditional understanding of youth’s role in the political landscape.

“And I saw that people here are not stupid. People are not bad. People are just manipulated by so many things, that are so complex, that so many things have happened to them that they have the right to doubt in everyone, to not believe, to be sceptical, to be nihilist, to be whatever they might be.”

From Apathy to Action

This study, conducted through narrative inquiry, unveiled the motivations that drive Albanian youth to participate in sociopolitical activism. From strong emotions and values to being inspired by peers, their reasons for engagement were diverse and compelling. An aspect that was noteworthy, was how other (youth) activists were a strong catalyst in inspiring their peers to engage in action: through storytelling or through demonstrating activism, they inspired others to go down the same path they went. These motivations point towards the significance of offering safe spaces for youth to express their opinions and be authentically themselves, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment. Moreover, their activism was not confined to conventional political pathways but rather manifested through innovative initiatives that reflect their aspiration for a better future.

“I think nowadays this is what keeps me alive, being humble and actively listening to young people, no matter their backgrounds, no matter where they come from, I can always find something similar with them by being sincere.”

Fostering Sociopolitical Efficacy

Perhaps the most captivating revelation was how youth-led activism in Albania serves as a powerful tool for cultivating sociopolitical efficacy, which refers to the belief in one’s ability to effect meaningful change within the political and social sphere. Activism became a conduit for enhancing their critical awareness, nurturing collective agency, and generating a sense of hope. Through participation in activism, young people found their voices amplified and became educated by their peers and mentors, contributing to a renewed sense of efficacy in effecting change. This empowerment is particularly crucial given the challenges that persist within the political landscape of post-communist Albania.

“Every conversation I had with an activist, with an older activist, with someone more politically articulate than me, politically conscious than me, was like a moment of illumination, of inspiration. Like, okay, I have to read this up. Let’s learn more. Let’s discuss. Let’s talk about it.”

Cultivating Hope and Agency

What drives these young activists to persevere despite the odds? It seems to be hope that propels them forward. While the road to change is often riddled with obstacles, these activists draw inspiration from one another and from the potential of a brighter future. Their hope is rooted in the long-term, including both past activists’ legacies as well as future generations. Their shared vision for a more just society fosters a sense of collective agency, where every voice matters and every action contributes to the larger process of change.

“Activism carved me with a lot of patience, because I learned the hard way that the fruits of my work that I’m doing now will be in the upcoming years. Nothing happens in an eyelid, nothing happens now. You have to do your best and probably in the future, people are going to continue your path.”

Implications for Sociopolitical Development

The implications of this study extend beyond Albania’s borders. As we grapple with global challenges, the voices and actions of youth are invaluable resources for shaping a better world. The lessons from Albanian youth activism challenge us to reevaluate our perceptions of youth engagement. Instead of dismissing their potential, we must recognise and support their role as catalysts for positive change.

From Research to Action

So, how can we harness the power of youth activism for sociopolitical development? The findings of this study offer valuable insights. By providing platforms that amplify youth voices, fostering environments that encourage critical thinking and dialogue, and recognising the impact of grassroots initiatives, societies can empower their young citizens to become active contributors to lasting change.


In a reality where the future often feels uncertain, the narratives of Albanian youth activists shine as beacons of hope. Their stories remind us that youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow; they are the architects of today’s transformation. As we look ahead, let us draw inspiration from their courage, commitment, and sense of hope, and work together to create a world where youth-driven change is not just a possibility, but a reality.

I would love to express my deepest gratitude to all the participants of this research. Their openness and vulnerability in sharing their inspirational life stories were essential for shaping the depth of this study. Their helpfulness, hospitality, and kindness made the process of data collection much easier, as they were eager to help me out and refer me to other participants that might enrich the research with their insights.

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