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Equipping Diverse Youth to Thrive: New Insights on Skills Development, Inclusion, and Measurement

Mon, April 18, 6:00 to 7:30am CDT (6:00 to 7:30am CDT), Pajamas Sessions, VR 133

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


Youth programming is often shaped by idealism, the hope that by building youth skills, increasing their tangible and intangible assets, and shaping a more enabling environment around them, we will create new communities and futures in which youth can fully thrive. Presentations in this panel explore how this idealism has shaped our work with diverse marginalized youth populations in a time of tectonic shifts, and the need for youth to adapt to unrelenting dynamics of radical change due to conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic and environmental crises. In alignment with the conference theme, we “nurture our idealism into reality” with efforts to determine if our efforts really improve youth skills and lead to other improved outcomes. It is essential not only to equip youth with the skills necessary to thrive amidst uncertainty, but also hold ourselves accountable by applying key inclusion and measurement approaches and tools.

Extensive research has been conducted on the ‘building blocks’ of youth empowerment in developing countries. Several conceptual frameworks highlight the importance of combining ‘soft’ skills and agency development with increased access to services, within enabling contexts (Youth Power Learning - Hinson et al, 2017; GAGE, 2017). Those frameworks highlight the importance of individual and collective action by youth, shifting norms and claiming rights. Additional ‘building blocks’ identified as critical for successful transitions into wage employment included policy frameworks fostering the creation of dignified jobs for youth, employer engagement in demand-driven education and training to ensure the development of skills matching market needs, and fully leveraging the power of digital technologies in training and job-seeking processes (ILO, 2020). In the current context of unprecedented, combined crises, to what extent are those ‘building blocks’ still contributing to boost youth empowerment and resilience, however? What additional interventions are accelerating recovery, and for whom?

The first presentation raises the question of which skills we should aspire to help youth develop, and makes the case that “learning to learn” is one of the most important skills during these times of rapid change and constant adaptation. Second, we examine audacious efforts to reach ultra-marginalized youth in conflict-affected South Somalia, constantly adapting methods based on learning to ensure accessibility and support for these youth. Third, we turn to the enabling environment and focus on how building the awareness and skills of employers and enterprise support agencies can transform access and outcomes for youth with disabilities and other marginalized youth. Finally, we examine the question of what it takes to systematically detect and measure change in skills and values even in the midst of the pandemic and other unstable context factors--and how we can use such data to inform our work with youth and adults, to better transform our idealism into reality.

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