Source: Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels
By Taibat Hussain, YEO Champion, Co-Founder, Rising Child Foundation
Why is Youth Inclusion and Engagement important? First and foremost, young people are the ones who are most affected by the issues that organizations are working to address. Whether it be education, economic opportunities, climate change, or social justice, the impact of these issues on young people is significant and long-lasting. Including young people in the design and implementation of initiatives aimed at addressing these issues ensures that their perspectives and experiences are heard and accounted for, resulting in more effective and sustainable solutions.
In addition to the practical benefits of including youth in organizational work, there are also ethical and moral imperatives for doing so. Young people have the right to be active participants in the decisions that affect their lives, and organizations have a responsibility to ensure that they are represented and empowered in the work being done. Furthermore, engaging with youth in meaningful ways can lead to increased trust and credibility for organizations. This added credibility is attributed because young people are often seen as the future of our society and have a significant influence on public opinion and discourse.
Finally, youth inclusion is critical for achieving the sustainable development goals. The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the crucial role of youth in achieving its goals. As stated in the agenda, "young people are critical agents of change and will find in the new goals a platform to channel their activism and energy." By engaging young people as partners, organizations can help them become agents of change and drive progress towards sustainable development.
Recommendations for YEO Ecosystem Actors
To effectively include and engage with young people, organizations should take a proactive and intentional approach. Here are some recommendations for how to do so:
Develop youth-centered policies: Organizations must develop policies and programs that are designed to meet the needs of young people.
Create opportunities for youth to participate: Organizations must involve young people in decision-making processes and seek their input on issues that affect them. By engaging youth in decision making, organizations can tap into their perspectives, knowledge, and insights to create more effective and inclusive policies.
Provide training and support: Young people may not have the same level of experience or knowledge as older staff or volunteers, but they can benefit from training and support in areas like leadership, communication, and project management.
Foster a culture of inclusivity: Organizations should actively seek out and welcome diverse perspectives and experiences and create a culture where young people feel valued and respected.
Listen and act: It is not enough to simply include young people in organizational work; their perspectives and input must be taken seriously and used to inform decision making and action.
Call to Action
As we move forward in our efforts to address the complex challenges facing our society, we must prioritize the inclusion and engagement of young people. This means creating intentional and meaningful opportunities for them to participate in our work, providing them with the resources and support they need to be effective partners, and ensuring that their voices are heard and acted upon. To this end, the #YEO2030 Youth Inclusion and Engagement Action team is putting together a repository of useful resources, such as assessment tools to empower ecosystem actors in their youth inclusion and engagement strategy. Organizations must commit to meaningful youth inclusion and engagement, and individuals and communities must advocate for it. Only then can we build a more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive world that truly represents the needs and aspirations of all its members.