There is a growing recognition that we have reached a tipping point when it comes to ideas on how best to engage young people or youths to be conscious and responsible global citizens in various disciplines. Today, sustainable development and the green economy are the new focus of research, education, and development in most countries albeit they are new terms for what was earlier defined differently, for example, in natural resources management and environment.
Previously initiatives were by default foreign driven but recently this is fast changing given the emergence of savvy young people from across the developing economies and countries. This is an important milestone especially considering that developing countries lag compared to the rest of the world in terms of technological capabilities, social protection, manufacturing, and political will.
In the developing economies and countries, the emergence of new problem diagnosis and solving techniques is a critical step that fosters the building up of local intelligence, creativity and innovation. Furthermore, their current steps are holistic and embrace a broad range of issues such as leadership, entrepreneurship, higher education, community development and outreach.
While each of the initiatives implemented is aimed at addressing specific problems, closer scrutiny reveals a set of overarching questions whenever young people are the focus. These questions are:
How do we fully engage /empower the young people?
What can be done to step up efforts that target youths?
What are the limitations of the approaches to engage/involve young people?
With pressures mounting due to climate change, energy, food and water issues, solution seekers emphasize that young people are the missing link if these challenges are to be addressed comprehensively. Therefore, concerted efforts to draw young people in theory and practice across many disciplines have already started to trigger various reactions across the age divide. Even though it is premature to determine the rate and extent of progress, the sometimes eye-brow-raising political attention young people receives signifies that there are stakes involved with this age group.
In an era of processes, individuals, institutions, and communities seek new ways to solve problems collectively. Again, in seeking to answer what we know and what we can do with young people we have to consider each interested party on an individual basis and on its merit. This is because interested parties bring along with them own philosophies, systems, and practices. Therefore, two blindly group thoughts and opinions without a common points of agreement would have a negative side.
There are different aspects to take in account to understand youth motivations: how they are engaged in development activities, their rapport to knowledge, to ICTs, to art and nature, their rapport to the world as global citizen.
Our arguments for better inclusion of youths into sustainable developments activites are:
Make the best of the energy and creativity of youth
Encourage public engagement and an understanding of community dynamics
Get them explore the world outside the box prompting entrepreneurial spirit and self discovery
Take advantage of their strength in ICTs, information and dissemination to particularly develop extension systems, necessary to knowledge and development
Train and empower youths with fundraising skills
The challenge in the African context of knowledge creation in emerging thought areas is partially being addressed through continent-based and foreign think tanks and through isolated pieces of action.
The focus on young people in sustainable development and the green economy offers newly created centres of excellence an impetus to create useful knowledge in this regard. Through institutions, it is possible to tailor programmes that enable youths to access resources and opportunities in sustainable development and green economy. The spin off to this would be accurate documentation, nurturing of quality standards by youth achievers. In turn, this leads to their empowerment.
Through specialised programmes such as mentorship and training, youths are better placed to seize opportunities in this generation. Lastly, a word of caution, is that interdisciplinary is not a substitute for discipline-specific interactions, though interdisciplinary is key to managing career and discipline risk in the future.