On behalf of CIRAD, I was pleased to attend the NGO-UNESCO Forum entitled “Youth and their Social Impact”, organized by the UNESCO Liaison Committee in collaboration with the Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK), held in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on 3-4 May, 2017.
This event brought together NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO, youth representatives and high-level experts with a view to becoming a call for action and a platform enabling participants to co-create initiatives and to select high-impact ideas. Through targeted conferences and panel discussions, the forum mainly dealt with youth engagement and its potential for social change all over the world, ways of optimizing the impact of digital tools and managing their risks, strategies for educating for a sustainable future, and skills to be developed among young people to bring a meaningful contribution to their own societies.
Based on the Forum’s debates, my recommendations for member universities are as follow:
- Although clear connections between volunteering and a pathway to employment were identified, many youngsters are discouraged from getting involved in social causes at the idea of having to make time for it. Universities could thus think about initiatives to include volunteering activities in the integral formation of youngsters as a way of adding value to their studies and future career.
- Besides, there is a constant need for capacity building within NGOs with a view to boosting the personnel’s professionalization. Universities could grab this opportunity to provide their services to NGOs as part of their third mission or to include courses in the curriculum of socially-oriented disciplines for future NGO professionals.
- Finally, the so-called millennial generation, ranging from the early twenties to the late thirties, is reported to seek for impact in most of their everyday activities. Universities could build on this way of approaching life by further encouraging future job seekers to become today’s job creators, even at an early age, by providing relevant sources of inspiration and accompaniment.