While young people tend to be the most active participants in movements for democratic change, their involvement is often confined to staging demonstrations and other similar activist activities. However, in order for democratic reform — or any reform for that matter — to be meaningful and sustainable, youth must not only be involved in demonstrations, but also in the decision making processes that chart the way forward.
When they have a voice in the policymaking process, youth also gain a stake when it comes to implementation. Having contributed their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, they become staunch advocates when it comes to accountability and will work into adulthood to ensure that the solutions they helped create are realized.
In addition to building youth buy-in, engaging young people in decision-making processes has other benefits. Youth can help drive innovation in policy by injecting new ideas and solutions and also bring new tools to the table as they are typically the first group to adopt new technologies and behaviors.
Though it is vital to ensure youth are engaged in policy advocacy campaigns, taking this from idea to reality can be difficult. Youth is generally thought of as a singular demographic, but in reality, youth can be extremely varied. Young people come from different social and economic backgrounds and age boundaries are not always well defined. Additionally, mobilizing young people can be easy, but policy reform is a long term goal and it can be challenging to maintain youth engagement for the duration of a campaign.
Over the course of its history strengthening democracy through market reform, CIPE has developed and implemented proven advocacy strategies including for youth. To capture and share this knowledge, CIPE recently published its Guide to Youth Advocacy, meant to share experience and best practices for organizing youth and organizations that support youth to engage in successful advocacy initiatives. In addition to outlining strategies and approaches, the resource provides small case studies of CIPE supported projects from around the world that organized youth to advocate for real reforms.
The author, Kim Bettcher, with Jehan Ara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) in Milan.
What I love best about the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, most recently the GEC 2015 in Milan, is the diversity of approaches, organizations, and countries that I encounter under the big tent. At this carnival of entrepreneurship, one meets founders and policymakers, leaders from innovation economies and emerging markets, people who have already made it and others who are shaping the future.
Out of this medley, I try to stitch together, what do we actually know about advancing entrepreneurship? And where might promising new directions lie? For me, the theme of this year’s congress was moving the frontiers of entrepreneurship. We are currently pushing against several big frontiers, which include geographic, demographic, and policy frontiers.
Emerging markets are the first frontier. While commonly described as factor-driven or efficiency-driven economies, emerging markets contain pockets of innovation and entrepreneurial ambition. For instance, entrepreneur stories from the Middle East captured in Christopher Schroeder’s Startup Rising have created considerable excitement, as has the Cinderella story of Medellín, Colombia, the site of GEC 2016. In Milan, I was honored to have on my panel Jehan Ara, President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), who recently founded the Nest i/o incubator. Ara described a growing entrepreneurial community in Karachi and a feeling among entrepreneurs of “wanting to give back” (not unlike the community spirit described by Brad Feld in Boulder). I was ecstatic to see our friends from Nepal, the Samriddhi Foundation, take the limelight as winners of the Rookie of the Year award.
My colleague Peako Jenkins and I recently visited Kilis, Turkey, where CIPE is supporting a civic education program for young Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The course, conducted by CIPE’s local partner organization the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. We are on our way to reaching 600 students in this first phase of the project, with the potential to create broader institutional change in the way that young Syrians are educated in the future. The curriculum helps prepare students to actively engage in society and imparts skills they can use to better their communities today and contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction.
Check out this short video above about the course which includes some of our conversations with recent graduates and our colleagues at SEF. With the support and encouragement of the private sector, these inspiring young people have the ability to write a new chapter in Syria’s history, defined not by tragedy but by peace and prosperity. CIPE is proud to share their stories with you.
Throughout history, people have continually sought positive social and economic change, and found creative ways to make it happen. This change has been driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, for example in the case of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and the anti-Apartheid efforts in South Africa. But the list is endless.
Our societies have evolved and will continue to do so because there are many sources of dissatisfaction in every corner of the world, including terrible acts of suppression, segregation, and discrimination that threaten human dignity. I believe that humans are by nature kind, loving, and fair – but a lack of honesty, transparency, and accountability can create negative dynamics that lead to unacceptable behaviors.
For me, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing a change-maker leading the change they want to see. Some of my own greatest heroes include the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
I see countless change-makers of this mold emerging through young leadership programs across the world. In particular, the program I am now part of, the CIPE-Atlas Corps fellowship. The overall objective of the program is to bring young leaders from across the world to research institutions in the US in order to build the skills and capacity they need to drive reform. This empowers them to create even greater change when they return to their home countries.
Making a difference in an environment like Syria is not an easy task. Decades of authoritarian rule have quashed civic life and discouraged young Syrians from aspiring to leadership in their society. On top of that repressive history are now four years of brutal war.
To win back a generation at risk of being lost to this war, CIPE is working with its partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) to create new educational paradigm for Syria. With private sector leadership and solutions, SEF is running a CIPE-supported course for recent Syrian high school graduates who have been displaced by the conflict in the border town of Kilis, Turkey (now home to more Syrians than Turks). The course provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills and is being considered for broader application by authorities in the moderate opposition.
CIPE and Atlas Corps welcomed the latest class of Think Tank LINKS Fellows at the end of January. This year’s class comes from a wide range of backgrounds – from South Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa – to Washington, DC for six months to partake in a leadership development program. All of the fellows will serve at renowned think tanks in Washington, DC, and shadow researchers and experts to learn best practices of successful think tanks in the U.S.
The Nordic concept of Janteloven mirrors some cultural attitudes in Latin America — yet the Nordic countries have still managed to build strong entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Entrepreneurs continue to face strong cultural challenges in Latin America. Risk aversion is particularly common in the region, and thus many youth lack the confidence to start their own businesses for fear of failure and the associated consequences. Would-be women entrepreneurs often must deal with machismo, or male dominance, in economic matters.
Additionally, Latin American cultures tend to be very community-oriented, and it is a common belief throughout much of the region that entrepreneurs are in business to make money only for themselves and are thus “abandoning” their communities, which has cast a negative light upon the concept of entrepreneurship. Moreover, strong pressures to conform to social class expectations often discourage young people from trying to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.
Latin America is not the only region in which cultural factors have hampered the development of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs still face sizable cultural obstacles even in regions where entrepreneurship has been able to flourish. This is especially true in the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
As someone who has straddled the Latin American-Nordic cultural divide his whole life, I have witnessed firsthand that while Latin American and Nordic cultures are very different in a variety of ways (just try making small talk while waiting for a bus in Copenhagen or foregoing cheek kisses upon meeting people in San Juan), in both cultures there are norms that encourage social conformity while stifling individualism. While these rules are unwritten and thus are not immediately apparent to outsiders, the social consequences of going against these norms can be severe.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.