Youth as Agents of Change, Reflections from the Global Youth Ecomomic Opportunties Summit

This week, PCDN is fortunate to be attending and exhibiting at the 10th annual Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit organized by Making Cents International. makingcents

The event is an annual convening of people and organizations working on youth economic empowerment, or as Making Cents CEO Fiona Macaulay says a convening of the ecosystem.

In the introduction to the event, Fiona provided some key metrics, successes to date and also her hope/vision for the future. In terms of the challenges the world faces she discussed how today 1 in 10 children will never enter school, 160 million youn people working are still living in poverty and many macro level challenges remain.
Despite these enormous challenges much progress has been made. Since the term Youth Bulge was launched in the 1990s, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of engaging youth as partners and the incredible positive contribution youth can and are making to their societies. Many institutions from private sector, to multilaterals, to public sector are working to increase opportunity for and with youth. She discussed how at the first summit the team was nervous if anyone would show up, and they did. It was a watershed movement to convene a community working on these issues. In the same year, the World Bank came out with their annual world development report focused on youth and development for the first time. While, the MasterCard Foundation was launched which focuses on increasing economic opportunities for youth.

This year’s summit has held in Arlington, Virginia has  over 500 people attending from 54 countries including donors, youth leaders, big corporations, large and small NGOs. This year there are 62 young leaders from eleven countries, about 11% of the conference attendees

Fiona talked about four key trends that make her optimistic despite the many challenges that remain including

1) Governments are paying attention to their younger constituents. The older guard is realizing they have to engage and listen to the younger generation.
2) That corporations are increasingly become invested in creating youth economic opportunity at the global and local levels. Companies are seeing it is in their self-interest to have a well-prepared work future work force.

3) Adolescent Girls – There is now growing focus on moving forward on the case for investing in adolescent girls in generating both economic and educational opportunities.
4) Youth Agency – As Fiona said, ten years it was a big deal to have a youth open the conference. But now that is not unusual. We all know that are not doing programming to or for young people, but with young people. Now in many cases they are at the table and the drivers or partners for change.

She ended her talk about discussing a vision of where she hopes the field will be in the next decade. That in 10 years the conference will have participants from 195 countries reflecting on successes including: 

1) All parents would know the investment is school is worth it and preparing their youth for future employment.
2) Hope that we take for granted that employers and educational systems work together. And that each HR department has people working in partnership with local education to help better link education to opportunities.
3) That the financial system will include youth as key actors and increase their ability to access credit and financial tools.  
4) That families in rural areas have the opportunity to stay where they grew up and engage in farming and other activities, rather than being forced to go to urban areas.

It is a wonderful vision and certainly hope the world can move closer to working in partnership with youth to create greater opportunities. 
Fiona ended her intro ended by saying the value proposition of this conference is on the “how”. Making Cents Internationa hopes the conference enables the attendees to have concrete learning, develop new relationships/ partnerships to able to accomplish new things that we couldn’t do on our own.That peope leave filled with research to better inform their work, reactivated (as this is hard work) and wth new relationships.

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It has been a wonderful first day.

This being here in person is the essence of community.

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Craig Zelizer

Craig Zelizer

Dr. Craig Zelizer is the Founder of PCDN.global, which connects a global community of changemakers to the tools, community and opportunities to build careers of impact and scale change. He has strong experience in the development sector, academia and social entrepreneurship. From 2005 to 2016 he served as a professor in the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University (where he still teaches). He has led trainings, workshops and consultancies in over 20 countries organizations including with USIP, USAID, CRS, Rotary International and others. Craig is a recognized leader in the social sector field. He has received several awards including George Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s alumni of the year award and an alumni career achievement award from Central European University. Dr. Zelizer spent two years in Hungary as Fulbright Scholar and was a Boren Fellow in Bosnia. He has published widely on peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and innovation in higher education.
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