Imagine you’re a young person of the future.
Imagine you’re a young person living right on the fringes of your society.
Imagine you’re a young person who’s spent the last 12 years in traditional schooling, has had enough and can’t wait to leave, even though you’ve no qualifications and only a handful of life skills.
Easy? Difficult? This post is about what any one of these young people might need to be able to engage and make a contribution.
1. Inspire and believe in them
Stoke the fires of their interest and cultivate their enthusiasm for using digital tech to express their views, open or anonymously. Invest in them as producers of content and as each other’s consumers. The web’s already given many people a platform to do this and young people are leading the way in adoption of new tech that will tomorrow be commonly used.
2. Ditch traditional approaches to education
Focus on unshackling them from institutionalised approaches to learning and the process you’ve got to go through to earn a living and be successful. Apps4good show us how to do this, taking a new approach into mainstream settings and showing young people there are ways to learn less conventional approaches to earning. It’s not just about taking new approaches into traditional places though, the web (and video in particular) offers anyone the ability to teach anyone else anything, in your own time, in your own place free from dogma. You can even earn money teaching other people useful stuff.
3. Build for them
Relentlessly create new platforms that allow people to connect with one another. The Facebooks and Linkedins of 5 years will connect people in even smarter ways than they do now. Imagine being a young person on a bus and being able to look around you and view the social media profile of other travellers. Imagine being a successful business owner and being able to view the real time profiles (skills and talents) of young people travelling on the same bus as you. Barriers come down, new connections are made and partnerships are formed.
4. Teach them how to engage others
Teach them user centred design. Teach them co-design. They’ll be the one’s working with tomorrow’s youth to develop inclusive online and offline services for youth. Get this done now and we won’t be asking the same questions in five years time.
5. Cherish the value of those on the edge
Value what young people on the fringes have to contribute. No one else can give their perspective as the rest are all ‘in-the-box’, not out of it. By people on the edge I mean the real minority groups within minority groups: unschooled young people, young runaways, young people who’ve grown up in multiple countries, the ludicrously talented… Letting people on the edge lead can feel very risky but it’s often where the best ideas are born. Edgeryders are a great example.
6. Teach them to use tech to make tech
Teach them how to learn to use tech quickly. Develop their confidence in using tech to build tech. If you can learn rapidly and have support to believe yourself and make use of what you learn then you’re on your way to creating a living for yourself and connecting economically with society. If footballers can create apps then anyone can use tech to earn a living.
This article has been inspired by David Wilcox and Tim Davies’ call to contribute to a provocative post to their exploration into how digital technologies can support young people to engage socially and economically with their communities.
About the author: Joe mixes words and tech for social good. He’s a children’s advocate turned copywriter and digital innovator who’s learnt both the hard and easy ways the values and pitfalls of using technology to engage young people as users and stakeholders. He most recently co-led the Innovation Labs project. Find out more about him here and connect with him here.