national youth leadership council

Youth Need to Be Part of the Conversation

By Amy Meuers, NYLC CEO

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Social Innovation Summit in Chicago, Ill. with leaders from around the country and across sectors (business, non-profit, foundation). The event is a unique combination of business innovation and social transformation. Everyone in attendance is looking for ways to address some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Reflecting upon my experience over the course of two days, I had three top takeaways:
1. Corporations, foundations, and nonprofits all want to partner to solve world issues but struggle with how to do it in the most effective way.
2. Technology (AI) is/will change the landscape of education and career in the next 50 years, beyond anything we can imagine.
3. Youth are a topic of conversation but not invited to the conversation.

As an organization that has youth voice as a core value, I struggle when we (adults) talk about what we are going to do for youth but have never asked youth what they want or need. For example, one presenter shared that 70 percent of current jobs are going away only to be replaced through AI (artificial intelligence). In the next 50 years, there will be over 4 million jobs open in the science and technology fields so, because of this, many organizations have begun developing technologies that integrate technology into the classroom or look to engage youth in technology. These are all noble things but what each solution failed to do (at least those I observed) was to ask youth to be part of the solution. Software and technologies are created for youth, not with youth. Youth need a seat at the table when we are looking at solutions – it is after all, their futures we are talking about, not just a corporate workforce.

There were many excellent conversations, ideas, and collaborations that were born out of this conference. It provides a remarkable platform to think about how we can all work together to make impactful change in the world. I only wish that the young leaders sitting in classrooms across this country were part of the conversation. At NYLC, we know that young people are innovative change-agents who have the greatest stake in finding solutions. Now, all we have to do is help the rest of the world see just how remarkable young people are.

I want to thank the Bush Foundation for providing me, and so many other leaders across the Midwest region, with the chance to attend this event. Interacting with a cross sector of stakeholders was an amazing opportunity. The ideas and partnerships that began as a spark in Chicago will burn bright as we return home and fan the flames of change. I guarantee that young people will be sitting there with us.