Future challenges for young people

This section examines: How the world of work is changing How young people can be enterprising How young people can lead social action How to connect young people with the region

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The Overview

Young people will find new ways to contribute and lead change

Young people will inherit global challenges

The new global dynamic will require young people to be prepared for a different world of work but it will also require them to be prepared to contribute to public life. They will need to innovate and seek change in communities, business, government and the global realm to deal with the new global challenges that are emerging with globalisation (shown below). As we have seen with population ageing (Section 1) and inequality (Section 2), these issues impact negatively on our economy and therefore our standard of living. They also threaten our quality of life: the strength of our communities, our cohesion, our safety, our natural environments, and our ability to generate interesting cultures and places to live. Addressing some challenges will require collaboration across countries as they are unlikely to be able to be solved by single nations alone (for example climate change). All challenges will also require action at the local level where their impacts are played out.


Watch some lectures about our changing world

See how many planets we would need if everyone in the world consumed as much as you

FYA believes we will need a generation of confident citizens, with a global outlook, to create new ways of doing things and reckon with these issues.  We will need:

  • new leaders and contributors in public life (governments, institutions, etc) and
  • entrepreneurs who can lead and change business.

Young people will need to be leaders in public life

Global challenges are overwhelming the institutions that organise our societies (“governance”) (Kahler & Lake 2003; Thake 2008). New public governance arrangements are evolving but some argue they are not keeping pace with change – either locally or globally (Thake 2008). Local councils and other local organisations are searching for new ways to address a broad range of issues now playing out at the local level (for example, sustainable water and energy, providing welfare safety nets, emergency management with the increase of climate related bushfires, flood and weather events, etc). At the national level, schools are updating curricula and health care provision is being reformed as a result of population ageing. Globally, governance arrangements are being considered to deal with increasing geopolitical instability and inequality (the absence of tax systems to cover global corporations). New institutions and ways of doing things are being created, and will need to continue to evolve. These will be highly contested, due to conflicting and diverse interests.

Research has shown that preparing young people to lead change begins with their participation in general contribution activities – for example, volunteering, community school activities and activities online – that are the precursors to participation in governance and decision-making (Pope 2011). These activities foster the social interaction that builds a willingness to act for others, and provide the confidence, skills and mentoring required for more complex civic problem solving (Pope 2011). Australia’s young people are active in these activities. The majority (80%) are involved in the social and community activities that are a precursor to community and civic contribution (ABS 2015). A fifth are volunteers (only marginally less than their parents) and around eight per cent are involved in some kind of political or civic group (ABS 2010). A fifth are volunteers (only marginally less than their parents) and around one in 10 are involved in some kind of political or civic group (ABS 2010). This provides a strong base to build citizenship and leadership.

The challenge of the issues arising alongside globalisation brings with it the opportunity of using the ideas, energy and enthusiasm of young people to innovate and find new and better ways of doing things in public life.

Young people will need to be entrepreneurs

Young people are also using the disciplines of business to take social action.  They are using consumerism (both buying and boycotting) to influence how markets operate.  Their networks can be mobilised through technology in an instant to change or support business practice.  This action is made possible because over the past few decades, young entrepreneurs have been setting up ventures that have social change as their primary purpose.  In the past, these ventures were largely not-for-profit and funded by philanthropic organisations, government, or through donations (Varbanova 2009).  More recently, the term “impact investing” has been coined to describe a wave of people and institutions exploring ways to invest in “social purpose businesses” that also generate profit (Freireich & Fulton 2009).  Socially responsible investment is moving from the periphery to mainstream financial institutions and creating a funding mechanism for social ventures (Addis et al 2013).

