Role of Youth
[pic] Prepared by: Jennifer Corriero Date of Release:January 2004 Lead Organization: TakingITGlobal Special Thanks: Advisors: Professor David Wheeler, PhD Joseph Amati, Masters Student Ellen Ratchye, Research Analyst, Fallon; Shelley Smith and Robert Bernard, DCODE Technology Support: Martin Kuplens-Ewart Data analysis and research support: Jacob Bleakley, Noor Alibhai, Hugh Switzer Final Edit: Huss Banai and Michael Furdyk
Table of Contents: |1 |Executive Summary |3 | | | | | |2 |Introduction |5 | | | | | |2.1 |Demographic Force |5 | |2.|Democracy on the Rise |5 | |2.
3 |Culture of Leadership |6 | |2. 4 |A Shift in Power Dynamics |7 | |2. 5 |TakingITGlobal Online Community and Vision |8 | |2. |Youth as Key Stakeholders |9 | |2. 7 |Youth as Engaged Citizens |10 | |2. 8 |From Student to Teacher |10 | |2. 9 |Young Employees as a Source of Innovation |11 | |2. 10 |The Interactive Consumer |12 | |2. 1 |The Need for a Holistic Perspective on Youth |13 | | | | | |3 |Role of Youth Survey: Key Objectives |14 | | | | | |4 |Role of Youth Survey: Methodology |15 | | | | | |4. |Promotion of Survey |16 | |4. 2 |Analysis of Survey Results |17 | |4. |Demographic Profile of Respondents |20 | | | | | |5 |Defining Youth |22 | | | | | |6 |Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Youth |26 | | | | | |7 |Issues of Importance to Youth |29 | | | | | |8 |Participation in Decision-Making |31 | | | | | |9 |Factors Influencing the Changing Roles of the Youth |34 | | | | | |10 |Youth as Agents of Change |37 | | | | | |11 |Conclusion |40 | | | | | |12 |General References |42 | 1. Executive Summary
This report is the outcome of a larger process, building on months of reading and research of secondary materials, years of personal experiences meeting with and understanding the issues and perspectives of young people around the world. This research seeks to demonstrate that globally, young people today have more power and potential to create change than any previous generation of youth. It seeks to discover the ways in which young people define themselves, how they are perceived by society, how they are best engaged in decision-making, and the role of technology in facilitating the shifting role of youth. This report is based on a survey designed by Jennifer Corriero, based on five prevalent categories: Defining Youth, Perceptions and Attitudes towards Youth, Youth Participation in Decision-Making, The Role of Technology, and Youth as Change Agents.
Conducted in partnership with an international NGO, TakingITGlobal (TIG), the electronic survey was promoted and filled out by over 1,400 respondents, after which qualitative and quantitative questions were separated, organized, grouped, and analyzed, with the assistance of a number of individuals. Finally, this report was created to communicate the values and trends underlying the statistics and statements of respondents from around the world. The question of how youth is defined resulted in an interesting array of suggestions. Age led with over half of the responses, followed by suggestions that youth represents personality characteristics or outlooks on life. A young female in India suggests that youth are those who are vivacious, full of energy” – people who “want to make a mark in life”. The idea of youth being a life stage between dependant and independent was another major grouping of responses, suggesting that youth are “starting to enjoy freedom for the first time”, according to a young man from Zimbabwe. As the perceptions and attitudes towards youth were investigated, it was discovered that the majority of youth (62. 3%) have a lot of reasons for hope for the future. In regions such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, a stronger sense of optimism could perhaps be attributed to the need for a positive outlook to survive in many of the developing countries in those regions.
Consumer culture was consistently felt around the world to have too much influence of today’s youth, according to 76% of respondents. Education was seen as meaningful and important by 89% of survey participants, with 62. 2% feeling that youth are not equipped with the skills they require for jobs. Education, employment, friends, music and various social issues were stated as the top areas of concern and interest of youth within their communities. Sustainability only made it into the top 10 in Africa and Asia, suggesting that the rest of the world has yet to make sustainable living a priority, or even something that people are aware and confronted with as an important issue.
Employment was in the top 3 in every region, and was first in South America, with many young people expressing concerns about ensuring that they have the necessary skills and experiences to be employed in their field of interest at a sustainable wage. As youth participation in decision-making was explored, it was discovered that the highest area of youth participation takes place within local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with national NGOs close behind. Youth were least involved with national governments, which in most countries have yet to engage in meaningful strategies to encourage or facilitate youth participation, evidenced by the low voter turnout rates amongst youth, especially in North America.
As Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota put it once on CNN “Youth don’t vote because they say politicians don’t care about their issues. Politicians don’t care about their issues because youth don’t vote! ” It appears that NGOs have the best relationships with youth and thus are best positioned to meaningfully engage youth in various political processes. Respondents were very positive about the role of technology in transforming the role of youth in society and organizations. The majority see technology as an enabler for information to be shared and meaningful communication to be had. A variety of concerns were also brought up such as the digital divide, and how technology helps those who have access to it.
Many examples were highlighted discussing the various ways that young people have made a meaningful impact in their communities and how they would change or improve the world, their countries and the role of youth in their communities. Overall, the sample of youth in this survey uncovered an optimistic, forward-looking generation encompassing young of age and youth-minded individuals. They are comfortable with and enabled by technological progress and change, interested in engaging in local and global decision-making, and they are already having significant impacts in their communities, countries, regions, and around the world. They want to be educated, they recognize gaps in their skills, and in many cases they can clearly identify the needs of not just themselves but of their peers.
