This paper outlines key definitions and typologies that help to distinguish youth civic engagement activities from other forms of youth activity. It identifies five discourses that create a rationale for youth civic engagement activity. The paper summarises the perceived benefits of youth civic engagement to individuals and communities suggested by research. It also highlights the barriers and challenges to the civic engagement of youth. In the final section, this paper explicitly focuses on learning from the literature that can inform the development of civic action programmes and issues associated with effective programmes are identified.