Innovation partnerships to tackle youth development

UCT GSB PRESS OFFICE - 13 March 2020

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UCT Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) and youth development lab Lucha Lunako have teamed up to launch a new Youth Innovation Partnership that seeks to provide fresh impetus to those working in the youth development space and better support young South Africans who are battling to access work and other opportunities.

Approximately 8.2 million (40.1%) of South Africa’s 20.4 million young people aged 15 to 34 are not in employment, education or training of any sort, according to the latest figures released by Statistics SA in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS). The President in the State of the Nation Address 2020 called this situation a national crisis.

The Youth Innovation Partnership, which kicked off with a workshop in Philippi Village, Cape Town last week, aims to surface existing strategies that are successfully addressing these challenges and to build these out into a collaborative youth development framework that is practical and actionable.

“We want to build an ecosystem of innovation that supports a young person’s transition from education to employment,” says Solange Rosa, Interim Director of the Bertha Centre who hosted the Cape Town Event. “This is a perfect opportunity to look at where the gaps are and to identify how to develop a network of support that is collaborative and will spearhead more innovative responses.”

Alana Bond, co-founder of Lucha Lunako, (meaning ‘the youth have it’) says that the partnership wants to focus on “what it actually takes to get young people economically active” – which might include self-employment. One of the most concerning elements it hopes to target is the issue of churn or job insecurity.

A recent study from Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator found that typically only one in five job seekers secure work that lasts longer than three months. And an additional one in four find erratic work lasting even less than three months. Employee income tax data submitted to the SA Revenue Service similarly show that only half of annually registered jobs are stable from one year to the next.

“Having observed hundreds of young people over the last few years access development opportunities yet remain ill-equipped for employment, and having directly employed a number of youth in entry-level opportunities over the same period, we started with our observation that young people lack sufficiently developed foundations in order to absorb and utilise the technical and workplace readiness training they receive,” says Bond.

“With so much focus and money in South Africa going into SETA-accredited learnerships and other qualifications, as well as ‘work place readiness’, we are concerned about the lack of impact for the money spent, and want to propose a different approach to youth development. In addition to this, we want to develop guiding principles for any organisations working in the youth development space, and make a number of other broad recommendations for the youth sector, with a key focus on collaboration.”

A key collaborator in the process of course, says Simnikiwe Xanga, programme liaison officer at the GSB Solution Space in Philippi, are the youth themselves. The Cape Town workshop included a moderated panel discussion on understanding individual perspectives and the lived experience of local youth.

“Too often decisions about youth development are made by older men typically working in patriarchal structures such as government. A clear message from the young voices at our workshop was that effective interventions must be more inclusive and diverse. Youth urgently need spaces where they can access opportunities and resources that help them find stable formal employment or self employment. And if these are not available, we need to create and occupy them ourselves,” she says.

There was also a discussion on innovation in the sector with participants presenting their approaches, models, rationale and calls to action for effective youth development. SALDRU, a UCT-based research unit, presented their Youth Explorer Tool and Youth Capital, a campaign led by the DG Murray Trust, presented their framework.

The action moves to Johannesburg this week where a second workshop will take place at Impact Hub in Rosebank on Wednesday 11th. Thereafter, participants will continue to engage through a planned series of webinars to further plot the shape, size and trajectory of the partnership. The ambition and scope of the initiative is bold.

“We envision a world where youth use their agency and skills to access sustainable and decent work, with the ability to build aspirational careers. These youth have the basic mental, emotional, psycho-social and competency tools to transcend the often traumatic conditions of their upbringings and we just need to provide them with support to develop themselves into active citizens who participate in the economic activities of a nation, and address poverty and inequality.” concludes Nizenande Machi, Chief Mastermind at Lucha Lunako.

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