The sample was respectful of the wisdom of the elders that have led them to where they are, but also ready and willing for the challenges that await them as they mature and discover the complexities of our global ecosystem.2. Introduction Young people growing up today have far more power and potential to create change than any previous generation of youth growing up. Much of this shift is a direct result of the information revolution and access to opportunities that have been provided to people of all ages, especially to those growing up in the information age. This report will discuss prevalent demographic and political trends, the nature of youth in today’s global information society, and will provide reflections on the changing roles and responsibilities of youth in this new setting.
A discussion concerning youth as stakeholders will look at how traditional perceptions of the role of youth as passive citizens, students, employees, and consumers are actively challenged and questioned today. An empirical narrative providing background on my experiences most relevant to this trend, moreover, will be shared to provide personal context to this research. Lastly, the results and key findings from a survey conducted on the Role of Youth will be shared. 2. 1 Demographic Force Young people are also an ever-growing demographic force. According to UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), there are more than one billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 on the planet. [i] In the developing world, where 80 percent of young people can be found, youth comprise up to 70 percent of some nations’ populations. ii] In the United States of America, the baby boom generations of the 1940s 1950s made possible the subsequent echo boom (those born between 1977 and 1997), of which today’s young people are a substantial part – 80+ million strong[iii]. 2. 2 Democracy on the Rise The transformation of many authoritarian states to democracies (as shown in figure 1 below) has further improved and provided the essential conditions and environment for young people to explore their interests, express themselves, take action on issues they care about, and access information. [pic][iv] As a result of the Internet, population growth, and rise of democratic societies, a new paradigm in the role of young people is beginning to emerge, resulting in the recognition of youth as citizens, students, employees and consumers.
As many as 620 million people have access to the World Wide Web and related information and communications technologies (ICTs) worldwide, with the majority of Internet users based in the non-English-speaking countries. [v] English comprises 36. 5 percent (230. 6 million) of the world online population language, while the non-English-speaking world represents 63. 9 percent (403. 5 million). [vi] According to 2000 statistics from Forrester Research, 56 percent of 16-22 year-olds are online in the United States. They spend an average of 9 hours online, 38 percent more than the average wired adult and are involved in a wider variety of online activities compared to adults – 20 percent more. vii] The same survey found the majority of Internet users in the United States to be in the 18-49 age-group (63 percent), with only 37 percent of users in the 50+ age-group. [viii] 2. 3 Culture of Leadership The culture of leadership for much of the twentieth century was influenced, and modeled after, centralized structures of governance and rigid forms of authority. The onset of the Industrial Revolution unleashed a series of uncontested norms and universally-accepted orthodoxies that associated centralized management systems and constant decision-making with effective leadership. The social consequences of mass production and centralized management of many industries reduced the traditional family into solitary unit of production.
As observed by one of the foremost theorists of management theory, Peter F. Drucker, the massive standardization of production methods and operating procedures (‘machine bureaucracy’) also served to loosen the some conventional familial characteristics, ultimately culminating into the “crisis of the family”: On the farm and in the artisan’s workshop husband, wife, and children worked together. The factory, almost for the first time in history, took worker and work out of the home and moved them into the workplace, leaving family members behind — whether spouses of adult factory workers or, especially in the early stages, parents of child factory workers. [ix]
This centralized view of management in latter half of the past century, however, gradually conceded to more diffused and informal structures of governance; as more theorists and practitioners arrived at the common conclusion that “the better a business firm [organization] is organized, the more naturally decision rights gravitate to the spot where the best information is available about the specific decision that has to be made. ”[x] The emergence, and mainstream influence of, the Internet in the past decade, moreover, has had a profound impact on the way a given society manages its daily affairs – socially, politically, and economically – bringing with it new, and never-before-heard-of industries, such as biotechnology and IT telecommunications.
Whereas we may make the case that the rigid structures of the industrial age had a number of indirect negative impacts on families as a result of its emphasis on standardization and mass production, many believe that the information age, with its focus on integration and wide-scale distribution of information, has served the family by highlighting the importance of local communities and inter-cultural communication. [xi] Under the centralized form of governance, and prior to the Information Revolution, those with the most power and experience effectively possessed a monopoly over access to sources of information, and, therefore, tended to act as leaders within their communities. The “decision rights” of the younger and more inexperienced people were virtually non-existent and often viewed as being connected to those of women and the less advantaged in the society.
In many ways, this paradigm still persists today in the sense that young people are seen by many as having passive roles in society, such as the student who is there to learn rather than teach, the young employee who needs to do what he/she is told rather than provide a source of creative and innovative input, the consumer who is viewed as a target to influence rather than to truly support, the child who needs to learn how to ‘grow up’, and the citizen who is disengaged because he/she either cannot vote or is part of a population whose voice matters little. In addition, because young people (defined as those between the ages of 13-30) are at the frontlines of change from being dependent on older generations to being independent, they have been especially vulnerable to external influences and often lack a sense of empowerment because they suffer from the lack of essential resources, and limited involvement in decision-making. 2. 4 A Shift in Power Dynamics
The emergence of the Internet and other ICTs (Information & Communication Technologies) has been a catalyst for change, especially within the context of shifting traditional power dynamics. Increasingly, leadership is based on effective networks of collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Transforming leadership strategies from what they were during much of the past century has, to state it mildly, a challenge for most organizations and companies. More inclusive methods of governance, be it in the corporate world or the bureaucracy of the state, have been implemented in order to encourage, or project the image of, socially responsible behaviour. [xii] This transition, however, has almost been a foreign concept to youth growing up in the digital age.
