The Microsoft-commissioned report, Opportunity for Action, brings us a new perspective on a tale already told about the lack of opportunity for today’s youth. Reports on this dilemma have been written already; the International Monetary Fund made it the focus of their March 2012 Finance & Development magazine , and the International Labour Organization issued its report “Global Employment Trends for Youth: 2011 update” in October ’11. But Opportunity for Action stands out for its overall feeling of optimism. Written by the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the report is a call to action for everyone.
Keeping in mind that the audience will reach beyond policy makers, the report presents the complex problem in an accessible style and structure, centered on six improvements that will help today’s youth move forward: quality education, marketable technical skills, jobs, decent working conditions, entrepreneurship opportunities, and life skills.
Each section of the report highlights an organization that is successfully bringing about change. These sidebars provide examples of what can be done and add a welcome boost of hope to the findings. It should be noted that the organizations share a common factor: funding from Microsoft and/or IYF.
Scanning the membership list of the Global WA network, we can find a number of organizations whose work to improve the future for the world’s youth could also be highlighted: Smiles Forever trains young women in Bolivia as dental hygienists, Rwanda Girls Initiative focuses on bettering education, Kabissa uses ICT to connect African communities, Committee for Children produces life skills training programs for young adults. The list goes on. A common factor they share is the job of securing the funding or building the partnership that would allow their programs to soar to even greater heights.
Microsoft commissioned this report to “[generate] dialogue about how technology and other investments can help bridge the divide for youth around the world and is committed to working with businesses, the NGO community, and governments to help youth succeed in the global economy.” The report gives each sector ‘Action Items’ to help guide forward progress. Those for NGOs and civil society are
• Identify and implement proven practices at large scale.
• Experiment and innovate with new models that use technology effectively and that reduce costs without sacrificing impact and evaluate results.
• Collaborate with the private sector to create demand driven training.
• Work closely with vulnerable youth to strengthen their competencies in preparation for employment or entrepreneurship opportunities.
There is no doubt this report will generate dialogue and encourage all sectors to take some action. There still needs to be more robust dialogue about how collaboration between NGOs and the private sector will be facilitated and by whom, and from what sources will NGOs find the funding to ‘experiment and innovate with new models that use technology.’ It’s good to read that Microsoft is committed to work across sectors. Hopefully, more will follow its lead, and NGOs already engaged in helping today’s youth will have the opportunity to strengthen and broaden the scope of their work.