Ban Ki-Moon stated that young people will be the torch bearers for the next sustainable development agenda, so we’re holding him to that and placing young people at the heart of all our work. In the first of a new fortnightly blog feature about Restless Development’s The Big Conversation, Jack McQuibban, a young staff member in our London office, gives his insight into being on the Youth Strategy Team as Restless Development devises its next global strategy framework.

“The variations in political, economic and social inequality are too significant to be ignored.” Big Conversation respondent.

With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this year and their implementation as the framework for international development over the next 15 years, it is a crucial period in the history of our organisation as we continue to place young people at the forefront of change. Planning for the future is a challenge for any organisation, but when you’re on the ground in eight countries across Africa, Asia and beyond – responsive to the needs of 1.8 million people globally and remaining flexible in meeting their needs, it gets a whole lot tougher.


So how do you devise an entire global strategy for an organisation with offices spanning 10 countries and four continents? Well, it started 30 years ago – we’re not building from scratch on this. As an organisation, we’ve got 30 years experience of delivering programmes for young people, working with them at the grassroots level whilst championing their work at the national and international levels. It also involves utilising others, realising that we don’t have all the answers and studying the great work our partners and stakeholders have already done in this field of work.

Most importantly though, it involves hearing the opinions and thoughts of as many people as possible from across the globe on the role of young people in development. Our teams across Africa, Asia, Europe & the Americas reached out and brought thousands of different voices into the process; giving every person a chance tell us what needs to change in the world and what role they’ll play in order for young people to become torch-bearers of the next sustainable development agenda, as well as the issues they’d most like to see addressed before 2030.

The result of this process was the collection of an incredibly large amount of qualitative data. Each of our country programs analysed the data gathered from their specific region and reported back on the main trends and themes from their consultations. We also took this consultation online, extending our reach and getting a wider, more global sense of these important issues. The result was a truly global conservation, with 5,000 voices from 64 countries feeding in.

This is where the Youth Strategy team was brought in to analyse and compare all of the data. The team consisted of eight young people and staff members, brought together to examine what all this data and analysis meant for Restless Development as an organisation looking forward.

But why bother with the young people and not just let our Senior Management Team do this?

Because Restless Development is a youth-led agency, placing young people at the forefront of change. When we are looking at our future and how we can best continue to serve young people across the globe, it’s a necessity that youth be involved in all levels of this consultation. So what did we find exactly? A full summary report is available here, but some of the key highlights that stood out to me were:

  • Young people are ready to take up a leadership role in development and decision-making processes. Whether it’s one of the thousands of young volunteers on the frontline against Ebola in Sierra Leone, the 1600 global volunteers we’ve worked with on the International Citizen Service programme, or our team in Nepal transforming their whole programming to meet the needs of young people in the wake of two devastating earthquakes – today’s youth are leading on global change and we’re ready to keep doing so!
  • That with this increased leadership role, young people want their participation valued and recognised. The majority of survey respondents wanted young people’s meaningful contribution to society to be appreciated by those at the highest levels and result in more participatory opportunities.
  • Inequality of accessing opportunities is the motivation for change for a lot of our respondents. Whether this be services like education and healthcare, or platforms to be heard at the decision-making levels, young people are calling on equal access to these spaces for all.

I’m extremely excited for what this all means, not only for Restless Development but for young people around the world who are ready to fulfil the words of Ban-Ki Moon and become the torch-bearers of the next sustainable development agenda. I’m also incredibly proud to work for an organisation such as Restless Development, one that truly believes in young people and investing in their potential with roles such as the Youth Strategy Team’s in devising our new global strategy.

What do you think?

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