Youth Engagement: Enable, Enrich, and Empower
Last week, I have addressed the importance of youth engagement and the critical and powerful roles they play in our society. Here I will dive deep on this topic across different levels and illustrate how we can engage youth meaningfully.
At the local level
Young people are active at the local level. One illustration is that during the pandemic, youth play an important role in the communities. They deliver health care services, translate Covid-19 prevention materials in local languages, and help people who do not have internet access to get information. In the political arena, if recognised the deficits of the political system, youth would be more interested in political processes. They would not just participate in voting but also in democracy and good governance. See what characterize good governance here. Problems also occur in their local level participation: the accessibility to information, lack of appropriate engagement approaches and tokenism. The absence of proper engagement platforms and information blocks the way for young people to be informed and heard, thus the engagement process is sometimes tokenistic.
At the national level
Youth participate more at the local level but not at the national level. Lack of trust and willingness to participate are the principal barriers to bring the young people to a higher level. Trust is a tough issue which would take a long process to rebuild once broken. The absence of trust demolishes confidence in political institutions and political leaders. As political parties fancy topics and discussions, like pensions and retirement age, for those who have already cumulated wealth and occupied some social status and political power, the lack of youth-related topics affect their willingness to participate.
At the global level
The international governance system is facing challenges and especially during the crisis of the coronavirus, there is an urgent need for the multi-level corporation and more extensive engagement. The big group of stakeholders- young people, who are key influencers shall be involved to solve global challenges. However, other global challenges, like poverty and gender inequalities, reduce the inclusiveness of the engagement. Then how can we solve this paradoxical issue?
Enable, Enrich and Empower
To engage the youth meaningfully, we should go across boundaries between different levels and think outside of the box. Building trust is the first step. To start with, we should spend time to speak with them, not in a tokenised way, and see what they want and whether we can. It is not easy, but young people are open-minded. A transparent and open process through technologies would help improve accessibility which allows the conversation to start. Providing information and resources they need enables them to participate.
To avoid engagement being tokenistic, online platforms provide participation opportunities for people to voice and be heard. Especially during the time of the pandemic, digital engagement is more crucial and is more transparent and accountable. Read here to see how digital engagement strengthens connections in the community under the global pandemic. Enriching online engagement platforms, such as making use of games and graphic design, can simplify the engagement process and make it entertaining, thus, attracting the youth to participate.
Recognising their place in formal and informal conversations is critical as well. Global issues, such as access to education and climate change, are most likely youth-related topics. A way to kill two birds with one stone is to bring the young generation to the global table and listen and discuss with them. Allowing bringing creative ideas in the conversation and offering mentorship can empower the youth and help them realize their full potential.