Sergio Balladares, 22, is determined to build a generation of young leaders and mobilize them to transform their communities. Growing up, Balladares noticed that youth were prevented from actively participating in civic and political society. Nicaraguans under age 30, who make up more than 65 percent of the population, experience a disproportionate amount of unemployment and underemployment, and political participation among young people is low.
“The people in power are the same who were in politics 30 years ago,” Balladares said. “There are very few leaders who are actually [promoting] democracy.”
Balladares thinks the key to changing this environment is capitalizing on the power of Nicaragua’s young population. He founded Movimiento Puente, an organization that educates youth to become politically active and thrive economically, while also enabling them to make a positive impact in their local communities.
Through Movimiento Puente, Balladares has promoted a series of strategic alliances with the American Chamber of Commerce and the Nicaraguan Private Sector Association to co-organize two forums on Youth and Entrepreneurship. At these forums, the organization reinforces the importance of a free market system and democratic values.
Movimiento Puente has also become a leading organization for first-time voters. It organizes workshops with youth in schools and universities in order to address issues of interest to them. Some of the themes have included workforce development, quality education, accountability and electoral reform, among others.
Movimiento Puente has also spearheaded Freedom House’s campaign “Think, Meet, Act” in Nicaragua by promoting freedom of association rights among youth in various Nicaraguan municipalities.
“I am very proud of the energy young people have,” Balladares said. “We want to be involved with our country.”
In addition to his work with Movimiento Puente, Balladares is an active connector and facilitator, encouraging other young leaders to share lessons and insights with one another across sectors through the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers program.
Beyond Nicaragua, he is strengthening pro-democracy institutions through his work as a Democracy Ambassador for the World Movement for Democracy and as Alternate General Coordinator for the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy.
“I believe in a nation of youth and progress,” he said.
The World Movement’s Democracy Voices interview