Final thoughts: Thinking about ‘youth’ as a collective

Preluding the High-Level Political Forum 2017, SDSN Youth and TSIC created a policy brief outlining key recommendations for policy-makers to advance youth innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here follows the last post in a series of three outlining how to support youth-led innovation for the SDGs.

To conclude this short series on youth solutions for the SDGs and the HLFP review process, it should be noted that youth cannot be regarded as one homogenous entity. Indeed, the challenges and opportunities that young people face vary greatly across the world, and any attempt to galvanise youth interest in innovation should avoid applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. For instance, an entrepreneur in Kenya might face challenges such as limited internet access and poor infrastructure, whilst a young innovator in Hong Kong may have to overcome hurdles around perceptions of youth capabilities and challenging traditional power structures. It is therefore crucial that the policy recommendations put forward in the “Supporting youth-led innovation to achieve the SDGs” policy brief need to be localised and adapted to an individual’s specific context. The responsibility to advance and expand young people’s access to support lies with local policymakers, investors, and any interested stakeholders, as they themselves know what would work best. As such, it is important to highlight to these groups the hugely positive contributions young people can offer to their communities, and instil in them the drive to act in an actively supportive capacity.

It is clear that, from the research examined, all evidence points to the significantly positive effect of developing young people’s innovative capacities for the SDGs. Young innovators are challenging traditional approaches to sustainable development and it seems clear that encouraging and facilitating youth-led innovation can have major economic, cultural and social impact that can be felt by all members of society. However, the spirit and innovative capacities of youth are not immune to external challenges, and it is also apparent that promoting support from all stakeholders, public and private, can increase the impact that young innovators have on their communities and the world at large. Public policies, universities’ strategic plans, private investment opportunities and other public-private initiatives should provide enabling environments to increase access to capital, improve legal and regulatory frameworks, and ensure proper training and research that allow young innovators and their solutions to thrive. In turn, this will help overcome the barriers that are currently preventing skilled and innovative young people from contributing fully towards achieving the SDGs.

This post was only a short summary of the policy brief produced by TSIC and SDSN Youth if you are interested you can read the full policy brief here.

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