Young People Are Catalysts For Change: If Only You'd Listen

19/09/2017 13:45 BST | Updated 19/09/2017 13:45 BST

Young people are being left behind.

That's what I've come to discover throughout the past year of my life working to amplify the voices of young people.

We have a horrible rap for our alleged political apathy, general laziness, heavily editing our selfies, and spending our life savings on avocado toast. And while I'm inclined to agree that there's not much better than a perfectly ripe avocado spread smoothly across some five-grain toast, I surely won't let that stand in the way of fighting for what I believe in.

The United Nations has recently proclaimed that making youth into catalysts for change is at the tip top of their agenda, right alongside accomplishing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. NGO's across the globe are supposedly standing together to bring youth to the forefront of conversation.

But thousands are still being ignored. What's happening?

While millennials are busy poaching eggs to top their perfectly seasoned avocado toast, the international development sector is proclaiming that youth should be standing at the forefront, but meanwhile are creating their own barriers to preventing young people from feeling that they are able to make an actual impact.

Among these barriers: The voluntary model, use of political jargon, and lack of actual engagement with the young community. Dialogue hinges on conversation about "how" we can implement practices that engage youth, but action is scarcely seen. Thousands of young people in the international development sector are without work, or are working unpaid as an intern or volunteer. This model leaves people behind - those who can't afford to work as an unpaid intern or volunteer.

But I'm not here to preach the gospel of the problems in the international development sector. I surely understand that there are issues, both monetary and logistically, with employing young people who are still very much developing in their passions and careers. But what the sector isn't doing enough of, is promoting innovation, creativity, and persistence amongst young people. The dialogue hinges on jargon, as I previously mentioned: buzzwords such as "collaboration" are thrown about, lacking any concrete meaning or action points.

Instead, young folks are stuck behind their screens, instead becoming keyboard warriors, rather than feeling able to take action in their communities. And while there is some merit to being a keyboard warrior (hell, I'm doing it right now), thousands of young people are being neglected by the sector that they so desperately desire to be a part of.

Think of the amount of social change that can occur if we include young people in the dialogue. We get a bad rap for being lazy and politically apathetic, but perhaps we're feeling apathetic because we're speaking out and no one is taking us seriously. We're required to volunteer for six months or two years before we can develop an opinion that holds weight? There could be a massive shift if we actually give millennials the mic for a minute, and count their opinions as valid.