The World Bank office in Sydney has established a Facebook group called "Young People for Change" for youth in the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea to air their thoughts and ideas on how they could help spur change.
I love this innovative approach that seeks young people where you find them these days: on social network sites. One could argue that the respective cultures of the Pacific, PNG and Timor Leste are rather distinct, and yet, the views and concerns of these young people might prove to be remarkably similar and indeed provide valuable food for thought for politicians and policy-makers. For governments, and development institutions supporting them, integrating youth in their strategic planning and addressing their hopes and grievances has been notoriously difficult and often simply overlooked. This shortcoming has come at a high price at times; high youth unemployment and a sense of social and political alienation have long been recognized as a proximate cause for political instability.
1.3 billion young people live in the developing world - the largest-ever youth group in history. Over two-thirds of the world’s youth live in Asian Pacific countries. People under the age of 20 make up a third of the population in Timor-Leste and half the population of Papua New Guinea. The average Tongan is 21 years-old. Around 40 percent of Kiribati’s population is under the age of 14.
The Facebook group will give these teenagers a feeling of a larger community and a platform for debate. The group is still small so far, and one should not underestimate the limits computer access will set in some of the countries. And yet, if the group takes off, it will be a great way not only to capture thoughts and issues, but also to make these group members believe in THEIR ability to influence policy and change destiny. A change that will matter long after the Facebook phenomena is gone. Who ever came up with the initiative had a very cool idea with this fresh take on the Bank's “convening power”.
Photo credit: Facebook Group "Young People for Change"