The advent of the Internet offered an opportunity to young people – most of whom are much well-versed in using computers and digital devices than their parents’ generation – to develop new virtual interests, relatively unknown and foreign to previous generations. This new medium no longer involved complex and rigid forms of management and communication that were associated with previous power-centric models of governance. The diffusion of the hierarchies and power structures also meant the decentralization of information and the formation of simple, and easily-managed, networks of people, accessible at the click of the mouse worldwide. In this new environment, sources of influence do not simply come from the top, but are inspired or affected by the views, ideas and perspectives of many stakeholders who are affected by the decisions being made.
Governments and other formal decision-making bodies have been challenged to hold higher levels of transparency and accountability in order to gain institutional trust. Companies are increasingly interested in what their employees, customers and general public think about their business practices and increasingly aspire to become more socially responsible in order to address the needs and concerns of their stakeholders. [xiii] Instantaneous access to information and online resources has enabled the ‘common person’ make a contribution to organizations and society at large, while being able to demand a greater level of participation and involvement in decision-making.
More than ever, young people growing up with technology have the opportunity to empower themselves using their unprecedented access to real-time information and knowledge sources that can be attained through ever-expanding social networks, new alliances, businesses, protests and advocacy campaigns, and websites expressing divergent views and perspectives. 2. 5 TakingITGlobal Online Community and Vision The TakingITGlobal. org Online Community provides: • A pathway to support local action • A platform for the voices of young people to be heard • A framework for understand global challenges and issues • A connection to resources and opportunities • A network of interesting, dynamic and diverse young people • A virtual space to showcase cross-cultural perspectives and expressions.
In addition to engaging members of the online community, TakingITGlobal supports the needs of youth-led initiatives, educators and international organizations through its thematic, educational and organizational engagement strategies. TakingITGlobal’s 2010 Vision includes the following: • To realize the potential of at least 5 million young people as leaders for the benefit of their local and global communities. • To bridge the ‘continuity gap’ enhancing the effectiveness of youth action by connecting all major youth activities, events, programs and initiatives in a global network. • To mainstream recognition that young people are key stakeholders in all national and international policy making. • To produce the world’s most comprehensive and powerful knowledge resource – pushing the boundaries of online community and technology as a tool for social empowerment. To instigate significant evolution in the present concepts of school-education by increasing global connection, meaningful use of ICT’s (information, communication technologies) and inspiring student engagement. • To demonstrate innovation, excellence, creativity and professionalism in the management of a new style of international organization that is entrepreneurial, technology-enhanced, and youth-driven. 2. 6 Youth Are Becoming More Engaged as Key Stakeholders When key stakeholders are brought together to share a vision for the future, it is critical to recognize that although most young people are unable to formally represent a business, government or non-profit institution as a key stakeholder, they do have the largest stake in the future and can often help to revive and refresh various perspectives being shared. Youth participation often requires changes in the way adults perceive and deal with adolescents, since the rights of young people and their capacities to make decisions for themselves are often unrecognized and undervalued. ”[xiv] Increasingly, institutions are recognizing the importance of bringing the voices of young people to the forefront. On a global level, there are numerous summits that have brought together various leaders and decision-makers and have included young people as a key stakeholder or ‘major group’. For example, as a participant at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa, I was part of what the United Nations considers to be a ‘Major Group’ within the overall process of the summit along with women, indigenous people, farmers, business etc.
According to Agenda 21, involving each of the major groups in the decision-making process was recognized as being a “fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable development”[xv] The Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development states that the process is inclusive of youth: 34. We are in agreement that this must be an inclusive process, involving all the major groups and Governments that participated in the historic Johannesburg 170. Promote and support youth participation in programmes and activities relating to sustainable development through, for example, supporting local youth councils or their equivalent, and by encouraging their establishment where they do not By promoting, supporting and involving youth as a major group, a statement is made about the importance of recognizing youth as key stakeholders.
At the recent World Summit on the Information Society Preparatory Meetings which have been held in Geneva, Switzerland, the Youth Caucus is one of the strongest and most active groups, participating in the process alongside government, industry and other NGO groupings. 2. 7 Youth as Engaged Citizens On a national level, one of the basic conditions of a healthy democracy is having a population that votes. However, those under 18 are unable to participate – and not effectively inspired to vote once they’re able to, which has been leading to a large decline in youth voter turnout. In the US, only 60% of eligible voters under 25 have registered, and only 24% of those eligible to vote and over 20 say they “always vote” during elections. At the same time, many young people are civically engaged in many other ways – 40% of U. S. outh 14-24 have volunteered, 38% have participated in a boycott, and 44% have done some type of fundraising for charity, all within the last year. [xvi] There is a need to increase awareness and trust in political process, while also validating and supporting other forms of civic participation. There are a growing number of regional, national, and local youth councils and networks sprouting up due to interest, support, and demand. Increasingly, different youth councils are strengthening their efforts through forging more partnerships and raising their profile. An example of this is the European Youth Forum, ‘a platform organization, it is the representative body for its members towards the institutions and partners active in the youth field.
