I've always known how imperative it is for youth to have a voice in global development, especially when it pertains to issues affecting youth, such as youth unemployment. The current state of global youth unemployment poses a serious threat to social and political stability, as well as to economic growth. It’s an issue that requires a global response, which brings together multiple stakeholders, including youth themselves. This is why I was grateful to represent Plan International USA as a youth delegate at RTI International's "Ideathon." This was an opportunity like no other; instead of participating in a workshop or listening to a speaker, I was asked to sit on a panel of judges and provide input on the final products developed during the event. Being the only young person at the event, I realized how important it was for me to speak up so that my voice would be heard.
The Ideathon was two days long and it included representatives from various companies, NGOs, and governmental organizations. Our purpose was to come together to formulate potential projects that would solve the global youth unemployment crisis. On the first day, twenty people from various sectors gave two minute pitches on how to address global youth unemployment. Of the twenty pitches, five ideas were chosen to be developed further and presented to the judges on the second day of the event.
The other judges and I were able to see the original ideas and the final products the groups had come up with. The ideas ranged from micro-lending programs, to implementing entrepreneurial skills-training workshops, to an online platform that will allow youth to share their stories of unemployment. To say the least, the presentations were extremely creative; ranging from skits, to PowerPoint presentations, to singing. The enthusiasm was electrifying.
It was interesting to see how the pitches had developed from a single person's idea to a more comprehensive plan refined by the entire group. I was able to witness the importance of bringing together diverse groups of people and was able to identify the unique perspectives that were brought to each idea.
In the deliberation room, the other judges and I debated the merits and weaknesses of each idea. As the only young person, I was concerned at first that I would not have as much knowledge on the subject as the others. However, I realized the other judges would not be able to provide the same perspective that I brought to the table. Each of the judges’ background and experiences enabled the group to have a meaningful discussion where various arguments were heard and considered. After our mediation, we returned to the main hall to present our criticisms to the group.
Attending the Ideathon has made me more determined to raise awareness of global issues affecting youth. I realize now, more than ever, the importance of youth participation across society. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, as well as the other opportunities that I have had with Plan International USA. I hope that the next event will include more youth representatives so even more angles can be considered. With the current state of youth unemployment, it is critical for those who are affected by the issue to have a voice in the projects and ideas that are being developed to assist them. Perhaps it is a good sign that the most popular idea among Ideathon participants was called "Youth Voices".