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We asked young people what changes they want for the future. Here's what they said

How will Millennials and Generation Z shape an inclusive post-COVID future?
Image: Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

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How do Millennials and Generation Z see their future?

Over the past year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community has organized dialogues and surveys on what young people see as the most pressing issues facing society, government and business.

On the Shapers’ tenth anniversary the community has published Davos Labs: Youth Recovery Plan – a series of 40 policy recommendations on 10 key issues to help policy-makers integrate the voices of the next generation.

In parallel, the Millennial Manifesto offers a modus operandi to young people as they mobilize to shape an inclusive post-COVID period.

Youth Recovery Plan
Image: World Economic Forum

Transparency, accountability, trust and a focus on stakeholder capitalism will be key to meeting this generation’s ambitions and expectations. We must also entrust in them the power to take the lead to create meaningful change.

—Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

Why are young people critical to the recovery?

15% of the world’s population – some 1.2 billion people – are aged between 15 and 29. The world gets ever younger, with 10 billion more people yet to be born in this century.

This exponential growth will continue to be uneven, with concentration in more populous and less developed countries, resulting in more mouths to feed, more young people to educate and more jobs to provide.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected young people, and especially young women and girls. It has disrupted their education, their training, their jobs, their relationships and their mental health.

On last week's International Youth Day, the YMCA, together with other key youth organizations, called for this to be redressed and for young people to be given a platform, “They knew all these challenges prior to the pandemic, and then they became its pariahs: largely ignored in policy response and often blamed for the spread.”

What changes do young people want?

The Youth Recovery plan: 10 pillars

1. Conscious consumerism

Current global rates of consumption require the resources of about 1.6 earths. At this rate, we risk exhausting our planet's life support systems that provide us with fresh water, nutritious food and clean air.

—Bianca Goebel, Melbourne Global Shapers Hub, Australia
  • Incentivize sustainable consumption and penalize production that’s not
  • Corporate accountability and executive compensation to follow specific ESG targets
  • Investors to work with consumer groups to transform the way big business operates
  • All stakeholders to take urgent action to safeguard nature and future food production.

2. Digital access

  • $2 trillion Digital Access Plan to increase global internet connectivity to over 80%
  • Telecoms to provide affordable data priced at no more than 2% of monthly GNI per capita
  • Sanctions against institutions that resort to internet blackouts to supress citizen freedoms
  • Activists to share connectivity indicators to put digital inequity higher on the global agenda.
Youth Recovery Plan
Image: World Economic Forum

3. Digital literacy: Tackle misinformation

  • Tech companies to be transparent about misinformation and its spread on their platforms
  • Governments to implement policies to protect individual citizens against harmful content
  • Media entities to appoint trusted flaggers and experts to identify misleading information
  • Capacity-building programmes and education to help citizens better identify fake news.
Youth Recovery Plan
Image: World Economic Forum

4. Democracy with a future

  • Philanthropic donors to support young progressive voices into government
  • Strengthened laws against media monopolies to protect democratic freedoms
  • A Global Convention for Cybersecurity to uphold the integrity of political systems
  • Capacity-building and incubation programmes to ignite ambitious policy-making.

2021 can be a turning point but only if inclusive political participation is prioritized.

—Sikander Bizenjo, Karachi Global Shapers Hub, Pakistan

5. Inclusive jobs and social safety nets

The turn of the decade has given rise to the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression. Nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods, with the most acutely affected being the working poor, youth, women and minorities.

—Enrico Nano, Rome Global Shapers Hub, Italy
  • A global wealth tax on assets worth more than US$ 50 million to fight growing inequality
  • Tax credits for companies and investors who spend revenue on reskilling employees
  • Universities to end the exorbitant tuition fees that stifle social mobility
  • Universities to reformed curricula for job acquisition in today’s labour market.

6. Mental healthcare

  • Governments to guarantee universal access to mental health services
  • Investors to support mental health awareness campaigns to reduce stigma
  • University curricula to tackle the mental health crisis growing on campuses
  • Media entities to shape positive perceptions and attitudes about mental health.
Youth Recovery Plan
Image: World Economic Forum

7. Net Zero: Limit global warming to 1.5°C

  • Governments to invest in communities most at risk from climate change
  • Financial institutions to stop bankrolling companies initiating fossil fuel exploration
  • Companies to significantly reduce the GHG emissions of their operations and supply chains to help keep global heating within 1.5°C
  • All stakeholders to ensure accountability for urgent green recovery plans.
Youth Recovery Plan
Image: World Economic Forum

8. Next generation ESG: Stakeholder capitalism

  • Governments to implement fit-for-purpose policies and regulations on big tech
  • Universities to ensure ESG literacy is integrated into business and tech curriculums
  • Companies to integrate technology ethics into the design of their products and services
  • Incubators to provide ESG upskilling to early-stage founders to deliver long-term value.