The 89 member organizations of the European Youth Forum represent a wide range of interests: student organizations, political organizations, organizations concerned with environmental protection, minorities, young rural organizations, conscripts organizations and many more. The European Youth Forum has member organizations including both national youth organizations and international youth organizations, drawn from throughout the European continent. The highest decision-making body is the General Assembly, which elects a Bureau made up of volunteers every two years. The Bureau meets monthly to assess political priorities, implement its work plan and advises the Secretariat in its work. ’[xvii] Increasingly, youth councils are being formed and strengthened in order to provide opportunities for young people to have a stronger voice. 2. 8 From Student to Teacher
Due to the rapid revolution in Information and Communication Technologies over the last decade, young people growing up as these technologies evolved have become innately comfortable using them, and have become neighborhood authorities on computer technologies. As the education system began to introduce computers in the classroom, young people were often frustrated as they were forced to re-learn skills they already had developed, such as BASIC programming and keyboarding. Over time, students’ expertise with technology has become accepted by teachers, and a variety of programs, such as Generation YES, have been developed to harness the skills and enthusiasm of students for technology to assist teachers in more meaningfully integrating it into the classroom. Young people are also learning from a wide variety of sources, and are increasingly deriving knowledge from their peers and non-school sources.
As Don Tapscott cites in his 1998 book “Growing Up Digital”, many young people growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s have learned basic skills from educational software like “Reader Rabbit” and video games. Thanks to online communication tools like ICQ, students are able to collaborate in real-time with their friends and peers across town or across the ocean, and share knowledge and ideas with each other. All told, this amounts to quite a challenge for the average teacher to cope with – a variety of students all with varying levels of technology access and external influences – as early as junior kindergarten! Of course, to meet the needs of these wired students as they progressed through the school system, Universities began to experiment with online course delivery and some now offer complete degree programs using a combination of ICTs.
The role of a teacher has also evolved in these situations to more of a mentor and coach as needed, versus needing to hand-hold students through courses, enabling them to provide maximum value in supporting the course content versus needing to focus on content delivery. This generation of youth also enjoys sharing opinions – and teachers can’t escape! Websites like RateYourTeacher. com and RateMyProfessor. com showcase the ratings of teachers by thousands of students, opening up the previously untouchable teacher relationship to transparent feedback and criticism by ‘consumer’ students. 2. 9 Young Employees as a Source of Innovation There are a variety of implications for human resource departments in companies and organizations as they begin to hire and integrate new talent into their workforce.
Because there is a large population of youth who are entering the workforce and who carry a range of unique skills and perspectives (especially technology-related), the existing strategies that attempt to attract, retain and develop the next generation of talent need to adapt to a different set of needs, expectations and opportunities. Young employees, especially those doing internships, can provide an incredible source of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and creative potential. In an organization where having many years of experience is valued, young people can be an overlooked, untapped resource. In the context of trying to solve problems in new ways, it is important to engage those who have not yet been institutionalized and are unfamiliar with the way that things have always been done.
It is critical for organizations to develop new strategies that can allow them to more meaningfully involve young people in both problem-solving and decision-making processes, in order to respond to the complex and evolving organizational challenges being faced. As it was mentioned above, the onset of the Information Revolution, coupled with the period of massive decentralization across-industries, had a profound impact on the way young people identify with the work environment. In the knowledge-based industries, rigid and strict structures of the past are largely associated with inefficiency, and are largely thought of as counterproductive to personal development.
Having grown up with this mindset, young peoples’ perceptions toward decision-making and effective problem-solving are mainly derived from their experiences in the digital world, where interaction and inclusion of perspectives are essential, if not required, for achieving common goals. Therefore, in dealing with this new technologically-empowered demographic, new knowledge-based industries will have to reinvent many of the old approaches toward this new generation. This, in fact, means that they (industries) would have to appeal to their knowledge-workers “by satisfying their values, and by giving them social recognition and social power” which they have grown accustomed to. [xviii] 2. 10 The Interactive Consumer
Due to the nature of the Internet as a medium which allows for and is based upon networks and interactions, young consumers have the opportunity to be creators of media and content rather than simply consume what is produced for them. “Broadcast technology, like television, is hierarchical. It depends upon a top-down distribution system. Someone somewhere decides what will be broadcast and our role is limited to what we choose or do not choose to watch. There is no direct feedback from the viewer to the broadcaster…The internet depends upon a distributed, or shared, delivery system rather than a hierarchical one. The distributed, or shared, power is at the heart of the culture of interaction. [xix]” (p79)
Due to the nature of the medium that young people are enabled by, they are able to demand a greater level of information, interactivity and involvement when it comes to products, services and the overall customer experience. Shopping comparison websites such as MySimon. com and BuyBuddy. com allow for intelligent and informed purchasing decisions to be made based on product-reviews and price comparisons. As a result, consumers are more empowered and can make more informed purchasing decisions. The Internet has provided other opportunities for consumers to be empowered by providing a vehicle for complaints to be expressed to large numbers of people. An example of this includes websites that are developed to discuss how a particular company ‘sucks’. Many URL’s have been purchased that say CompanyNameSucks. om and provide an avenue for disgruntled customers to share their complaints and concerns. Over half (55%) of survey respondents report boycotting a company or product at some point in their life, with 38 percent saying they have used their stick as a consumer in the past 12 months. And boycotting — buying a product or service because they like the social or political values of the company which produces it — is only slightly less prevalent. Just under half (45%) report having done so at some point in their life, while 35 percent have used the consumer carrot in the past 12 months. [xx] Bad experiences for unhappy customers can quickly become devastating experiences for a company’s image.
