How do we engage young people and engage them creatively?

Engagement for Creative Action.

“The same thinking can’t solve the problems that it created in the first place,” a common saying goes. To accomplish all of the new Post-2015 Development Goals, creative engagement and innovative strategies will be necessary. In the workshop “Engagement for Creative Action”, private sector heads and nonprofit leaders came together to discuss their use of arts, the media, and especially cross-sector partnerships allowed them to creatively address development problems. 

Two important takeaways and strategies from this panel were:

 1. Youth have an inherent creativity that allows them to innovate solutions to problems the world faces today and in the future.

Young people often have an inherent creativity since they often do not yet think that ‘impossible’ truly is ‘impossible’. Moreover, young people are the key to sustainable development and sustainable solutions.

In other words, the panel showcases creative activists: individuals who use media and the arts to ignite social change around the world. The Creative Visions Foundation (http://www.creativevisions.org/about) was not only a partnership between creative activists, but also seeks to create and nurture even more creative artists in its programs. Trevor Hall, the President of Creative Visions Foundation and the moderator of the panel, described the Foundation as an incubator for creative projects and talked about how they focus on motivating young people to create projects that address development issues through their Creative Activist Program. 

The Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (http://www.faf.org/main/) also focuses on using the arts and culture to unite youth and promote intercultural learning and leadership. The organization is more than 40 years old, and Patrick Sciaratta, the Executive Director, oversees a bevy of programs that primarily focus on uniting and empowering young people. FAF hosts the Youth Assembly twice annually at the United Nations Headquarters, which draws thousands of young people around the world who are tackling the world’s most difficult problems. FAF also has cultural learning and exchange programs that utilize the arts, such as their Service Ambassadors international volunteer program, and The Rhythms of One World music festival. Recently, FAF has created a new initiative called HUMANICY, which means the human side of diplomacy, and is a conference that brings civil society actors together to improve intercultural dialogue and advance the role of the arts in promoting peace and global development. “We are redefining cultural diplomacy for the new generation,” said Sciaratta.

2. Partnerships and multi-stakeholder approaches embody, promote, and amplify creative action.

It was inspiring to see how the panelists truly embodied the vitality and efficacy of partnerships; in some way or another, they had all partnered and worked with each other. Their collaborations show how the only way to truly change the world is to work with each other. 

 Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainable Development, PepsiCo talked about how he loved working on creative solutions for development issues from within a structure like PepsiCo. “Big companies have a lot of reach,” he says. “Everyday, I wake up excited to go to work because I want to use that reach for good.” Bena creates innovative partnerships and creative projects that promote sustainable development.

For example, PepsiCo sponsors the Creative Visions Foundation, as a result of Bena’s collaboration with Hall. PepsiCo also co-convened this very workshop with Friendship Ambassadors Friendship. Bena took this opportunity to promote ‘Rock Your World’, a new project by PepsiCo to teach young people around the world about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, thus motivating them to become engaged citizens. The project also trains these young people to become digital filmmaking, thus providing them with a valuable tool to amplify their voices.

Denise Restauri of Girl Quake, a media company that amplifies young girls’ stories, knows the power of partnerships in the world of media. She interviews and writes stories about incredible young women who are changing the world on her website, but she also partnered with Forbes to write a regular column called Girl Quake (http://www.girlquake.com), where these stories are even more visible. “We need to amplify the stories of the people who are the real celebrities – hard working women and girls around the world. These girls are really shaking things up,” she affirmed. 

As a young person, I see the enormous benefit of this focus on harnessing the creative and diplomatic power of youth, as well as creating partnerships that multiply creative thinking, exposure, and impact. I was a youth delegate/moderator of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation and the International Youth Council to the 4th Annual UN Alliance of Civilizations Doha Forum, and a previous speaker at the UN Youth Assembly. I’ve known Patrick for years, and I sat down for a conversation with him after the workshop. When asked why he is so passionate about youth and the arts, he responds, “Young people are disempowered. They don’t have material things, and they don’t often feel in control of their destiny. But they have something that is crucial: they have understanding. They are more open to learning about other cultures than older people. Cultural exchange and intercultural learning actually empowers youth and can create leaders. I still respond a certain young man who first came to the Annual Youth Assembly at the UN seven years ago. He came up to me and asked, ‘What can I really do? Can I actually make an impact?’ Over the years, we stayed in touch, I visited him in the Middle East, and I saw him continue to grow during the Youth Assemblies and become more involved, more confident. Today, that young man is the UN’s first special envoy on youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, and he is changing things for young people everywhere.” 

– Ani Hao @IndieVolunteer

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