This blog is part of our “Engaging young people in philanthropy” series, as part of our International Youth Day content. Learn more about Matson and read other articles in the series to hear more about his perspective on transforming philanthropy.

We’ve already talked about the “the blame cycle”, and why it is not working for transformation. We know we need collective action centering young people in decision-making to address the current challenges facing our community.

In this blog, we explore the reality of the pandemic for young people and how to engage young people to transform philanthropy. 

Impact of youth on pandemic

As part of my summer role as the Transformation Coordinator at Community Foundations of Canada, I have been reading articles and resources about philanthropy. One morning, I woke up to a report that shocked me. 

The European Youth Forum Report focused on the impact of the pandemic on youth in Europe. In Canada, we don’t have the report but we know that the pandemic has impacted youth educationally, mentally and economically. 

These effects will last beyond the end of the pandemic. 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) also announced that youth employment rates world-wide decreased by 8.7% during the pandemic.

What is frightening is that the public, private and philanthropy sectors are silent about the lasting impact of the pandemic on youth. 

Is this surprising? 

These sectors are silent because they are reluctant to change and include youth in decision-making.

By excluding youth, we risk alienating a generation and failing to create the future we are trying to envision today. 

Fortunately, there is still hope. The organizations that know how to activate the masterpiece of young people will be the ones to benefit from their skills. 

The philanthropy sector could start this pathway forward.

The advantage of including young people

During a meeting with Ilona Dougherty, co-author for The Wired for Innovation research, I was inspired to hear that there is neuroscience research that shows that young people have more innovative traits like curiosity and risk taking, which can help transform how our sector thinks. 

Does philanthropy take advantage of these traits? 

If there are organizations who are taking advantage of these traits – it’s only a few. Most organizations are embedded in the past generations. Even as our society is evolving and needs new ways of thinking and doing things.

I believe in actions rather than talk, and young people are passionate about challenging the status quo. They are creative, collaborative and want to impact their society. 

A win-win approach to recovery

As we build back from the pandemic, we know that young people are looking for work and community experiences that are purpose-driven and meaningful. But employing young people in the community sector and in recovery plans isn’t enough!

We need to address the long-term impacts of the pandemic on young people. That’s the key!

This is done through engaging young people in a meaningful way. Young people need more than a seat at the table. Their ideas must be valued, heard, appreciated and incorporated into decision-making.

As a young person, I know I cannot sit back and wait for things to be done on behalf of young people. In the future, the decisions being made now will affect us all. 

Young people need to be part of the decision that will impact them.“Nothing about us without us.”

For sustainable transformation, we need this intergenerational collaboration between young people and adults.

Young people can work collaboratively with other generations and take responsibility for decisions and actions that are currently taken by adults. This is positive youth engagement – young people and adults working collectively on issues that matter to both groups.

This strategy will benefit both organizations and youth. Youth can reinforce the mission and values of the organization to internal and external stakeholders, provide a voice on behalf of the people being served, and bring new perspectives.

Young people also get the opportunity to express themselves, voice their ideas, and provide input for projects or programs. 

It’s a win-win approach.

Adults have wisdom and these young folks have innovative traits. We can mix these two traits in a meaningful way and collaborate as colleagues to transform our sector. 

This allows young people to gain a sense of belonging, develop a commitment to generosity, and benefit from the wisdom of caring adults. Boom, we have a better future where everyone is responsible for the betterment of their society.

Check out my next blog coming out tomorrow to learn more about the idea of youth-adult collaboration and what it looks like in practice.

Matson Kitamisi is the Transformation Coordinator at CFC. Working at CFC, has helped him understand both the challenges of our current philanthropy system and the strengths that young people can bring to transformation. He believes in an ecosystem problem-solving approach and intergenerational lens in transforming our society.