This demonstrates that consumers have the opportunity to become more engaged and influential through the opportunities for interaction that the Internet provides. Because 85% of teens in Canada have Internet access and are online for over 9 hours per week[xxi], young people are especially in a position to become empowered consumers, as they frequently and simultaneously combine the process of learning, working, and play/entertainment, allowing them to constantly observe and share opinions and best practices. 2. 11 The Need for a Holistic Perspective on Youth as Stakeholders While looking through various reports, studies, books and other secondary sources – all of which offer a variety of insights related to the interests, needs and experiences of young people, a clear research gap became evident.
Much of the research that exists on young people does not involve a global perspective, and often focuses on youth in the context of consumers in order to support business decisions, or youth who are ‘at risk’ and are a segment of the population vulnerable to a variety of social problems. Rarely are youth examined in the context of having the potential to be agents of change, problem-solvers, or leaders of the information society. In addition, major studies do not involve youth in the process of survey design, which can affect the potential bias of the research. In trying to examine if and how the role of young people has changed as a result of technology, the need for a unique study involving youth leaders and influencers from around the world who have access to technology became clear. 3. Role of Youth Survey: Objectives
In order to gain a deeper understanding of how the role of young people is currently perceived and how it has changed over the last 100 years, a survey was designed to explore the following: Defining Youth ? How is ‘youth’ defined? Are notions of ‘youth’ associated with positive or negative connotations? What are key differences between the perceptions of youth vs. perceptions of adults? Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Youth ? Is this generation of youth perceived to be enabled and engaged or disadvantaged and disengaged? Are they optimistic or pessimistic about the future? What other perceptions and attitudes towards youth exist and are there regional differences? Participation in Decision-Making ? How important is it for young people to be involved in decision-making?
What is the current perceived level of youth participation in decision-making on local, national and global levels? The Role of Technology ? Has technology played a role in transforming the role of youth in society at large and within different organizations and institutions? What impact has technology had in transforming the role of youth? Youth As Change Agents ? Are there interesting examples of young people having a meaningful impact in their communities? If so, what factors appear to enable this to take place? What are the hopes and ideals held by today’s generation of youth leaders? What recommendations can be offered in terms of the conditions that must exist for youth to become leaders? 4. Role of Youth Survey: Methodology
The following is an Overview of the Survey Questions: Demographic Information: for people to fill out their gender, date of birth, city, country, educational background, employment status, volunteer status and Internet usage. Defining Youth: open-ended questions about what images and phrases come to mind when they hear the word ‘youth’ and ‘adult’ and a question asking how youth is defined. Key Issues and Interests: participants were asked to identify the key issues and interests of youth in their community. They had to select from drop-down lists and rank the top 3 in order of priority. Words included: Arts, Business/Entrepreneurship, Community, Education, Employment,
Environment, Friends, Fundraising, Globalization, Health, HIV and AIDS, Human Rights, Leadership, Media, Music, Peace, Political Action, Religion, Romance, Sports, Sustainable Development, Technology, Travel, Volunteering, War. Attitudinal Characteristics: respondents were asked to rate 14 statements related to whether or not people agreed or disagreed with statements about youth on a scale of 1-5. Statements explored whether or not youth are perceived to be motivated, connected to opportunities, knowledgeable, inspired, informed, skilled, interested in being involved, focused, influenced by consumer culture, supported or lacking support from adults, optimistic or pessimistic.
Additional questions about education and age were asked. Role of Youth – Today: participants were asked to give their opinion on the role of youth in their community. They had to select from drop-down lists and rank the top 3 in order of priority. Words included: Students, Workers, Members, Mentors, Trend-Setters, Activists, Citizens, Victims, Leaders, Criminals, Technologists, Volunteers, Artists, Role Models, Soldiers, Children, Innovators, Peace-keepers, Consumers, Trouble-makers, Employees, Entrepreneurs Participation in Decision-Making: a question about the importance of being able to participate in decision-king was asked (on a scale of 1-5).
The second part of this question asked how involved young people are in decision-making on local, national and global levels for Business, Government and Non-Profit Organizations. Meaningful Impact: participants were asked to identify an example of how a youth within their community was effective at having a meaningful impact. Role of Youth – Historically: respondents were asked to identify whether or not the role of youth has changed over the past 100 years, and if so, has it been positive or negative. The response was based on a scale of 1-5. They then explained their response. Impact of Technology: respondents were asked to identify whether or not technology impacted youth in their community, and if so, if the impact has been positive or negative.
They were given a scale of 1-5 and were then asked to explain their answer. Creating Change: A series of open-ended questions were asked about how survey respondents would create change in the world, their country, and the role of youth in their community, along with what conditions need to exist for youth to become leaders 4. 1 Promotion of Survey On December 23, 2002, the survey was sent out to over 15,000 people from over 190 countries. There were a variety of ways in which the survey was promoted. An automated, personalized e-mail was sent out to all members of the TakingITGlobal online community (which included over 13,000 people from over 190 countries at the time).
