Youth Empowerment: What do the Next 5 Years Hold

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 16.28.04For PYE 2013 represented our 5th birthday and 5 fantastic and energizing years in the field of youth empowerment. During the past years we’ve seen rapid change in this field and we expect even more developments over the coming years as energy builds and technology opens up new doors for all of us.

To try to get ahead of the pack we reached out to key thinkers and practitioners in our network around the world and asked them what changes they expect to see in the next 5 years of youth empowerment.

Screen shot 2013-12-27 at 11.40.23Suchetha Bhat is the COO of Dream a Dream, a youth empowerment organization in Bangalore that works with young people from vulnerable backgrounds.

The field of youth empowerment has changed a lot in the last 5 years. There has been a marked move away from just access to basic education and towards looking at more holistic development with young people. Measurement of youth empowerment is moving away from simple indicators of academic performance towards indicators of a better quality of life.

Over the next 5 years, I see the sector becoming more open to collaboration and knowledge sharing. I think organizations are increasingly looking to join forces, recognizing that mammoth problems cannot be tackled alone. I believe this will lead to more openness, richer program designs and a bigger impact.

I believe PYE is today at the cutting-edge of a whole new approach to youth empowerment. The Creative Community Model has created a phenomenal change in the impact we have been able to create on the ground as well as in building a culture of empowerment within our organization. If this model can be spread into more youth development programs across the world, I think we would be able to truly make a big difference to the lives of young people.


Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 16.26.20Mark Cheng is the Director of Ashoka UK, part of a global network that supports leading social entrepreneurs. He is also an advisor to several international Ashoka initiatives and a Trustee of PYE.

In the last five years we’ve seen an explosion of new ideas about how young people can lead and step up to take power in their lives. I find that hugely inspiring. We are evolving from top-down and adult-led approaches, focused on getting young people to master knowledge and qualifications for entry into a rigid adult world of work, to one in which young people are being encouraged to explore their own creativity, come up with their own solutions and truly seize their future and make it their own.

I’ve been really motivated and inspired by the rise in the idea that youth are not a problem to be fixed, but can be the solution to all problems.

Over the next 5 years I see youth groups coming together to create a broad movement around youth empowerment. I see common principles establishing themselves and becoming mainstream. One of the most important of these is a revolution that is needed in how we think about education – that a teacher is there not simply to impart knowledge, but to help a student reach his or her full potential by becoming a fully authentic, empowered, compassionate and creative person.

People who inspire me are PYE, Pat Pillai, whose project Life College in South Africa is empowering youth in black townships to become community leaders, and to see themselves as champions not victims. Once a person develops the ‘champion mindset’ they are never the same.

Lisa Heydlauff and the Going to School project in India is also fantastic. They recently launched ‘Be! An Entrepreneur’ which through stories, films, and comics are teaching young people all across India how to launch their own community businesses. I also admire Luke Dowdney, whose sports project Fight For Peace is giving thousands of at-risk youth in Brazil, South Africa and London an opportunity to find inner strength and personal values through the martial arts.

Ashoka is now heavily investing in youth development programs too, from it’s Start Empathy Initiative which is all about helping young people acquire the critical foundational life skill of Empathy to Youth Venture, which helps teenagers practice and master the skills of being an empowered Changemaker.


Screen shot 2013-12-20 at 15.25.07Johnmary Mukiza is a facilitator and social artists in Uganda. 

The field of youth empowerment in Uganda has grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years. I’ve discovered at least 10 organizations involved in different spheres of youth empowerment and I have also witnessed the birth of at least one young girl’s empowerment project. Organizations working with young people are more aware of each other and collaborations are an exciting possibility in the next five years.

As a facilitator at In Movement, the enthusiasm with which children from our partner organizations embrace what we do, the excitement and positive energy they each bring to our activities is always exciting. I have seen a teacher at one of our partner teacher collaborations wear a t-shirt that read ‘When I grow up, I want to become a child’. In that moment I realized that the people entrusted with our nation’s children everyday are seeking to understand and appreciate childhood. I believe that a deep understanding of our youth is the beginning of the process of effective empowerment.

In movement is an arts based organization aimed at changing the approach to youth empowerment among youth workers in Uganda. With a team of highly talented artists who each have at least 5 years experience working with young people, as well as strong local and international partnerships, In Movement has limitless potential. We are always exploring ideas that will make us more effective as facilitators.

Over the next five years I expect to see more adults involved in youth empowerment, a better understanding of youth, effective and dynamic techniques in facilitating creativity, critical thinking, and basic life skills, a recognition by governments world wide of the true value of an empowered youth and more leadership from young people.

All the above will be brought about by more collaborations and exchange of ideas between youth workers and engagement of education sectors worldwide.


Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 16.25.18David Reed works with Generation Change, an organization striving to empower today’s teens to manage money on their own and to learn how to change the world around them through a lifestyle of generous giving.

The field of youth empowerment has been dramatically transformed by the emergence of youth social action organisations such as The Challenge Network, City Year and Year Here. These organizations have only been set up in the last five years and they seem to be a different breed of youth charity to the sorts of voluntary organizations that have traditionally worked with young people in the UK and beyond. Their central mission and purpose is to get young people tackling local and global problems through social action – which we define as positive activities that benefit society. The aspect that seems to define social action organizations is their focus on creating a double impact; generating a transformative impact for society but also on the young people involved by giving the skills and confidence to meet their potential.

What this has done in the field of youth empowerment is give young people opportunities to genuinely make change in their local communities. The most exciting part of this transformation has been its level of innovation and expansion. Youth social action organizations have grown very rapidly and the sector looks set to build on that success over the coming years. We have seen developments that have brought together a diverse range of ambitious, idealistic and energetic organizations that are driving innovative programs to tackle the biggest social issues of our time. Recently this seems to be progressing into an articulated vision for how young people should experience growing up in the UK.

Over the next five years I expect to see lots of growth! We’re expecting to see the social action sector double the number of young people it works with between now and 2016. These organizations, notably City Year and Student Hubs are in a process of constant expansion across the UK, and are looking to spread their national impact over the next 5 years. We are already seeing positive collaborations in terms of integrating services and opportunities within the landscape of youth institutions and organizations. In turn, we look forward to seeing social action become more fully recognized by education providers and employers as an important part of all young people’s experience of growing up.



Enjoyed that? You might be interested in these articles:

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 17.51.08December 2013: PYE’s mission for 2014
Take a look at these partner poems that we created during the PYE strategy session for 2014.
Screen shot 2013-12-20 at 15.34.18December 2013: What an incredible year…
This year over 2000 youth workers and educators from over 500 organizations in 9 countries were trained in PYE’s Creative Community Model.
November 2013: Catch the Fire – PYE’s first book
We’re about to launch our very own book and we’re so excited to finally be able to get this out into the world. We decided to celebrate by giving away 5 copies.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.