Renowned for their open mindedness and ease with which they embrace creativity, young people are prime candidates for securing the future of innovation. But how can organisations and society at large ensure that this bundle of as-yet-unlocked innovative potential is not wasted? How can we actively encourage the youth of today to foster and hone their innovative capacity and be the minds of the future? Here are three ways to engage youth with innovation:
One of the most important factors in successfully fostering youth innovation is investment. This can be from anywhere from the upper levels of government down to the smallest SME or startup, but there is a strong link between early investment in young people and their capacity to innovate.
Entrepeneur.com recently featured a piece from guest writer Kelly Lovell, who attended the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit in Berlin, and whose aim is ‘to enhance the entrepreneur ecosystem, empowering youth to grow sustainable, job-creating businesses.’ Lovell argued that ‘the role of young people in shaping the world’s economy is clear’, highlighting the fact that ‘we are the largest generation of youth in history; and, worldwide, millennials make up almost 50 percent of the global workforce’ as key reasons why the youth contingent should be taken seriously.
There is no limit to innovation and creativity at a young age, and as such initiatives should be taken to foster links between young people and organisations as soon as possible.
Events like the G20 YEA attended by Lovell are an ideal way to expose young people to the details of innovation and to put together groups of like-minded individuals from across the world. This event in particular brings together around 500,000 young people and relevant organisations in the belief that SMEs and entrepreneurs are the main job creators in G20 economies, and young people are a dynamic source of growth and innovation for the economy.
One of Lovell’s greatest concerns is that, at present, traditional job creation strategies have left the labour market unable to absorb the vast numbers of young people seeking roles, meaning they often turn to entrepreneurship as an alternative and welcoming option. This trend should be seen as an opportunity for those already in the industry to capitalise upon through investment and support networks, knowing that a young generation literate in the qualities of entrepreneurialism can only be of benefit to organisations in the future.
UNDERSTAND REGIONAL NUANCES
While many of these initiatives can be carried out on a transnational scale, it is important to understand the regional nuances involved in working with young people for innovation.
For example, a Forbes article written by guest writer Hala Fadel argued that the time is ripe for the Middle East to invest in youth and innovation. Against the backdrop of falling oil prices and closing economic gap between oil-rich and “oil poor” countries, Fadel argues that now could be the perfect time for these states to shift their focus towards being “youth rich” and ‘investing in sectors that employ their predominantly young and growing population.’
With the percentage of internet users in emerging markets rising from 30% only ten years ago to 70% today, and with 70% of the Arab world population currently under 30 years old, investing in the relevant technologies, markets, young entrepreneurs and SMEs is vital if Arab governments are to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them.
A similar debate is taking place on the African continent, with Ugandan publication The Independent arguing that demographics and population are two of the biggest sources of potential for innovation in this region. With 2/3rds of Africa’s 1.2 billion population estimated to be under the age of 25, The Independent argues that beginning to see this population as a competitive advantage is important for future innovation. This should be done by ‘investing in skills, creating conducive environments for innovation’ and creating an ‘empowered youth population […] with an inspired commitment to create and change.’
Youth undoubtedly hold the key to the future of innovation, and as such innovators should be focusing on fostering the necessary support and financial relationships now that are necessary to breed success in the future.
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