This post was originally published on the goodpurpose blog, powered by Edelman.
As social, economic and political unrest around the globe has continued unabated into 2012, Davos had a decidedly downtrodden tone this year. (Or maybe it was just all that snow…the most since ’69!)
One of the top causes for this dismay, in addition to the woes of the Eurozone, questions on the future of capitalism and rising concerns about income disparity, was the topic of youth unemployment and its lasting impact.
There is reason to be worried. The global economic crisis has hit youth the hardest. According to the most recent ILO estimates, nearly 75 million young people are unemployed globally. Snapshot of youth and unemployment around the world (International Labor Organization):
- Spain – more than 40%
- France – more than 20%
- United States – 21%
- Arab World – 24%
At Davos, global leaders aimed to pinpoint the root cause of this challenge – beyond the economic crisis, is it the failure of global education systems, a lack of skills training, a glut of older workers abstaining from retirement, or all of the above?
These conversations are critical – to stand back as the next generation falls behind would mean our futures are at stake.
In Davos, the voice of youth isn’t seen enough. And that’s a problem – because while many youth – across social, cultural and economic backgrounds – are struggling to find their opportunity, the fact is that others are not just getting by, they are pulling ahead and changing the game.
Today, there is an increasing divide – an opportunity divide – that separates youth that have the access, skills, connections and mindset to succeed from those that don’t.
One company that is leading the dialogue on the opportunity divide and is committed to addressing it is Microsoft* (disclosure: Edelman collaborated with Microsoft to develop this focus and its recently-announced global citizenship platform – Opportunity Imagined: Opportunity Realized, illustrated in the video below).
At Davos, Microsoft convened a roundtable, helmed by General Counsel Brad Smith and Founder Bill Gates, that highlighted this commitment – but more importantly, it bucked convention by bringing young people from around the globe to join in on the discussion about what opportunity means for youth today.
While at Davos, we had the absolute pleasure of getting to know these youth, the winners of the inaugural Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants Program. You can read more about the program here, but suffice it to say that Dominik, Jason, Mohammad and Paco were four of the most remarkable people we have ever met.
These four young men demonstrated that youth have incredible potential when given the right tools. Each from a different region of the world, the winners also showed us that youth have an incredible desire to create positive change in the world. The winning products ranged from a smartphone app that can detect the presence of malaria, to a cost-effective software program that translates spoken words for the hearing impaired, allowing disabled children in Ecuador to go to school.
Many would hear about these innovations and comment on the power of technology to create social good. But after spending a week listening to the doom and gloom of the state of global youth at Davos, it’s worth noting that a young person imagined each of these ideas, and then worked tirelessly with teammates to realize them.
It is this kind of innovation, new thinking, entrepreneurialism and commitment to making the world a better place that will drive “The “Great Transformation” that the WEF seeks this year.
*Microsoft is an Edelman client.
Image credit: Life@Microsoft Australia