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Youth -- beyond “Unemployment”

by Irma Wilson - 03 November 2013

Blog-YU02When will we re-examine the concept of ‘job’ vs ‘work’? If everybody were to be ‘employed’ as the definition of it stands today, it’s a dire outlook for Africa with her massively youth skewed population. Place this in the context of the finite resources on our Planet and the extractive nature of our current economies, further exacerbated in the African context, with our resources being exported to other places on the planet that are using theirs up too fast. One word for you here: China.


There is so much work to do but no jobs. The questions are:

  • How does one engage the youth to get on with this work?
  • What work exactly is this?
  • How do we create housing, food-security and meaningful joyful work?
  • How can we let money flow more efficiently through to the youth?
  • What values are being created that’s not measured by the current systems and how do we create ecologies of reward systems for this?
  • What skills do we make sure they are taught?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • How does wisdom and more ecologically sane (like biomimicry) options/information flow to the youth?
  • Why don’t we ask them?
  • Why don’t we get them to talk to each other and consider their options, informed by a combination of macro and micro scenarios?
  • Why don’t we encourage them and make their ingenuity visible to more of their peers?

One idea is to create hundreds of maker co-learning spaces that are place based and community engaged. There is a group of (about 1500) European young people who seem to be doing this already. They call themselves EdgeRyders. It’s a rather educated and much more cushy doöcracy (yes, new word the aristocracy of doers) but they have conceived of and executed (within 12 months with no formal funding, purely through co-creation collaboration and pure guts) such a place based and community/inhabitant informed ‘residency for builders and social innovators’ in the city of Matera in Southern Italy. As one of the participants at one of these innovation residencies puts it "for us, success is to enable young people to take their lives into their own hands, independent of what the state can or can not provide. To do this in terms of monetary income, employment opportunity, social insurance, infrastructure & networks that will hold us, even in times of a failing state".

There are countless African-wide examples of remarkable young people, doing incredible things, some inside the main stream, but many, many, outside. Entrepreneurship and empowerment, responsible tourism and food production, life-long learning and innovation of many kinds, all form part of the story.

We frame he plight of the youth in terms of their employment (or not). This underpins the narrative that growing the economy is our most important focus. This provocation is designed to lead you to your own questions. What level of continued growth (to make sure the youth have jobs) can we maintain?


Irma Wilson
Founder: FutureSharp

thrivability, emergent innovation facilitator, change management, connector, fire-starter, entrepreneur, midwife for a graceful transition, artist & mother

Follow Irma on Twitter



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