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Social enterprise/business is growing rapidly in Australia and social ventures are more likely to be set up by younger people (Addis et al 2013; Productivity Commission 2010). The impact investing market, however, is “immature” and social entrepreneurs face significant challenges financing their ventures (Addis et al 2013; Productivity Commission 2010). Subsequently, activity is still largely sustained by personal debt (something more difficult to obtain for young people), grants or donations (Addis et al 2013). The development of the market, however, is dependent on the presence of entrepreneurs willing to take risks and demonstrate the potential of social businesses. Reviews of the literature in this area have concluded that, in addition to working on the investment side, the social purpose market needs a critical mass of skilled enthusiastic practitioners to show leadership, and a body of knowledge about practice and practitioners (Addis et al 2013).

Read what the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance say young entrepreneurs need

Read about FYA’s ‘Future Chasers’
Future Chasers
The challenge of setting up social purpose ventures to change business practice in an underdeveloped impact investing environment in Australia, brings with it the opportunity for young people to demonstrate innovation and change in the business landscape.

Young people will need ideas, networks and skills to lead change

To create leaders and change agents in public life or business, FYA believes young people will need to be supported to develop three things (taken from Mark Moore and Sanjeev Khagram 2004):

  1. Ideas and a social purpose: Young people will need confidence and a social purpose, or an understanding of the “public value” they want to create.  Public value will be contested, and the challenge is for young people to develop the skills to enter into the wider social debate about purpose.  It is not enough for a young person to have their own purpose – others have to share it.  They will need to create ideas that can belong to groups.  Young people will therefore need a robust analysis to determine what constitutes “valuable means and ends” for their endeavours and strong skills to advocate those ideas to others (Moore & Khagram 2004).  Research studies support this, showing that confidence, passion and clear purpose are critical to the success of young people’s changemaking ventures (Harding & Cowling 2006, Hoogendoorn et al 2011).
  2. Networks to connect them to other changemakers: To ensure ideas have influence, young people will need to know how to build networks of legitimacy and support with stakeholders who have an interest in their idea (customers, investors, community, government, media, etc) (Moore & Khagram 2004).  They will also need to connect with others like themselves – to “find their tribe”.  The importance of networks has been well documented.  Networks are the source of information individuals, organisations and businesses use to make decisions (Pope 2011).  They underpin the generation of new ideas and are where the most innovative ideas in business and science are generated and spread (Castells, Granovetter, Innes & Booher and Mayer in Pope 2011).  The ability to expand networks rapidly through information technology has become a key competitive advantage in global production systems (Castells in Pope 2011).  Research shows that social entrepreneurs need better networking skills than their commercial counterparts because of their greater breadth of stakeholders (Hoogendoorn et al 2011; Nicholls 2006; Harding & Cowling 2006; Sharir & Lerner 2006).  A lack of professional/peer networks and finance are two of three main barriers reported by young entrepreneurs themselves (the third being a lack of enterprise skills, described below) (Hoogendoorn et al 2011; Clemensson & Christensen 2010; Productivity Commission 2010).
  3. Operational capabilities (business skills, leadership skills, public sector skills, etc): To lead change, young people will need the specific skills – more advanced enterprise skills than those described in the previous section on work – that will help them organise a community campaign, work in or lead an institution, or run a successful business (Moore & Khagram 2004).  This means, depending on what they choose to do, young people will need to be trained in how to run a business, how government works, how to work in partnership with others, or how to effectively campaign or lobby.  Research has shown young people setting up social ventures often do not have the operational skills to make them succeed (Hofer & Delaney 2010/11).  A lack of operational skills is one of three main barriers to success reported by young entrepreneurs themselves (Villeneuve-Smith 2011).  Young leaders and entrepreneurs will also need to gain hands-on experience and be mentored (EY 2013).  Most importantly, they will need to be supported when they fail as well as succeed, as this is the only way they will also learn to take risks and truly innovate (Addis et al 2013; EY 2013).

Read more about how young people can learn to turn ideas into action in communities

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  1. Young people are a vital resource
  2. Future challenges for young people
  3. The transition from school to work
  4. Contributing to and leading change