Female students from the University of Laos during a Library Week event on campus.
It’s not great to be young, said Chris Colfer, a 23-year-old American actor, singer, and author to Esquire magazine for their The Life of Man project.
It’s hard to disagree with Colfer. Youth are usually considered reckless, restless, and aimless. But in recent years things have changed. The change seemed more apparent last Sunday at the Social Good Summit, an annual event that celebrates technology and social action.
Almost every speaker pointed out how young people are creating solutions for the problems they and their communities are facing. “Young people want to be involved and really want to have their voice heard,” said Mette-Marit, crown princess of Norway. Young people are using social media to create a world where they have to access to clean water and air, livable land, quality education, and better opportunities for growth.
As impacts of globalization and technology combine, forcing the world to change, young people feel empowered and capable shaping the world. 84% of this generation of young people believes it’s their duty to change the world for the better, said Zeenat Rahman, special adviser for global youth issues at the U.S. Department of State.
Most young people of this generation are better educated than their predecessors. Democratization of technology has democratized self-expression. Empowered with cheap technology such as mobile and expression platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s almost second nature for youth to express their concerns, ambitions and hold their governments accountable.
Watch President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank Group talk about how everyone can make their voices heard:
As technology makes the world increasingly one global village, we will see more collaboration worldwide primarily because of young people. Recently, when I spoke to Rachel Kyte, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank Group, she suggested young people are less concerned about acquiring personal wealth and more about making sure they and their peers have access to resources.
Social media allows young people to exchange ideas and collaborate seamlessly. Challenges of a faraway land are not usually ignored by global youth, mainly because of the way they share information. What happens in one corner of the word makes an immediate impact in another. Young people use social media to organize and impact events on the ground. We have seen that from India to Egypt.
While the process of self-expression has become inexpensive and easy, young people understand that challenges facing them are complex. And the solutions won’t be easy. They believe changes that are needed are more about people and less about political ideology. From the United States to Sierra Leone, young people are taking matters in their own hands to make an impact. They think governments are slow and usually incapable of tackling complex challenges that need immediate solution. That is why they are working with each other, at times experimenting and failing, to tackle problems.
Historian Arnold J. Toynbee once wrote, “Growth takes place whenever a challenge evokes a successful response that, in turn, evokes a further and different challenge.” The world has made enormous advances but faces new global challenges. Young people know they will inherit a world facing the impacts of climate change and pervasive inequality.
One message that I took away from the Social Good Summit was that youth are working hard to meet the challenge with solutions. With access to technology in a global world, youth are bound to be unconventional leaders of international development.
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