By Kevin Grant, The GroundTruth Project, and Peter Joyce, RTI/Global Center for Youth Employment
WASHINGTON -- A few years ago in Copenhagen, a young woman challenged a gathering of United Nations climate delegates by asking, "How old will you be in 2050?" It was a simple, but powerful, shot across the bow for the "adults" in the room -- most of whom will not be around to see the impact of their policy plans. Such poignant moments are, unfortunately, too rare.
We believe the global conversation around youth unemployment and youth economic exclusion would benefit greatly from a deeper and genuine engagement with young people themselves. Researchers, policy-makers and the media often fail to present in-depth coverage of youth, whether they are stories of despair or success. And organizations that support youth or seek to address their challenges-- from NGOs to donors to governments -- often lack insight into youth realities as they plan employment and development initiatives.
And while young people may be able to share aspects of their own lives through social media, few get the chance to craft narratives that reach millions, change perceptions and inform action.
There are 1.1 billion youth -- ages 15-24 -- making up 18 percent of the global population. Youth and children together -- ages 24 and younger -- account for nearly 50 percent of the world's population. For too many, the prospects are dim. Approximately 230 million youth live in countries and areas affected by armed conflicts; 462 million survive on less than $2 a day; more than 133 million are illiterate; and youth represent 41 percent of the world's unemployed people.
But numbers only tell part of the story.
In February, the Global Center for Youth Employment, RTI International, and the GroundTruth Project will launch Youth Voices - a digital storytelling initiative that will provide a vehicle for young people to tell their own stories and define their own lives to a global audience, putting youth at the center of the conversation about their own economic challenges and successes, reengineering the international community's response to the jobs crisis.
This collection of stories will be used to raise awareness by working with publishers like The Atlantic, ABC News/Fusion, Huffington Post, PRI's The World and PBS NewsHour. Amplifying the voices of youth has the power to inform policymakers, compel public action and ultimately connect more young people to jobs. The stories will also serve as an important database for qualitative research. Tools that will allow youth to connect with one another -- and with resources they seek -- are also in the works.
We see immense potential for Youth Voices and expect to reach an influential global audience with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of the young people whose stories are featured. Watch for more information in the weeks ahead and the official kickoff event on February 9.
About our partners:
The Global Center for Youth Employment is a virtual learning and action center founded by RTI International. The GCYE brings together a broad, diverse coalition of allies to find innovative youth employment solutions, assess demand-driven education, connect young people to existing jobs, and work with employers to increase new employment opportunities for youth.
RTI International is one of the world's leading research institutes, dedicated to improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. Its staff of more than 3,700 provides research and technical services to governments and businesses in more than 75 countries in the areas of health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, energy and the environment, and laboratory testing and chemical analysis.