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As the global development community thinks about how to tackle complex issues like climate change, advancing human rights, and reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it’s also been critical to listen to youth voices on these issues.
At the recent Goalmakers 2020 National Forum hosted by Global Washington, three youth leaders came together (virtually) during the Next-Gen Leadership for Global Development session. Here are some of the noteworthy insights from that discussion to help consider how we support young people who are addressing social change:
On Youth Power
“We see generations that have come before us that have collectively risen to the challenges, tragedies, and crises of their time to pave a new normal that we get to live in, and so now it's our turn. It's our turn to show up for the causes, for the voices that are underrepresented, and to be engaged in the civic process, to make sure that we emerge from this time in history in a way that is the most sustainable and inclusive.” - Jasmine Burton, WEF Global Shapers
“In many ways, young people who are aware in India today are rebels with a cause, but they are rebels with empathy. They are not fighting with the world, but I feel like they are fighting to change it.” - Nikhil Taneja, Global Advisory Board Member, Goalkeepers, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“Indigenous communities and ancestral practices have existed for a long time. Youth from Indigenous communities are bringing about that knowledge and saying 'we have the answer to many of the challenges that we are experiencing.' So youth in Latin America are being rebels, empathetic rebels, to bring about a new society that is actually constructed for all and ... really center the ancestral knowledge that we already have.” - Laura Vergara, Board Member, FRIDA
On Youth Movements
“There's a lot of power in the way that we structure the words that we use. In terms of saying "next-generation leaders," youth leaders are leaders now. Even that term itself is this concept of how we talk about intergenerational leadership. How do we create space and opportunities within entities in grassroots movements so that there is this knowledge exchange, so that it is honoring knowledge and power in leadership across time and age?” - Jasmine Burton, WEF Global Shapers
On Youth and the Internet
“The Internet has democratized content and stories. Young people now don't need to wait for someone with power and privilege to hand them opportunities. They're finding a way to tell their stories the way they want to and ... in the vocabulary they feel best suits them. Young people want to belong and when they don't find offline communities that are supportive of their identities and truths, they find online communities that make them feel less alone, to make them feel more represented and more connected.” - Nikhil Taneja, Global Advisory Board Member, Goalkeepers, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“Stories have great power ... and given how polarized our worlds are getting, the future of stories really ignites in the hands of those who wield them if they aim to bring people together rather than to drive them apart. I think we need social media to find a way to show people that there is more that unites us than that divides us.” - Nikhil Taneja, Global Advisory Board Member, Goalkeepers, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
On Partnering with Youth Leaders
“It's still important for funders -- and this is something we do in practice at FRIDA -- to not just be in partnership, but in relationship. The shift in mindset is so critical in terms of how funders work with youth-led movements and for youth-led movements. Partnerships can come in the [form of] expecting something back; when you say 'in relationship,' you're ... there for the long-term.” - Laura Vergara, Board Member, FRIDA
“I feel like young people don't need more older people talking to them, I think they need people to listen to them. And I can tell you that the moment I changed my strategy from trying to teach them, from actually trying to learn from them, I feel like I became a better human being, forget just being a better leader.” - Nikhil Taneja, Global Advisory Board Member, Goalkeepers, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“As we continue to re-evaluate how we are operating in this next era, I would encourage all of us to be intentional about not leaning on more check-box approaches. Like, 'we had a young person on our board' ... but how can we actually integrate equity and inclusion throughout the supply chain, throughout all of how we work?” - Jasmine Burton, WEF Global Shapers