The e-mail explained that as a ‘valued member of TakingITGlobal’, they were invited to participate in an ‘online survey to help determine their view on the role of youth in society’. The e-mail stated that it would take approximately 10 minutes to complete and that all of the information shared would be kept confidential and anonymous (meaning that their name would not be used without their permission). Although the survey was completely voluntary, an incentive for participating included having their name entered into a draw to win TIG t-shirts and mouse pads. In addition, each survey respondent would receive a free electronic copy of the final results once compiled.
All survey participants were given until January 21st 2003 (approximately 4 weeks) to fill out the survey. In order to avoid an overwhelming amount of replies to the e-mail, the letter was signed from TakingITGlobal’s Research Team as opposed to coming from a specific individual. A modified version of the e-mail invitation to participate in the Role of Youth Survey was created and sent out to all of the organizations listed in the TakingITGlobal organizations database (over 1,000), along with youth mailing lists for various organizations and youth caucuses, and other personal networks. People were invited to pass the information along and invite others to participate in the survey.
In order to maintain high levels of integrity, survey participants did not need to become a member of TakingITGlobal in order to fill out the survey, and did not need to fill out their name. If they were interested in receiving a copy of the final results, they were invited to provide their e-mail address. It is important to note that due to the nature of how the survey was promoted, all survey respondents have access to the Internet and are connected to existing networks that attract youth who are engaged. Thus, there exists some bias in the sample of survey respondents. In addition, there was no age restriction in order to participate which means that people of all ages were invited to fill out the survey, which was done for the purposes of comparison between different age groups.
The views, opinions and perspectives that have emerged as a result of the survey findings are not a representation of international youth in its entirety, but rather, a reflection from a targeted sample of engaged youth who have some access to the Internet and are able to read and write English. With this in mind, based on the goals and objectives of this study, it is an appropriate audience to survey as the focus is on trying to better understand the views and perspectives of youth who have access to technology. If there were greater resources available for this study, an offline component would exist and the survey would also be made available in multiple languages. This may be something to consider as a follow-up opportunity in the future.
Once the survey responses were sent in through the online survey application, Martin Kuplens-Ewart exported the compiled responses into various files for analysis. The quantitative responses were sent in SPSS format for graphs and frequency tables to be generated. The extensive qualitative responses were formatted and printed in charts and tables. 4. 2 Analysis of Survey Results The process of analyzing the survey data was far more extensive, complex, lengthy and overwhelming than what was initially expected. A variety of people were involved as part of the research team in order to assist in the initial process of compiling, reviewing and making sense of various sections of the survey.
A special thanks goes to Noor Alibhai, Jacob Bleakley, Hugh Switzer and Huss Banai who were all part of the research team at TakingITGlobal. Much of their involvement was in the initial phase of reviewing the thousands of responses which were given for the various qualitative questions. They helped sort responses into various categories and tallied up similar responses in order to generate graphs which provide a glimpse at the nature of the responses. Once initial pie charts were generated, the results were discussed as a team and I was able to continue further analysis. The following is an overall break-down of the data analysis process: ? Phase 1 – PowerPoint Presentation Including Initial Graphs
The program used to analyze the quantitative survey results was the SPSS Educational Version. After an initial tutorial session with Joseph Amati who has a lot of experience in working with SPSS, a 44 page PowerPoint presentation was put together with support from Noor, which included graphs for each of the survey questions. The deck of slides was presented to advisors for feedback. The key learning was that all the labels which included N/A or 0 as the description needed to either be removed or modified. In most cases, the information provided by this column was one that reduced the quality and overall effectiveness of the graphs. This decision meant that all the graphs needed to be regenerated.
Various other lessons were learned including analysis of frequency tables. ? Phase 2 – Regional and Age Break-Down of Graphs After a great deal of experimentation and technical support from Martin at TIG, appropriate labels were modified and new forms of categorization was implemented within the survey file to allow the data to be sorted by region and age. Graphs were regenerated for each of the questions in order to include the appropriate break-down. All of the new graphs compiled were put together in a Final Results word document. Since Microsoft Word and SPSS are not entirely compatible, a lot of time was wasted in regenerating and reformatting new graphs for the final results document.
In addition, certain graphs involved greater levels of complexity. Those questions which asked survey respondents to rank words on order of priority involved three sets of data which had to be added up in Excel prior to being able to generate the graph. Appropriate steps were taken to generate these graphs for global and regional responses. ? Phase 3 – Qualitative Results Initial Categorization of Responses ? In total, the survey involved over 10 open-ended qualitative questions which each had their set of over 1,000 responses per question. The overwhelming amount of data collected through these questions involved extensive hours of interpretation and results compilation.
The first phase of this process involved a team of researchers from TakingITGlobal tackling a specific question and developing different categories for the responses based on frequent responses. The categories established are quite subjective and as different people were involved in the process, certain categories were modified. Initially, a larger ‘other or inapplicable’ section existed for the various categories. A second review of questions involved breaking-down the ‘other’ responses into further sub-categories in attempt to further identify key patterns and occurrences. In addition to categorizing responses and generating pie graphs in Excel to reflect the overall responses, a series of summaries were created for each of the qualitative questions.
Each summary included a description of the category identified and a general overview of the responses that were placed in the category. Beneath the description included a few selected quotes which offered a general idea of the types of responses included within the identified category. A variety of challenges were encountered throughout this process, including the fact that many responses could have easily been placed in multiple categories. To adequately deal with this challenge, in the final tally, they were often placed in both categories and the total number increased. In the final graphs, the ‘other’ category has been removed from the pie chart in order to leave room for smaller categories which emerged from the initial other category.
