At the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia, I will be leading a discussion on the youth employment crisis and speaking on a panel focusing on social protection systems. It is encouraging to see that social entrepreneurs are increasingly being asked to share their views on major societal problems. This shows that we can make a valuable contribution when it comes to thinking outside the box – especially with regards to team play and going beyond organisational boundaries.

As with all global challenges, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the youth unemployment crisis. It is subject to a variety of economic, geo-political and cultural factors – that’s why it’s critically important to make use of local expertise when tackling the issue.

With their in-depth local knowledge and access to communities, civil society organisations play a key role in identifying needs and creating tailor-made solutions. The streetfootballworld network is a case in point, uniting over 90 organisations throughout the world – many of which run innovative football-based programmes supporting youth employability. For example, Sport dans la Ville works with young people from deprived areas of the Rhône-Alpes region in France, offering highly effective job training programmes, mentorship and entrepreneurial assistance.

Without the backing of decision makers in business and politics, however, such initiatives will not be able to achieve the necessary impact to make a real change. Our society is driven by the demand for economic growth – but we cannot afford to sacrifice the well-being of a generation in pursuit of profit. The recent events of the Arab Spring have shown that in our hyper-connected world, dissatisfied young people will find ways to make their voices heard. Comparable trends can also be observed in the global Occupy movement and the current protests in Spain, where transparency and collective action are driving forward the interests of the many rather than the few.

As so often, the world’s most popular sport provides a suitable analogy. Even the greatest football team eventually needs to replace its best players, and it is up to the coaches to ensure that talented young players are given the chance to assume responsibility. Failure to strengthen the next generation of players ultimately compromises the future success of a team – and it is no different in the labour market.

Likewise, football teaches us the essential role of team play towards achieving our goals. No amount of skill and ability can mitigate an absence of teamwork. This applies not only on the football pitch, but also to our collaboration as individuals and organisations. Without a common purpose, sustainable success is out of our reach.

The World Economic Forum provides an opportunity to address urgent topics such as youth employment with an influential audience of global leaders and decision makers. I hope that we can go beyond politically correct statements and launch a debate that continues to hold relevance after the Forum. By recognising the need for a unified approach we can take an important step in the right direction. There is no time to lose.

Author: Jürgen Griesbeck, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, streetfootballworld, Germany; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Europe, 2011

Organisations all over the world work with football to empower communities – addressing issues such as HIV/AIDS prevention, social integration, and peace building. The streetfootballworld network currently unites 94 such organisations across 61 countries. Its mission is to change the world through football. streetfootballworld believes in the unique power of football to change lives and bring people together behind a common goal. streetfootballworld connects its network members with partners from the worlds of sport, business, politics and philanthropy to bring global power to local development initiatives. Outcomes of this collaborative work include stronger programmes on the ground, new sustainable partnerships and social legacy initiatives around major football events, like the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup. In 2011, the streetfootballworld network reached over 600,000 young people. Together, we aim to reach 2,000,000 young people each year by 2015.