This profile was prepared when César Cardenas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
César Cárdenas is demonstrating how to bring about effective youth participation and even youth leadership in all aspects of Ecuadorian life. His first objective is youth development, but he understands that community participation is essential to self-improvement. César's work shows that training youth to develop effective voices in family, civic organization, community and even national political life benefits everyone. César's youth-run My Kite (Mi Cometa) group has earned the respect of adults in poor urban neighborhoods by hard work. By planting trees, cleaning garbage from the streets and raising awareness about infectious diseases, these young activists show adults that they care about their community. Subsequently, these young leaders have become an authentic community voice on youth issues. At the national level, My Kite youth members initiated a proposal for a National Congress of Youth (involving a youth ex-officio role in the national parliament). My Kite has quietly served as the informal secretariat to this idea, with César successfully convincing a working group of (adult) members of the Forum of Children's Organizations to support the proposal. This case illustrates the cardinal rule of César's work: youth implement their own leadership formation. He supports the youth champions of a National Congress of Youth not because he supports the Congress idea (although he does), but because he is convinced by the passion and dedication of the youth championing the proposal.