Rather than view the final pie charts as conclusive or statistically accurate, it is important to see them from the perspective of general categories of responses from highest to lowest frequency. ? Phase 4 – Advice, Suggestions and Feedback from Advisors The compiled graphs for quantitative results and qualitative survey results summary pages became the first version of the Final Results document which was 60 pages. This document was then shared with a variety of advisors including Robert Bernard and Shelly Smith from DCODE, a strategy and market research firm based in Toronto. A variety of suggestions and recommendation were provided by D*CODE in order to strengthen the overall impact of the survey results. Many lessons were learned through the feedback shared.
Some of the advice was integrated; however after then speaking to my academic advisor, I was able to distinguish which changes were most appropriate to make for the purposes of my final report. One of the suggestions made included grouping the age categories differently in order to have fewer categories. The suggested age groupings include 14-19, 20-24, 25-30 and 31+. This proposed grouping addresses a few issues. Since there is a very small sample under the age of 14, it eliminates their responses from the results. Since youth is defined as up to the age of 31 and there are a smaller number of respondents over the age of 31, it helps to create one category of ‘adult’ or the purposes of comparison. This change was not made due to time constraints and in order to avoid over-simplifying the results. Another suggestion included removing the ‘neutral’ responses from graphs and clumping the ‘somewhat’ and ‘very’ categories together. Although this would have helped to provide clearer contrast between how the responses were weighted, it would have also reduced opportunities of noticing situations where many people were ‘neutral’, which is an observation in itself. In reviewing the charts which identify the top issues and concerns of youth, D*CODE suggested that it would be helpful to have them listed from the highest to lowest priority.
Additional tables were created which identify the top 10 issues in each region in order of highest to lowest. In addition, percentages were added on existing bar graphs. Another major distinction was made between what was necessary to include in the results compared to the discussion about the results. The results of the survey are presented in the order that the questions were asked. Each graph includes a brief description. The discussion of the results is categorized in a way that makes the most overall sense, especially in terms of the flow. In addition, only the most interesting patterns, trends and observations are highlighted in the discussion about the results. ? Phase 5 – In-Depth Reflection and Analysis of Qualitative Responses
The amount of qualitative responses meant that several ‘passes’ at reviewing the data were necessary. Members of the research team who were initially involved with analyzing particular questions were involved in a discussion about the results and each had an opportunity to present their findings to one another in front of an audience of other TakingITGlobal staff members. As a group, general patterns and trends were discussed and further areas of exploration were identified. After that, I spent quite some time re-reading and reviewing all of the raw qualitative results along with survey summaries. I tried to extract patterns and conclusions from the categories f responses, to better explain the impact of the data. A variety of new charts and summaries were developed for questions based on an additional review through the various responses to qualitative questions. These were then shared with a few other groups of people for feedback. ? Phase 6 – Written Descriptions for All Graphs Presented in Final Results After evaluating the many graphs included in the report, I looked through the data in greater detail and produced written descriptions to accompany the graphs, both to provide additional information and insight, but also to help the reader more quickly discover the wealth of data each chart had to communicate.
Throughout this process, certain graphs were regenerated in order to further improve the quality of labels, the ability to view responses from both age and regional break-downs, and to include percentages where appropriate on selected graphs. ? Phase 7 – Review Final Results for Key Findings ? With the final compilation of updated graphs, descriptions and survey response summaries, a comprehensive overview of the Final Results document took place. With the editing assistance of Hussein Banai and Michael Furdyk, this final report was created. 4. 3 Demographic Profile of Survey Respondents Region: The Role of Youth Survey involved a total sample of 1443 respondents from 126 countries. The majority of respondents reside in North America (29. %) and Africa (27. 4%). There were 16. 9% of respondents from Asia and the Middle East, 14. 3% of respondents from Europe, 7. 1% from Oceania and 4. 3% from South and Central America. Gender: A higher number of respondents were male (58. 7%) compared to female (38. 7%). There were notably more female respondents compared to male respondents in North America and Oceania, whereas in Africa, there were a greater number of male participants. This may be because it is less culturally appropriate for women to have access to computers in Africa. Age: A larger number of survey respondents were under the age of 30 (75%) compared to those who are age 30 and over (25%).
This is likely because the survey was about youth and was promoted throughout many networks that are specifically intended to connect youth. The average age (mean) of the sample was 26 years old. Employment Status: The majority of survey respondents are currently employed (63. 7%), while 36. 4% are unemployed. Many of those who identified themselves as unemployed are in the under 25 age-group, while those with a job are mainly in the 26 and up age category. Volunteer Status: There was a relatively even number of respondents who identify themselves as volunteers (53%) compared to non-volunteers (47%). There were more volunteers in the under 30 age category compared to the 31 and up age category.
Educational Status and Background: Only 40% of the respondents identify themselves as students compared to 59% of respondents who are not currently students. The are a higher number of respondents who identify themselves as students in the 16-20 age category. The survey sample is fairly educated in the sense that they are literate, they are able to speak and write in English (many also speak other languages fluently), and a large number of respondents have completed primary and secondary education. 55. 2% of respondents have completed or are attending University or College and 20. 9% of respondents have completed or are pursing Post Graduate Studies.
