Reframing African youth roles
Curated Story
This article originally appeared on World Policy

Shootings and flying petrol bombs turned Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, South Africa, into a war zone for a week in late March 2015. Buses and taxis refused to enter the township established by the apartheid government in the 1970s. Eric Coetzee, a community leader, describes this neighborhood as "a world of gangs, violence, and poverty.” When he was young, Coetzee joined a gang for safety. But the story changed when he started as a student at RLabs. “I finally found the place where I fit in. I don’t have fear anymore,” he says.

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Ashoka Insight

Social innovators across Africa are leading a shift away from the traditional mindset that Africa’s youth are problems to be solved. They know that trusting youth to lead by giving them opportunities to make real decisions, have their voices consistently heard, and make meaningful contributions to their communities ensures young people avoid long periods of “waithood” before fully entering adulthood.

There is no shortcut to create an enabling environment for effective youth leadership, but social innovators are demonstrating three interrelated factors:

  1. creating meaningful youth leadership roles,
  2. ensuring adults provide guidance, support, and partnership to make leadership possible, and making sure adults are accessible enough that youth are not derailed due to a lack of guidance or failure to address holistic needs,
  3. and facilitating experiential learning to ensure youth learn marketable, life-long skills.

Lynsey Farrell is a Change Leader and currently the Knowledge Lead for Ashoka's Global Venture team that supports the selection of leading social entrepreneurs around the world. While at Ashoka, Lynsey has led numerous knowledge and learning efforts. As program manager of Ashoka’s Future Forward: Innovations in Youth Employment in Africa initiative, she curated and facilitated the Future of Work in Africa course, co-authored an innovation guide called Youth Unstuck: Innovations in Youth Livelihoods and Leadership in Africa, and helped co-lead experiential learning journeys around the continent. Prior to Ashoka, Lynsey directed American University's program on international development in Nairobi, Kenya and completed a PhD in Cultural Anthropology focused on the intersection of international development and youth-self-help movements in Nairobi's largest informal settlement, Kibera.

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