Youth-defined development doing development for, with and by African youth

Muchiri, Judyannet Waigwe (2017) Youth-defined development doing development for, with and by African youth. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Engaging youth is imperative to development because youth are aware of what their communities need and have the capacity to work with other members of the community to meet those needs. Yet, there is minimal meaningful participation of youth in development processes in Africa – especially in projects that are meant for youth. In situations where youth are engaged, they are typically only involved at the very end of the process as passive beneficiaries. Youth are excluded from meaningful participation because they are perceived in society as incapable of reasonable and rational decision-making, as inexperienced, and as a homogenous group of people with these essential characteristics. This exclusion poses a problem to development because without the input of youth, development will benefit only a few and it will not gain acceptance and support from youth. By failing to engage youth in development, especially in projects that target youth, the development community excludes a substantial part of the population. The African Development Bank Group reports that 75% of Sub-Saharan Africa is below 35 years old.1 Youth are not only Africa’s present, they are its future; failing to invest in youth is failing to invest in the future of Africa. Youth are the custodians of the future; they are the future parents, professionals, farmers, construction workers and traders. As such, their participation in development fosters skills and experience in development activities necessary for young people to take charge of community development initiatives as leaders. Indeed, a significant number of young people are already involved in development activities, indicating the will and initiative of young people as agents of change in the community. Further, when youth are not involved in making decisions and actively taking part in activities that affect their lives they are bound to become indifferent. Many challenges faced by the development community in the course of planning and implementing projects can be avoided if the development community worked with youth. Development is defined variously as a process that: promotes prosperity and economic opportunity, greater social wellbeing and protection of the environment2; gives people more freedom and opportunity to live the lives they value, develops people’s abilities and gives them a chance to use them;3 or as positive socioeconomic transformation under the African Union’s Agenda 20634. These definitions come from organizations. It is important to consider how youth define development because with this understanding, the development community can create better ways to work with youth in youth-oriented development. Further, understanding development from the point of view of youth enables policy makers to prioritize development practices in ways that address the needs, experiences, and insights of a substantial portion of Africans. That is, it allows the immediate needs of youth, as defined by youth, to be met. Finally, it allows the development community to find out if there is any disconnect between their definition of development and how youth define development and find ways to reconcile the two. This paper outlines what development means to youth who are members of a networked youth group and what ‘good’ development looks like according to them in the context of youth-oriented development. It provides evidence for the development community to: a) consider what youth think about development, b) invest in youth and their capabilities, and c) forge meaningful partnerships and develop trust with youth in development processes and activities. Further, it shows what youth- and community-centered development looks like when defined by young people who are invested in development in Africa. In this paper youth are defined as people between the ages of 15 and 35. The development community is defined as local and national governments, foreign governments, international and local non-governmental organizations, multilateral government agencies, faith-based organizations, multi-national corporations and local community organizations. It is based on insights from youth in different African countries who are members of a network that uses digital media to bring youth involved in development together. It focuses on youth-targeted development. The findings of this research lead to the following recommendations. For participation in development projects to be meaningful:  Information should be shared and people consulted at all levels5.  People should be involved in setting priorities and determining how resources will be used in projects in the planning stage.  People should participate in implementing projects and be encouraged to take initiative independently6.  Responsibilities and power should be shared among the people involved in projects.  People should be involved in making decisions which affect the quality of their lives.5  It should be based on respect and recognition of individual and group differences based on racial, ethnic, cultural, sexual orientations and religious background.7  People’s local knowledge should be integrated in the design and planning process in development.8 There are various ways through which development actors can achieve this meaningful participation with youth. Below, the Three-lens Model of Participation is discussed. The Three-lens Participatory Model 4 Given the centrality of youth’s expectation to participate in development projects, people working with youth can adopt the Three-lens Approach to Youth Participation20 This participatory model involves working with youth as beneficiaries, as partners and as leaders. The highest level of participation occurs when youth take leadership roles in projects or when they start their own initiatives. This model of youth participation shows how the development community can work with youth to foster more participation. The very basic form of participation is when youth are engaged as mere beneficiaries or clients in a project. On the other hand, the most effective mode of participation includes youth as leaders in projects. Though situations differ with contexts and countries, development actors can mold their youth participation strategies on this model. Main Findings Based on the above features of meaningful youth participation and participatory model, it is imperative to find out from young people to what extent this is evident in practice. This research project does this by engaging a group of youth who are involved in development; it focuses on finding out what development means to this particular group of youth. The following are the main findings of this research.  Young people have a sound understanding of problems in their communities and have the capacity and expertise to contribute to their community’s wellbeing.  Youth participation in development includes taking part in designing, actualizing, and monitoring projects.  There is a disconnect in how youth and the development community define development; this affects what is prioritized in development and is seen as a problem by youth who already participate in development.  Information sharing is central to the way youth participate in development projects. Young people want development actors to clearly communicate what is expected of youth in development projects, how projects are executed, what the goals and objectives are in projects, how power and responsibilities are shared and what the scope of work is.  Youth use informal channels and platforms, such as social media, to organize and share information about development activities they are involved in.  Young people display a willingness to work collaboratively on projects in adult-youth relationships. Youth Participants’ definitions of development  Good development gives people the ability and opportunity to sustainably use available resources;  access basic needs;  appreciate intangible things like culture, freedom, education and to enjoy them with family and friends;  work together as members of a community for socio-economic growth through partnerships;  identify the needs of different communities and helps fill the gap between those needs and available resources;  work for positive change in the community in the interest of the local population;  and to improve their livelihood in a way that promotes environmental sustainability. A Summary of Recommendations Based on the above findings and existing models of participation, the following recommendations to the development community are targeted to governments, international aid agencies, and other policymakers: Procedural Recommendations 1. Change from a top-down approach to a more community-centered approach in creation, implementation and evaluation of development projects. 2. Map development projects onto the needs of youth and community. 3. Move beyond a mere inclusion of youth in development projects (e.g. a certain number of youth are consulted or are involved in workshops) to substantial engagement where youth meaningfully participate in decision making processes and tasks throughout projects. 4. Involve youth in evaluating existing policies and programs. Thematic Development Priority Recommendations 1. Invest more in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for girls and young women in Africa. 2. Invest in programs that nurture and promote the value of arts in informal and formal learning institutions and allocate more funds for arts. 3. Create legal and policy systems within which youth participation in development is enforced.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 12961
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 47-52).
Keywords: Development, Youth Participation, African Youth, Participatory Development, Youth-defined Development
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Sociology
Date: October 2017
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Youth in development--Africa; Development leadership--Africa; Economic development--Africa

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