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The World Needs Youth Leaders

Jennifer Hawkins, Associate Manager Global Nomads Group

The publishing party is about to start and our youth hosts are nervous! As guests enter the waiting room, we reflect on their accomplishments: multinational collaboration, youth leadership, and five excellent videos for The World Needs Challenge. The waiting room is full. I can feel their energy vibrating across my screen.

Mosa, our enthusiastic host from South Africa, gets the party started. The youth are flowing and the audience is hooked. Aya, from Jordan, shares her image description: “Hi everyone! I’m Aya. I’m an 18 year old, light-skinned Middle Eastern female. I have light brown hair and I’m wearing a white t-shirt,” then tells us about the Content Creation Lab process for collaborative, global, youth-generated content production. Mid-sentence her internet connection drops and she’s gone.

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(image description: a screenshot of a virtual meeting with an international and multiracial group of young people and adults smiling at the camera.)

After Aya’s disappearance, there are 30 long seconds of silence. My nerves start to kick in.

Do they know what to do? Should I step in to keep it moving? Should I message Mosa and tell him to keep going?

Before I figure out my next move, Mosa jumps in to move the agenda along, and as he does, Aya reappears. “Sorry about that! My internet went out for some reason. As I was saying…”

And without missing a beat, she continues her presentation.

This moment felt metaphorical for the entire process. There are so many potential obstacles to multinational youth collaboration, including connectivity, time zone differences, cultural differences, implicit biases, and competing time commitments. At GNG we approach each potential obstacle as an opportunity to learn and grow and adapt. We perpetually ask ourselves and our youth about the barriers to participation in virtual exchange and how we might eliminate them. For Kea (South Africa), local load-shedding created obstacles to joining virtual team leader meetings. For Alize (Turkey), losing a co-team leader mid-project created challenges. For Stella (USA) and Katso (South Africa), new leadership responsibilities required new organizational and motivational skills. In each case, the youth came back quickly, and carried on with the work, just like Aya when her connection was lost.

The Content Creation Lab supports meaningful and enduring learning by putting youth at the center. We ask them to take risks. We encourage them to fail forward. We celebrate their growth and development. We reflect on their learning.

As the young people in your life participate in The “World Needs” Challenge there is no doubt they will come up with creative, innovative, and thoughtful solutions to the world’s complex problems. They have to. They know what they are inheriting. And as Kea (South Africa) so artfully affirmed at a reflection session, “We will be better than” the generations that came before.

The world needs youth leaders. And young people need environments that cultivate their talents and capacities while removing the barriers keeping them from leading positive change.