The Designathon Works Foundation enables children to design a better world. With the Design-athon method, platform, and partners in 5 countries, (the Netherlands, Tanzania, Nepal, Mexico and Kenya) we run challenges, where children invent and build prototypes to tackle the SDGs. Through events and an annual global gathering, co-developing policy recommendations and writing white papers we connect the children to decision makers locally in order to co-design a better world.
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What is your vision of youth empowerment?
Taking this question a step back, we must ask ourselves: What is the current social construct of the role of the child in our societies? Asking that question, we have to conclude that today, in most societies, the child's role offers limited opportunities for agency to influence their own lives, the world around them, and the future that will be theirs to live in. It offers limited opportunities to develop skills to design their own futures.
My position is that the social construct needs a radical overhaul. In our work at Design-a-thon we ask: "What if we were to see children as changemakers, campaigners, scientists and inventors, and then helped them to develop their abilities for these roles?” What roles could they then play in society?
Why is it important to create a Youth Empowerment circle today?
When we want to make a radical shift in society we need multiple partnerships and strategies. Joining forces around a shared vision and mission can bring this closer. Globally, I see a number of organizations with a similar ethos and practices where children and young people are given ownership, leadership, spaces to explore and contribute. Together, we can raise their voices to a broader and more international platform, we can inspire others by demonstrating examples of young people in their power; we can lead by example.
What should be the priorities of this circle, in your view?
A good first step is to co-create and agree on a shared set of values to adhere to as a circle, in order to maintain a trusted foundation for ongoing growth and collaboration. It is vital to get the trust amongst community members in place. Secondly, we can pilot collaborations and learn by adventure.
What are some ideal outcomes of the circle?
Our expectation (and conviction) is that young people will play an increasingly significant role in change movements and innovation across various sectors. This wave is not coming; it’s happening. Whether you and I like it or not, young people worldwide are taking their futures into their own hands, from fighting climate change to fighting discrimination and tackling poverty. As Salvador Gomes-Colon said, “we are not the future of the world, we are the present”.
An ideal outcome of the circle, in my view, is that we accelerate this wave of change through interventions and connections, and help guide this energy so that it remains a sustainable force for good.