Sharing Knowledge

Out of India into Africa with youth engagement

Neeraj Ahuja

From Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh to Mombasa, TRI’s amazing youth leaders shared their best practices and success stories of building livelihood opportunities in rural India at the GOYN 2023 Global Convening in Kenya.

Transformational Youth Engagement

Transform Rural India (TRI) is on a mission to bring equal opportunities to rural India – because India will only reach its full potential when the two-thirds who live outside of its cities have access to the same support and opportunities that their urban cousins have. 

Engaging young people in their communities and helping them find sustainable livelihoods is crucial to this. That is why creating multidimensional design solutions for building youth employability and entrepreneurships is a major practice for TRI. 

One of our biggest partners in this endeavour is the Aspen Institute’s Global Opportunity Youth Network (GOYN). Every year GOYN, which also partners separately with Accenture in India, holds an international conference to allow leading youth leaders to share their experiences and best practices. TRI has collaborated with GOYN to bring the global best practices and partnerships in solving the huge challenge of rural youth unemployment in India. 

Hosted by the Aspen Institute, GOYN brings together the expertise of global organisations like the Global Development Incubator, Accenture and YouthBuild International. Every year GOYN holds an international conference to allow leading youth leaders from across the world to share their experiences and best practices.

Spreading knowledge and sharing solutions

This 4th Annual GOYN Global Convening was held during November 6-9, 2023 in Mombasa, Kenya. The conference focused on sharing insights on the impact of successful youth engagement and livelihood pathways, the power of place-based collaboration and celebrating the resilience of young leaders.

TRI’s team from Ramgarh in Jharkhand and Barwani in Madhya Pradesh and youth leaders travelled together to collaborate with other members of GOYN. 

My colleagues and I found the many sessions motivating and felt particularly inspired by the chance to build a collaborative network of like-minded partners on the economic opportunities for youth. 

“Sessions on topics like the role of data and taking a data-driven approach to identify problems and solutions was a particular highlight, especially the idea of developing place-based solutions and looking at scale through system shifts,” said Abhishek Singh, practitioner – youth employment and entrepreneurship, TRI.

Designing place-based solutions, that is programmes and schemes bespoke to each community and its desires, is a key tenant of TRI’s community-first approach. We call this our Thoughtful Tarakki way of democratising development.

Seeing youth as opportunities – not problems

One theme that was discussed a lot over the four days was the need to change the destructive and erroneous narrative of seeing young people as lazy and problematic. 

I believe India has the necessary conditions to unleash the potential of our youth and help the country become one of the leading economies in the world. But first we need to change the narrative – young people are not problems to be solved but opportunities to be invested in. And it’s the collective responsibility of our society to provide dignified opportunities for every young person and, through collaboration, catalyse these opportunities at scale. This can happen if youth are given more ownership in their communities and are given a sense of agency. 

“This will anchor holistic development for the whole community,” said Maitree Ganguli, practitioner – youth employment and entrepreneurship, TRI. 

Also discussed at the GOYN Global Convening was how cultural creativity can be a binding factor for the youth of a community and that “Youth Hub” models can be developed as more creative space to engage youth on a regular basis to help develop young leadership. 

“Network building at the youth hub through a youth advisory group will co-create more opportunities at the local level,” Ganguli added. 

This was also a big-take-away for Vinayendra, practitioner – youth employment and entrepreneurship, TRI, who was quite impressed with the sign language communications that happened during the GOYN sessions. He also felt that there is a need for “a more systematic approach and aligned set of activities to establish Youth Advisory Groups (YAG) that help develop self-esteem in young people and bring youth voice in programme design and implementation.”

Convergence and collaboration are key

Unlike many specialist organisations, another key to TRI’s Thoughtful Tarakki approach is taking a multidimensional tact to bring equal opportunities to rural Indians. For us collaboration is key. 

We tap into existing government schemes – both central and state-level departments and initiatives – to help young people find the best chances to thrive. 

But sometimes even that is not enough. 

Because often young people need help with the basics – education or confidence-building, ideating, networking, or even help at home or perhaps assistance with a healthcare issue. We bring together departments that usually never interact to help our youth find – and sustain – livelihoods. Yes, that also means tapping into the business community and helping young entrepreneurs find markets for their goods and services. 

Convergence is our specialisation. 

That is why we love partnering with organisations like GOYN and sharing our experiences and learning of other great ideas and initiatives as we did in Mombasa. The Global Convening has been a huge highlight of 2023 for our practice – an experience we hope to build on. 

“A major take-away from the conference was the need to create a global network of partners to address this huge issue of youth unemployment at scale. It’s also such a great exposure for young people to build confidence and believe in the power of youth in shaping societies,” Singh concluded. 

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