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EDD Young Leaders believe in the value of strengthened linkages between the various young leader platforms across the globe for collaborative action. To further this mission, we will feature stories by fellow young leaders working towards positive social impact. #youngleadersconnect 

Quality education is internationally recognised as a key catalyst for sustainable economic development. My vision of such high-quality schooling is incomplete without the inclusion of social action. I know first-hand that engaging in social action is not only altruistically sound but also personally and professionally rewarding. Habits formed while young will likely influence lifelong attitudes, thus, it is of utmost importance that young people are exposed to social action as early as possible. My following arguments are enriched by the diverse perspectives of other young leaders.

I am fresh from the 2017 Youth G7 Summit where I was the UK delegate focusing on ‘production innovation’ and digitalisation. A key discussion point was the empirical estimate that around 60% of current primary school students will be undertaking jobs in the future that do not yet exist in the labour market. Incumbent technical skills struggle to keep up with rapid technological Innovation. Education is supposed to equip the future workforce, yet, apparently current academia is no longer sufficient. I believe that this plays into why youth social action should become a part of school curriculums and indeed more encouraged in society.

I define social action as service to positively impact society. The ethical argument is obvious; it is nice to do good things for others. The rewards to the individual include the acquisition of transferable skills valued by businesses such as leadership, teamwork and confidence.  During university, I volunteered as an ESOL English tutor to young refugees and asylum seekers, the African Caribbean Society President, the Black and Ethnic Minority Officer, Investment and Trading Society treasurer and also founded an ENLP social project. While these significantly enhanced my employability, personally, they brought me immense satisfaction. Young people have the most to gain in self-development from social action engagement.

My voluntary work on the #iWill Fund leadership board fuels my passion to see more young people in the UK and beyond truly contribute positively to society and thus themselves. I have an incredible opportunity to influence how £40m+ will be allocated over the next few years to ensure that by 2020, 60% of UK youth are involved in meaningful social action. We want to provide excellent opportunities for all while developing a culture of community engagement in the UK.

I reached out to some outstanding young people to provide insights into their motivations and thoughts on social action. Their experiences exude proactivity and the drive to change the status quo. The habits and skills they have developed over time continues to prove useful in all facets of their lives.

Anna [25]: Account Manager and The Chair of The British Youth Council

“…do a variety of things that you love which stimulate and develop you. I love to work with inspiring and passionate people – especially those that care about raising the voices of young people”

When & How: I grew up in a rural part of Dorset. At 14, I was unable to engage in activities and opportunities in my local area as I lived 8 miles from the nearest town and there were only 2 buses a week. I saw that this was unfair, so I started a simple petition. This grew in signatures and it opened my eyes to making a difference in my local community and I haven’t looked back.

What hinders young people from getting involved: They aren’t aware that the opportunities are out there, what they can bring them and how much people will value those experiences in the future.

Social action is: Passion

Chloe [22]: Youth Engagement Consultant & Entrepreneur, #iWill Trustee, Chair of Youth Engagement Advisory Group, Canal and River Trust Council member

“Play to your strengths, get friends involved, push yourselves and learn new things whilst doing something to help someone else.”

When & How: At age 12, I saw a UK Youth Parliament leaflet and despite not being that interested in politics I felt like it could be a good way to channel some energy and do something positive. After getting elected I got involved with a wide variety of local youth groups and projects. This sparked the passion that led me to pursue a career in the youth sector.

What hinders young people from getting involved: Not everyone wants to get involved in everything, we all need a bit of encouragement and support from those around us… but, those who have the most to gain are also the least likely to take part.

Social action is: Enlightening

Jamie [20]: RTI Evaluator, National Advocate for St John Ambulance, #IWill Ambassador, Special Police Constable, NCS national ambassador.

“Remain optimistic throughout life, make a positive outcome in everything you do and aim high! But most of all enjoy it.”

When & How: In 2013 I did a First Aid course at high school taught by St John Ambulance, this inspired me to join the organisation and to boost my CV. One thing lead into another afterwards.

What hinders young people from getting involved: The current education system, too much stress in regards of exams. Students are left to feel they should be focusing on exams and nothing else.

Social action is: Powerful

Saeed [20]:  Xplode Magazine CEO, Beacon Bolton Counselling and Home-Start Bolton Director, Step up to Serve Trustee, Columnist for The Bolton News, Radio Host.

“…the look on a young person’s face who I’ve been able to help just motivates me hugely. Also, the depth of austerity and no huge change in how young people are being seen really makes me want to keep chipping away.”

When & How: at age 14, I was getting fed up with the negative press coverage of young people. Especially after the riots, we were being portrayed as feral animals. I decided to be a part of the press so I put a magazine together with some of my friends. Now we run an award winning and renowned magazine by young people and for young people.

What hinders young people from getting involved: I think it’s a fear of the unknown, also, I don’t think charities are very good at getting young people on board. It’s a vicious circle because if young people were there at the top level, on the boards of organisations, more young people would get involved but you need to hire those at the top first.

Social action is: Incredible!

It is noteworthy that not everyone can get involved even if they wanted to. Those from low social economic backgrounds are still less likely to benefit from partaking in social action for reasons including shortage of opportunity and greater opportunity-cost of spare time. This oxymoron of inequality where the more affluent have greater access to high-quality social action needs to be addressed. Making social action a mandatory part of the public curriculum could level the playing field. In any influential capacity, I endeavour to prioritise areas with low investment and thus low participation across the UK.

Governments ought to integrate social action into the education system to promote a more skilled and motivated labour force in the long run. Technical labour skills may evolve but the transferable soft skills needed to excel will persist. Social action provides these, whilst also contributing to overall wellbeing. The next step in my lifetime journey of service involves launching a project aimed at empowering girls in my community as the 2017 UK Girls20 ambassador. In addition to highlighting matters such as wage inequalities and unconscious bias, I plan to champion female involvement in youth social action at the Girls20 summit in Munich. Girls should have no barriers to benefiting from and contributing to community service. Hopefully, G20 leaders will prioritise integrating this into academic systems.

Dunola O is the UK Delegate for the upcoming G(irls)20 Summit, a precursor to the G20 Summit addressing economic empowerment of women and girls. She is an FX Trade Support Analyst, she sits on the leadership board of the #iWill Fund and she is a Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassador.

Twitter: @Dunola_ 

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