Mark Bonchek, Chief Epiphany Officer at Shift Thinking, summarizes what these trends mean for young people:
“Ours is the first generation in history with a need to update our mental maps within a single generation. The old models are rapidly becoming obsolete. This creates a challenge of not only learning, but rather unlearning. For example, this may be the last generation that needs to learn how to drive a car".
So, what is the way forward? How do we move the needle?
Well, in order to move it we need to reinvent the way we see the needle of youth development itself. A future model could fit tidily into five Es: Engagement, Education, Employability, Entrepreneurship and Economic growth. It is widely agreed that education should change to accommodate the skills needs of the future - the question is how. What is really needed is a new model that demystifies and democratizes innovation and fosters leadership among youth. Youth, when given the opportunity, have shown an immense potential to solve real problems and address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using new technologies. Any youth empowerment program must integrate tech skills (such as social, mobile, or analytical skills) and innovation skills (such as design thinking and rapid prototyping).
To engage young people more effectively, we should encourage the use of learning spaces that promote these skills rather than confining education to the traditional classroom. Social innovation labs and challenges for youth around the world are experiments worth continuing and scaling up. Youth collaboration and co-creation spaces that help them learn and apply such skills in their own local community contexts (wherever they come from) will help make innovation more inclusive and accessible. Such spaces can foster a new leadership and innovation mindset that combines the “growth”, “maker” and “team” mentalities. And that mindset will help build a data-driven collective intelligence between human minds and learning machines. This should result in a new entrepreneurial culture where youth can take more ownership of sustainable development at both the macro and micro levels. Hence, even the design of such living laboratories should be catering to both macro and micro needs. Only then can youth create and sustain innovation, which will in turn generate local wealth and help communities overcome the trap of inequality.
The sustainable and inclusive development of youth is our collective responsibility, because when future tech is harnessed by truly empowered young people, our societies can collectively leap. We must make governments, academia, businesses, civil society and local community leaders more aware of how to enhance this process of empowerment through innovation, and in doing so we will help move the needle so that no young person is left behind.