BLOG: A Decade of Learning and Partnerships at the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit, Oct 2016

AgriLinks-Feed the Future

The 10th anniversary of the Making Cents Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit 2016 in Washington, D.C. on September 28-30 convened influencers and decision-makers to increase the impact, scale and sustainability of youth economic opportunities programming, policies and partnerships. This year’s decennial youth conference hosted over 500 people from 54 countries, providing a wealth of concrete learning opportunities, face-to-face networking and formal partnerships. Fiona Macaulay, CEO and Founder of Making Cents International, discussed the vision of the next decade of youth development and the necessary steps to achieve results and scale. This year, the summit focused on four turning points in youth development which gave way to the three R’s: research (what is everyone doing); reactivating (a call to action); and relationships (bridging gaps through partnership).

1. First, governments need to hear and listen to their youngest constituents— not just say they will.

2. Corporations should invest in positive relationships with their communities and deepen that commitment.

3. Adolescent girls are now receiving the attention they need and organizations are smartly investing in their case.

4. Programming for young people should no longer speak at young people but work with them, providing the tools needed to own their development and pave their path forward.

The first session was hosted by a panel of speakers tasked with answering the question: What will it take to achieve results and scale over the next decade of youth development?

Dr. Monica Das Gupta, Professor at the University of Maryland

Dr. Das Gupta gave the audience an overview of what the next decades have in store for youth development. Growth in Asia and Latin America will plateau, while Africa will face a sharp rise in its youth population with nearly double the population than the other two continents combined by 2050. The population in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow by nearly 60% despite rapid urbanization. In order to meet the needs of youth and their search for livelihoods there needs to be more training and opportunities. But there are challenges. Jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled workers in manufacturing are quickly being replaced by automation, for example. According to Frey and Osborne, 47% of jobs are at risk of being automated in the U.S. alone. Another challenge will be supporting the increased proportion on the continent, placing a huge burden on youth sustaining a healthy livelihood.

Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Education, Microsoft

Mr. Salcito brought energy to the conversation by discussing how access to technology can both hinder and advance youth education. According to Salcito, “We are not moving fast enough to provide technology and education to youth.” Giving a student a computer without teaching him or her how to use it or how to do something without the technology does not send the right message. The capacity to teach a student is far more important than giving them a computer for which they have no use. The classroom should provide a place where students have the ability and the right to not just think about owning their future but to actually shape it. This can be done by imbuing students' classroom experience with relevance and applicability to the real world. Mr. Salcito urged the audience to “inspire students to believe that skills are necessary and applicable to the real world and that they will be able to use them to do something and make money.

“Remember, raising students expectations has never let down. Students who have been given large problems always exceed expectations.”

Sarka Sengezener, Senior Director of Youth and Economic Empowerment, Plan International USA

Mrs. Sengezener brought pause to the conversation and gave way to a reflective space noting the progress that has taken place in the last ten years. In order to celebrate an accomplishment and use that celebration to move forward, there is a need to reflect on what was done and what can be done differently to move onward and upward. Three main takeaways included:

1. Investment in soft and hard skill building should begin in the early stages of education. Remember, we don’t know what the jobs of the future are going to be and much less what skills they are going to require, so let’s make sure youth are prepared to be versatile.

2. Continue to further empower adolescent girls. Empowerment is a continual success.

3. Empower young people to help solve the issues; let the youth guide their own youth, hear their voice and use their wisdom.