Online Activity: All survey respondents have basic access to the Internet, whether it be through an Internet cafe, library, school, work or home computer. 46% of the respondents stated that they are online between 1-10 hours per week. 22. 9% of respondents are online between 11-20 hours and 24. 5% are online for more than 21 hours each week. When asked what they do online, they key reoccurring themes involved communication, research & information searching (including working on projects and employment), music, games & entertainment. The following is a summary of the major online activities respondents are involved in: • Communication: Almost every response made reference to checking e-mail, if not instant messaging and/or chat room use. • Research and information:
Most users identified reading various newspapers, searching background information on their interests and using online information resources to aid completion of their work and/or homework as frequent uses. • Work – on projects, employment: Work was often cited as NGO involvement, general employment and the development and maintenance of personal web-pages. • Music, games and entertainment: On-line time is shared among downloading music, playing games and generally related to any other media/entertainment purposes. 5. Defining Youth In looking at how the concept ‘youth’ is defined, there are different notions and interpretations that can be grouped into three major areas.
The most common conceptions present youth in the context of having bountiful energy, a sense of leadership, curiosity and vision for the future. “Period of the life when we are still dreaming;” said a 30-year-old male, Skopje, Macedonia. Just over half of the survey respondents expressed that ‘youth’ is defined by the age of a person; with most of the respondents in the 13-30 age-group. The next major interpretation of how youth are defined was expressed through various personality characteristics and outlooks on life. “Vivacious, full of energy, want to make a mark in life, impulsive and one who are not scared to take risks;” said a 19-year-old female, Pune, India. Many descriptions shared by survey respondents clearly define ‘youth’ in a positive and idealistic light.
The third major category defining youth focuses on the particular life stage that people are situated in while in transition from being dependents to being independent. “A person who is starting to enjoy freedom for the first time…;” said a 26-year-old male, Harare, Zimbabwe. A key theme that is frequently repeated throughout this stage of transition is the freedom and lack of constraints that exist compared to older adults who are weighed down by greater responsibilities and societal pressures. Societal institutions develop various mechanisms to train and nurture the development of young people who are at a life stage that allows them to be open-minded, free-spirited, creative and imaginative.
There exists a clear correlation between the social conditioning of young people who need to prepare to become adults and the aspirations of adults to re-connect with their ‘youthful creative energy’ in an age where creativity and innovation are highly valued and a scarce resource in large bureaucratic institutions. However, there is both a strong contrast and a connection that exists between notions of ‘youth’ and ‘adult’. A common thread is that both involve age as part of the definition. The following chart highlights the contrast that exists between the most frequent expressions that emerged in response to the questions ‘What words, images and phrases come to mind when you hear the word ‘youth’ and then asked the same question for ‘adult’: Associations with the word ‘Youth’ |Associations with the word ‘Adult’ | |Lack wisdom, need guidance |Caregivers, Standard Setters | |Dreamers, Visionary, Hope for the Future |Critical, Dream-Killers, Few Idealists | |Freedom, Experimentation, Playfulness |Burdened, Busy, Responsibilities | |Open-Minded, Flexible, Innovative |Rigid-Thinking, Stuck, Conservative | |Rebellious, Free-spirited |Professional and traditional | |Innocence, Naive, Potential |Greedy,
Corrupt, Selfish | |Disadvantaged, Vulnerable, Unheard Voice |Decision-Makers, Positions of Authority | In reflecting on the nature of the responses to this question, it is important to note that the overall perceptions of ‘adults’ are negative compared to perceptions of ‘youth. ’ This bias may exist as a result of the sample size which involved 75% of people under the age of 30. It is possible if more adults were surveyed, especially those adults who are less involved and connected to youth networks, there may have been more negative categories for youth. It is also important to keep in mind that certain words and phrases can have both a positive and negative interpretation.
For example, depending on the context of the situation, being rebellious can be seen as something that involves creating trouble or struggling towards positive change. Being a dreamer may imply that one has a strong sense of imagination while at the same time, having the potential of being caught up in a fantasy which is never actualized. A variety of the characteristics which describe adults involve ideals which youth often aspire towards attaining such as being a decision-maker or someone in a position of authority. These are perceived attitudes however there may be more instances where adults feel powerless and that they are not in a position to make decisions. This may help to explain the sense that people have of ‘adults’ being busy and burdened with responsibilities.
Overall, there appears to be an interesting generational relationship and potential communication gap that exists which involves both tension and aspiration. The survey results suggest that ‘youth’ can be a great source of energy, vision, hope and potential, while at the same time being vulnerable, voiceless and rebellious. The results also demonstrate that although ‘adults’ can be conservative, critical and rigid in their thinking, ultimately, they are relied on as care-givers, decision-makers and sources of knowledge and authority. The challenge for youth is to find their voice and become empowered without losing their sense of spirit and optimism.
The challenge for adults is in finding ways to handle increasing amounts of responsibility and power in a way that doesn’t exclude, ignore or disengage youth, while also reconnecting their own sense of youth. While exploring and more deeply understanding the role of young people in the context of today’s society, it is important to note that generational barriers have existed and persisted throughout the course of history. It is possible that this generation of youth will have greater opportunities to empower themselves to have a voice as a result of the many forums which are emerging, however it is also clear that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to allow for positive intergenerational partnership.
When we asked the survey respondents to identify the role that they saw youth having within their communities, the most common response across all regions was youth having the role of the student. This makes sense for a variety of reasons. Those participating in the survey are either currently students or have graduated and feel that since a great deal of time as a young person is spent on learning, whether it be in school or in other contexts such as the home or workplace, it is appropriate that the role