Curated Story

Youth Employment Imperative: Shifting from Youth Exploitation or Entitlement to Rewarding Meaningful Contributions

This article originally appeared on World Policy Institute

In her region in Ghana, Regina Honu witnessed homes being destroyed during periods of heavy rainfall. But it wasn’t the destruction alone that worried her. “When I was young,” she explains, “I used to always see how people would wait on somebody. They would come and see me and say ‘We’re waiting for the government.’” She would wonder, “Why is it that somebody else must come and solve the problem?”

So Regina launched Tech Needs Girls to connect girls throughout West Africa to ICT careers in Ghana and to ensure they are equipped with the right skills to creatively meet local needs. “Simply put,” she said, “I want Africans to be responsible for their own problems and Africans to solve their own problems.”

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Ashoka insight

Regina’s reflection echoes a concern of many social entrepreneurs designing interventions for youth employment: the potentially harmful effects of asking young people to work or volunteer in critical roles without offering compensation, recognition, or a decision-making voice. To remedy this problem, social entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to ensure young people—even those in the most under-resourced of communities—receive compensation or opportunities in exchange for investing their own time or money. Importantly, this should not take away from the cultivation of intrinsic motivation for learning and work, as discussed in our prior installment.

There are three main ways the social entrepreneurs we interviewed are leveraging compensation in order to create a culture of self-sufficiency:

  1. Create new currencies
  2. Offer paid work experiences
  3. Request payment for services offered