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The Possibilities! A Network of Globally Minded Youth

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

A few months ago, there was an interesting news story on National Public Radio (NPR) about the experience of “first globals,” a generation of 20 to 30 year old public service oriented Americans that are increasingly living, studying, and working abroad.  John Zogby, an American political pollster, was credited in this news piece as having chronicled this trend in his book, The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream. In Zogby’s description of first globals, a term he coined, he described this generation on NPR by stating:"Two out of three of them have passports. They are well-traveled; technologically they have networks that include people all over the world. They have a desire to be nimble, to go anywhere and to be anywhere. They also have a desire to change their world and feel like they're in a position to do that."

This phenomenon has a lot of promise in the area of development, where the combination of shared experience, youth networks, and strategic engagement has the potential to address some of the most complex global challenges.

This sense of globalism and altruism among American youth may not surprise many, but what I found most striking was the potential scale of this engagement and the shifting perspectives among this generation. As pointed out in the news piece, this phenomenon goes beyond the children of the wealthy and educated to reach a whole new socioeconomic group, and this has important implications for the potential reach of this network. But, most importantly, through their diverse experiences, first globals have gained new perspectives that are challenging some of the more traditional notions of the world. When describing this, Frankling Gilliam, Dean of UCLA’s School of Public Affairs was quoted on NPR as saying, “It is a sea change in orientation. They understand this idea of a shared fate, or a linked fate. That somehow, what happens to somebody in Mumbai may have an effect on me in West Los Angeles." In my view, it is this type of shared experience among youth that creates a collective sense of possibilities.

It will certainly take more than an army of well-meaning youth from any part of the world to create meaningful change. If you look at the global challenges confronting this group alone, they can seem pretty insurmountable. Take the issue of unemployment – a problem shared by youth in both the developed and developing world. To tackle these tough issues, sustained networks of organized youth that share values, combine ideas, and mobilize their efforts have the potential to offer innovative solutions.

In creating solutions, as in any attempt at a breakthrough, it is the mosaic of experiences that generates new possibilities. As stated by the late Steve Jobs, “A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

Photo Credit: shioshvili on Flickr

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Comments

Submitted by Jonathan on
Nice read, thank you Uwimana for highlighting this phenomenon! The global youth movement is taking place right here in the halls of the WBG too. Young people here realize that their work can go beyond their day-to-day work are forming networks that will last far longer than their time in the Bank. But given that average percentage of people under 33 in units across the WB is around 7%, youth have had to look beyond their immediate surroundings to connect with each other. Instead, they've look online for ways to meet their colleagues in HQ and in the Country Offices. Recently, a movement called Y-LAB was launched with the intent of tapping into the diversity of expertise and perspectives that young people bring to this organization and to "help them help each other" bring their ideas to life. Within a few weeks, Y-LAB has already engaged over 120 people and is growing fast (Check out Y-LAB at FURL: ylab) I think that this is because Steve Jobs's message really resonates with young people here, who sometimes feel limited by the lack of long-term prospects at the Bank. This movement, and other existing youth communities at the Bank, are inspiring young people to take advantage of one of the greatest resources available to them during their tenures here: each other. It's great to hear news about the global youth movement and I hope that your blog and others will continue to draw attention towards young people in the World Bank as a source of innovation and fresh thinking in development. Sincerely, Jonathan Perry Co-Secretary, Youth-2-Youth

Submitted by Uwi Basaninyenzi on
Dear Jonathan, Many thanks for your comment. You are absolutely right: the global youth movement is very much alive and well at the World Bank, too. The Y-LAB is a very interesting initiative. It’s great to know that this platform is growing and that young people are utilizing this great network! Hope to hear more about what Youth-2-Youth is doing to help this network realize their full potential on this front. Best, Uwi

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