Activists from the Inside

Youth Leadership and Involvement must be Central to the Development Agenda

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Dana Terry is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow. Learn more about her here.

During the Social Good Summit, Richard Stengel shared a dystopian view of the world in the year 2030 characterized by the decline of free speech and civil rights if youth refrain from getting involved in government and activist groups now. Other panelists hinted that youth engagement was practically a security issue when considering that many societal problems stem from unemployed, unengaged youth. Youth are commonly regarded as the future, but it is imperative that youth are considered the present if we are to move forward with the development agenda. For a better world, youth must be encouraged to get involved in causes and governance at the state, national, and international level.

Youth Are Passionate. Youth Are Innovators.

“Millennials want to work for purposeful companies. 84% of millennials would rather make a difference than get recognition at work.”  -Niall Dunne (Chief Sustainable Officer, The B Team)

As seen at the Social Good Summit, youth are passionate about causes, and driven to develop innovative solutions. At the ripe age of 14, Hugh Evans now CEO of the Global Poverty Project, decided to dedicate his life to solving world poverty. Though young, Evans had more conviction and drive than many adults in his pursuit of a world with equity of opportunity. He went on to establish the Australia’s first youth-run aid organization and later, the internationally known Global Poverty Project. He understood how to engage his fellow youth and has since developed innovative ways to involve the next generation of activists. Such social innovation includes Global Citizen which gamifys involvement through challenging participants to raise money and awareness through campaigns that tackle global issues such as global hunger and Polio.

Youth Must Be Engaged

"Youth isn't the future, youth is the present. Now is the time to be involved, get involved in activist organizations...double down."– United States Under Secretary of State Richard Stengel

Under Secretary Stengel urged youth to be “activists inside the system” by going beyond non-profit work to actually running for office, working for city council, and generally positioning oneself as a decision-maker instead of an activist outside of the system.  Stengel makes a great point here. To enact change, we must continue to seek opportunities within both the NGO and government sector if we are to take full ownership of the future of our world. Truly, our time is now, and there are many ways to get involved.

How Youth Can Get Involved Now

Many UN member states have youth delegates who serve as the voice of a country’s youth population and contribute to the decision-making process during UN intergovernmental meetings.

The UN’s Young Professionals Program is a recruitment initiative that serves as a platform for youth interested in a career with the UN secretariat. Entrance into the program is by way of an annual exam.

For young people interested in domestic politics in the US, Young Elected Officials is a group that supports younger individuals no older than 40 who want to run for office.

For those interested in social entrepreneurship, Starting Bloc is a great conference for learning about starting a social enterprise and connecting with fellow entrepreneurs and activists.

Budding activists should also check out the many programs and initiatives from UN Foundation such as Girl Up and Nothing But Nets. DoSomething.org is also a great website for anyone interested in getting involved with a variety of causes. 

Whether getting involved with the UN, choosing to run for office, starting a social enterprise, or engaging in activism, the youth of the world must position themselves now to be a major force in the global affairs and development arena for a brighter future.

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