With our runway for addressing SDGs uncertain and a price tag growing on saving the planet for the next generation, the search for social innovations and sustainable solutions is more pressing than ever. Sharing decision-making power with youth is a vital piece of the puzzle.
We continue to look to government, corporations, the not-for-profit sector, and academia, seeking established adult experts to guide us to the right solutions.Consistently excluded from these conversations and decision-making tables is the group that will be most affected by the impact of our global issues—our youth.
Youth are often disregarded or their efforts toward change are dismissed. But more young people than ever are starting to recognize the power of their ideas and voices and that their efforts can, indeed, change the world.
Youth cannot be written off as juvenile or lacking necessary expertise to build scalable, impactful, and even profitable solutions. Youth are acutely aware of the dangers we are currently facing and are approaching solutions in ways us adults have not seen before.
We have seen youth drive global conversations such as the #ClimateStrike started by 15-year-old Greta Thungberg to mobilize more decisive action to combat climate change by global leaders. Then there was the Parkland students organizing of the #NeverAgain marches to push for stricter gun control in the USA. We see examples of youth raising their voices above the noise across the globe. This generation is building and growing movements from the ground up.
Contrary to popular belief, young people are indeed wired for innovation, they are seeking impactful purpose, and most importantly are entrepreneurial in their day-to-day lives. Unlike other generations, their future is more uncertain than any other as it pertains to work outlook, their role in society, and their place in the natural world. This, coupled with being a generation who grew up with access to an astounding amount of accessible information about the disparities and inequalities of the world, means they are more informed and therefore more aware of the realities of the world at a much younger age. That intimate relationship with information also creates a personal awareness and responsibility to create value and legacy through their actions.
While we know millenials want to work for organizations that create real sustainable values and ethics, Generation Z wants to take the future into their own hands and create those institutions themselves. For example, they are building startups that are clearly defining a sustainable future; like using nuclear fusion to create clean energy, quantum computing to solve complex medical issues, to smart technology to provide accessibility online, even disrupting entire product categories to create healthy foods and sustainable feminine hygiene products.
Youth want to build movements and ventures that they believe in. As a decision-maker in your organization, there is plenty you can do to support youth on the rise in areas you work. Here are three practical strategies you can adopt into day-to-day practice to ensure that young people’s voices are being heard above the noise and that we share power with them.
Naturally if someone is not at the decision-making table, their perspectives will not be included in that decision. If you are at a round table, on a board, or scenario where you are making decisions that will impact our future generations, make sure that youth are at the decision making table with you. After all, their generation, and the generations that come after, will bear the real burden of the decisions we make now.
AMPLIFY THEIR MESSAGE
We can’t imagine what we can be if we cannot see it or hear it. This sentiment is no different for youth. It is so important for those of us in positions of power or privilege to amplify the work and impact of young people. If youth, wherever they may be, can see the impact other young people can and are making, it may just be the trigger they need to be able to raise their own voices and build the ventures they want to see in this world.
CHAMPION THEM AND THEIR WORK
Often the biggest barrier to youth raising their voices or building their visions is know-how and confidence. Finding a champion or champions to back them can be critical to their growth. There are plenty of ways to be a good champion through mentorship, opening doors to networks, nominating youth for awards and opportunities, and ultimately building long-lasting relationships to create change together. When in doubt, just be the champion you wish you had when you were just starting off on your impact journey.
So let youth in, share power, let them build, and let them make an impact.