It’s time to start telling the right stories about young people
With public trust and optimism in short supply it’s easy to find negative stories about young people. As a generation they’re written off as being ill-equipped for the demands of a working life, let alone a professional one.
The millstone of their current unemployment hangs unfairly around their necks and just before the UN’s International Youth Day on Sunday, which is being marked for the thirteenth year, it’s appropriate to look beyond the bad press they ordinarily get and focus on the young people, and there are thousands of them, changing the lives of those around them for the better.
To name just three: Joel Mwale, inspired by a serious bout of dysentery, has set up SkyDrop Inc., bringing safe drinking water to a community of 5,000 in Kenya; Chris Eigelund, an Australian and Erin Schrode, a Canadian, who’ve provided a year’s supply of educational supplies to 14,000 young Haitians blighted by the 2010 earthquake; Syed Muhammed Ali Mustafa, whose ‘I own Karachi!’ initiative has mobilized young people to educate the city about tackling its environmental problems; Titus Kapoma in Tanzania has organized his peers to teach reading and English to thousands of children in rural areas; No-one told them what to do, no-one paid them – but thousands of people will benefit from their work.
In a world which is at once being brought together and turned on its head by developments in technology, young people are the ones uniquely equipped to lead in tackling the many local and global challenges we face.
This is particularly apparent when it comes to use of social media, which is proving such a powerful catalyst for change and collective action across the world. The role of websites such as Twitter in the Arab Spring and Occupy movement is well-documented, and social media, with its unique capacity to bring diverse groups of people together in a common cause, is the tool of choice for young people looking to make a difference be it on their own doorstep or the other side of the world.
Whether we like it or not, radical social and economic change is rendering traditional models of business and economic prosperity redundant. It is young people who are already taking a lead in providing the diverse, flexible and global solutions that the digital age demands.
International Youth Day, with this year’s theme of Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth, is an important way of marking the role of young people in addressing the social, ethical and environmental challenges that we’re scarcely beginning to address.
It was to help maximise the potential in young people across the world and provide a global and respected forum for their leadership that David Jones, CEO Havas, and I co-founded One Young World.
To continue and extend this work, it is important that we start to tell the good stories about young people and what they have to offer to society. Then we can dispense with the idea that young people are a problem, and start celebrating them as part of the solution.
Kate Robertson is UK Group Chairman of Euro RSCG and co-founder of One Young World. www.oneyoungworld.comTagged in: International Youth Day, unemployment, young people, youth
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