Thursday, December 14, 2006

Youth, Innovation, and Development: A Global Perspective

Event Title: Youth, Innovation, and Development: A Global Perspective
Sponsor: AIDemocracy, IDB Youth, Y2Y, Young Americas Business Trust
Location: World Bank Headquarters Building
Date: Thursday, October 26, 2006
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Approximate Number of Attendees: 150
Intern Attending: Saadiqa Lundy

Speakers: Frannie Leautier, Cheryl Dorsey, Maya Ajmera, Luis Viguria, Natsuko Kiso, Annie Brertrand, Peter Haas, Claudia Campos Galvan, Seth Green, Viviana Mangiaterra, Deepa Menon, Daniel dela Morena, Shantayanan Devarajan, Nistha Sinha, H.E. Ambassador Dennis Antoine, Fabian Koss, Yuan Xiao, David Aten and Xavier Coll

The UN conference on Youth, Innovation and Development had three major aims. First, “raising awareness within the international development community of the fact that youth has indeed a great potential for change and with proper support, it can have a major contribution to the world.” Second, to showcase some of these leaders and their projects and third, to celebrate the fact that this year’s World Development Report has Youth as its theme.

According to Fannie Leautier, in many countries the youth are the majority; they are not the future, they are the Now. Innovation and creativity has come from the young for many generations. The World Bank and many other organizations recognized this and have worked to give youth a voice. As a result, the Youth to Youth (Y2Y) community of the World Bank was established in 2004. Their objective is to empower Youth in Development and create social networks. The Y2Y community has a unique position in World Bank; it is a network. All activities are on a volunteer base. This structure gives them leverage and independence.

In addition to the Y2Y Program, the World Bank has established a Youth Fund Project (YFP). The YFP adds value to the World Bank. The YFP includes young people in decision making, addresses issues of children and youth and has a Youth for Governance Program which deals with corruption in places like Africa.

The conference was broken up into five sessions. The first session focused on three other organizations that support youth in development. The first organization was Echoing Green. Cheryl Dorsey, the President of Echoing Green, spoke about their Flagship Fellowship program, which supports emerging social entrepreneurs; people starting new organizations and people with positive visions for change. She stated that this organization is a vital pipeline for young people who really care. She gave some examples of organizations like Teach for America and City Year, which Echoing Green has funded in the past.

The second organization was the Global Fund for Children. Maya Ajmera talked about the work of the organization. For example, Global Fund for Children invests in small community based NGOs that are supporting children across the globe. Her organization has invested $6 million to help approximately 200 groups in 60 countries around the world. Her organization reaches out to what she calls “Children of The Last Mile”; children not reached by formal systems.

Lastly, Luis Viguria, from Lima, Peru, spoke about the Young Americas Business Trust. This organization provides opportunities, opens doors for innovative youth in his country, and gives them a voice within government and policy-making structures.

The second session focused on the challenges and opportunities that youth leaders face. For example, Peter Haas created a business in Guatemala which locally produces, installs and maintains local infrastructure for people making less than 2-4 dollars a day. He created full incubation packages that help local Guatemalans stay in business. Haas’ business responds to the extra difficulties faced by people trying to start businesses in developing countries.

The third session was on the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund. During this session the seven YIF winners talked about their projects, which were funded by the World Bank. Through their projects, these Youth leaders touched the lives of other youths in developing countries. For example, YIF winner Deepa Menon was involved with the Youth at Risk Leadership Training Program in Acapulco, Mexico. This was a six month project which aimed at training youth to become leaders in their community. Their logo was “Empowering communities by empowering youth.” In order for people to become Youth Leaders, they would have to pass a stress test designed by Art of Living Foundation. Deepa realized that many of the youth that she talked to were involved in gangs and were stressed. The gang members felt that they belonged to the gang more than the community. Deepa was able to reach out to some of these gang members and got the youth to initiate change in their own community. The $10,000 grant she received from the World Bank benefited 1,846 Youth.

The fourth session was on creating an enabling environment for the Youth. According to Shantayanan Devarajan, one in five of the world’s population is between the age of 5 and 24, and most of them live in developing countries. Unfortunately, the majority of these children are unable to go to school and are forced to work under horrible conditions. This topic was one of the issues addressed in the World Development Report on Youth. Shantayanan Devarajan discussed the three essential recommendations of this year’s WDR:

1. Expand adequate opportunities— broaden opportunities for youth to participate in civic life
2. Enhance capabilities— strengthen the youth’s ability to make decisions
3. Provide support— reach out to vulnerable youth and ensure that possibilities exist for “second chances”.

One of the panelists, Nistha Sinha, addressed the question of how to implement these essential recommendations and what the challenges are to their realization. Sinha stressed that young people have to be heard. She said that they must be the stakeholders in these policies. Some of the challenges include building capacity within governments to recognize some of these issues as well as the need to cut across multiple sectors. Ambassador Denis Antoine also expressed the power behind Youth by mentioning that Youth Leaders can play the same roll that adult leaders can.

The speakers at this conference were great examples of how powerful the Youth can be with proper support, passion and a vision.

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