Published on Jobs and Development

Crisis as opportunity: Rethinking youth unemployment together

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As “change” has become the status quo and innovation often outpaces adaptation, there is now the opportunity to help young people prepare for a new digital world.  (Photo: Charlotte Kesl /World Bank)

How can we provide employment to the 1.8 billion young people that live on this planet? Will we have enough jobs for all these young people? Will there be sufficient high-quality and high-productivity work, especially for women, who are often the most vulnerable when it comes to finding meaningful work? The size of the youth employment challenge – and opportunity – is enormous. That’s why we need all the help we can get. 

Last week during the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings 2017, more than 50 high-level members of key organizations, governments, foundations, private sector and civil society discussed the innovative agenda of the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition. During the event, Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director of the Social Protection, Labor and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank, Olfa Soukri Cherif, Member of Parliament in Tunisia and Namita Datta, S4YE's global Coalition Manager, focused on the need for meaningful partnerships in our global ambition to rethink youth employment, “generation jobless,” and ride the digital wave of opportunity together.

Technology is changing the way we think, move, consume, learn and look for jobs. As “change” has become the status quo and innovation often outpaces adaptation, we now have the opportunity to help bridge that gap, and help young people prepare for the new digital world of our times. But, while necessary, technology brings us only that far. When taking on one of the largest challenges of our generation – youth employment – we need a strong partnership  that brings together different organizations in a way where the total is more than the sum of its parts.

S4YE is taking the lead in linking actors from the public, private and civil society sectors that already, or are ready to, prepare young people for the workforce with innovative programs.  It’s a whole new strategy for driving youth employment, one that brings together a powerhouse group of international influencers to leverage learning and create high-impact programs that can make a difference for youth on a global scale.


Towards New Solutions for Youth Employment


In the fight to address youth unemployment, the benefits of a strong partnership go far beyond a simple pooling of resources and knowledge of each of the partners. It is also about taking the unfolding conversations, ideas for action, to the next level. The key is forging creative partnerships to advance solutions through sharing real-time experiences and on the ground knowledge on what works, and what doesn’t. And then to collectively innovate, take risks and experiment in an effort to find new solutions, together.

A concrete example of the power of partnerships, is S4YE’s effort to push the frontier on innovation by developing blueprints and guidelines on a second generation of youth employment program – especially those that better connect with markets and employers, the demand-side, to create more jobs. This focus on innovation will be based on a stock take from existing evaluations of youth employment programs as well as a more bottom-up focus on real-time learning from youth employment programs that are currently being implemented worldwide by a range of development partners.

Through its Impact Portfolio, S4YE has initiated a dialogue among 19 high-potential, diverse youth employment projects led by a variety of partners including Microsoft, Silatech, McKinsey, Accenture, Plan International, MasterCard Foundation, Swisscontact Uganda, DfID, Harambee,  ILO, IYF/MIF, Save the Children, YBI, RTI/USAID, Technoserve, Educate!, UNICEF, Digital Data Divide, and the World Bank. The past months, the team consulted with representatives of each of these projects to identify innovative approaches and context-specific technological solutions, and is now strengthening group learning and conversation among these projects at a practical level.

It might be true that in some cases, partnerships are not able to advance the collective spirit, promising a panacea without a focus on real solution. But, well-thought out partnerships can, in fact, yield incredible mutually rewarding results. In many cases they help promote a common purpose, and strong collective voice.  As CEO of Walt Disney and author of Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed (2012) explains: “The myth of the individual above all is just that, a dangerous myth, one that is metastasizing in our digital world.”

Are partnerships the silver bullet for youth employment? Most probably not. But, if we want to ensure that this crisis that affects millions of youth today and our world’s future is converted into an opportunity for transformation, strong partnerships like S4YE are crucial. We need to aim high with innovative youth employment initiatives that gather different actors, identify mechanisms for meaningful youth participation, innovate to develop new solutions and create real economic opportunities and jobs for those who need them the most. Our youth.

To learn more about Solutions for Youth Employment, download this presentation and watch S4YE’s Introduction video on the World Bank YouTube channel. You can also follow S4YE on Twitter @S4YE_Coalition.


Julie Simonne De Moyer

Communications and Digital Strategy Lead, S4YE

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