9. Equitable access to healthcare worldwide

  • World leaders to safeguard equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines
  • Governments to prioritize the immediate needs of healthcare workers and their families
  • Companies to drive digitalization in healthcare services to improve patient care
  • Increased support for community health workers to rebuild public trust in health systems.
Youth Recovery Plan
Image: World Economic Forum

What is a Global Shaper?

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people under the age of 30 who are working together to drive dialogue, action and change to address local, regional and global challenges.

The community spans more than 8,000 young people in 165 countries and territories.

Teams of Shapers form hubs in cities where they self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. The focus of the projects are wide-ranging, from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities.

Examples of projects include Water for Life, a effort by the Cartagena Hub that provides families with water filters that remove biological toxins from the water supply and combat preventable diseases in the region, and Creativity Lab from the Yerevan Hub, which features activities for children ages 7 to 9 to boost creative thinking.

Each Shaper also commits personally and professionally to take action to preserve our planet.

10. Public safety

Public security policies involve rethinking the educational system, drugs policy, fighting structural racism that targets black and poor people's likings.

—Kamila Camilo, São Paulo Global Shapers Hub, Brazil
  • Governments to end qualified immunity in law enforcement for police officers
  • Increased action against gun violence, including bans on homemade firearms
  • All stakeholders to take a stand to end domestic sexual and physical violence
  • Criminal justice training reform to protect the safety of vulnerable communities

How will young people achieve those changes?

The Millennial Manifesto

To mount the response required to usher in this new world, the Millennial Manifesto team - a component of the Davos Lab - held dialogues on what a matured form of youth activism could look like. Through a process that engaged diverse Global Shapers from every continent, some of the world's most impactful social entrepreneurs, and experienced grassroots activists, the purpose of the dialogues was to devise principles to guide young people as they advocate for a more inclusive post-COVID period.

Two critical questions guided these dialogues: What are the barriers that have hindered progress? And, what key values, principles and practices will enable us to foster long-lasting systemic impact for the next decade?

6 principles for a Millennial Manifesto emerged from this process:

1. We will create space for intergenerational dialogue

2. We will ask big questions to advance bold solutions

3. We will pursue systems change and collective action

4. We will make space for diverse lived experiences

5. We will embrace uncomfortable conversations

6. We will care for ourselves, others and our ecosystem

World Economic Forum

Youth Recovery Plan in numbers

  • 146
    cities hosted dialogues
  • 66
    countries hosted dialogues
  • 344
    dialogues conducted in total
  • 19,079
    young people surveyed
  • 187
    cities where surveys were conducted
  • 2.3m
    total reach of the dialogues
  • 40
    policy recommendations emerged
  • 10
    pillars of recovery

As many around the world push for the creation of a more just, equitable and sustainable future we must remember that technology is one of the greatest tools for achieving these goals, but without ethical considerations at the fore... this will likely only perpetuate the very inequalities that we hope to address.

—Taylor Hawkins, Advisory Council, Sydney Global Shapers Hub

Optimism and justice

Experts say youth engagement is 'crucial'

The red line that runs through the Youth Recovery Plan and the Millennial Manifesto – the surveys, dialogues, and recommendations – is optimism.

Abdullahi Alim, Specialist, Africa and Middle East, Global Shapers Community, and Natalie Pierce, Community Lead, Experiences and Partnerships, Foundations at the World Economic Forum believe, “Young people are fighting these crises and reimagining a better future…Behind the plan is the conviction that by giving young people a say in decision-making, solution-building and lasting change – post-pandemic recovery plans will be more effective, sustainable and inclusive, and ensure a better future for generations to come.”

And Wadia Ait Hamza, Head of the Global Shapers Community explains, “Now more than ever, the world needs young people to step up to address the many other challenges ahead of us. But hurdles remain. While the last decade saw the power of youth activism to highlight and uproot systemic problems, it also showed that young people face challenges of experience and credibility.”

He warns that it is crucial to engage young people in decision-making – but in parallel – it’s also important for young people to think differently about how they want to engage. The sweet spot will be the balance between the energy, optimism and fierce sense of justice that Millennials and Gen Z bring to the table, combined with the conviction of policy-makers to see these ideas through to realization.

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