Reversing the narrative on being 'too young' to lead

Why is it that we see so much anger towards young people? So much criticism? Why is that, as soon as young people start acting, they are given every bird name you can find, and criticized for every move they make? Why is it that, at the same time, young people are criticized for « not being active enough » in every field?

Young people in the United States and in many other countries on this planet are young enough to hold a rifle and be sent to war, but are too young to fight for what they believe in, to express their opinion and be heard, to be listened to and not simply heard? They should « learn from experienced people first, then when they’re older implement what they learned »? We bet you will not find a more convenient way to maintain a status quo everywhere than this excuse used to justify the lack of policies towards more youth-empowerment in our countries.

In Venezuela, the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Cameroun, China, and many other countries around the globe, young people are being more and more vocal when it comes to expressing their opinion, emboldened by new technologies and innovations allowing us all to connect with others around the globe. And finally, after decades of young people being silenced and seen just as simple « teenagers » or « children », we are starting to be heard, as movements around the globe show that as the years pass, we get more and more public support from every layer of civil society.

Francois spoke at the OYW 2015 Summit in Bangkok.

Are we finally witnessing an interest from the corporate, political, and nonprofit world for young people? An interest that goes beyond the classic over-worked under-payed intern, or the incapable-of-doing-anything-else-than-studying teen? Is it even more so that heads of state around the globe are elected at a younger age?

Truth is, young people around the world have been told for too long that they were « too young » to take matters into their hands, and try and change the world. We have been told too many times that we were idealists, not ready to get our hands in the mud to bring the change we wanted to see. We have been told too many times that we were not experienced enough to lead our projects, when we have been rejected from every opportunity to get some experience from the same figures that told us we need to get that experience first. We have been told too many times that our age was a limit to what we could accomplish.

Now, it’s time to say that we are young enough. If we are young enough to be impacted by policies that have an impact on us, then we are young enough to bring our propositions to the arena. If we are young enough to be shot at in a school, then we are young enough to fight against that. If we are young enough to represent a threat to the establishment that would like us to remain silent, then we are young enough to overthrow that establishment.

We are young enough to develop, build, and carry our own projects to their success. We are young enough to learn from more experienced people, and also to teach more experienced people about our own experiences. This is not a one-way road, and that’s when this understanding is built between people that we get the most out of a conversation.

We are proud to unveil a project that we have been working on for the past months. A project that is the beginning of new possibilities for communities around the world. Young Enough Ambition.

Born of our will to show that young people around the world are capable of becoming leaders at a surprising young age, Young Enough Ambition aims to provide young people in developing countries and struggling communities with the tools they need to develop their leadership skills while leading projects that benefit to their community as a whole, their city, their nation, their world. We have the ambition to lead this generation of leaders towards a fairer, more sustainable world that they have to build.

This youth-oriented, youth-led initiative is not born out of nowhere. It is the fruit of the combined experience of a number of young people that have tried, sometimes successfully, sometimes while encountering failures, to develop their initiatives before. We know what are the obstacles for young people to thrive at a young age. Sometimes these obstacles exist because of the structure of the administration in which young people evolve. Sometimes, they exist because those in power have built obstacles for the sole purpose of preventing young people to gain access to recognition as a whole. At Young Enough Ambition, we have encountered each and every single obstacle we aim to break down.

From access to this incredible network that is One Young World, but also through a partnership with BASE Collaborativa; to financial support, we help initiatives led by young people to have the greatest positive impact possible on the communities we work in. Young Enough Ambition also provides a tailored mentoring follow-up, with experienced local professionals assigned to each young leader we support; all of this while keeping in mind that administrative blockades can be a real pain for young people to go through. Good news. We handle it for you.

Some of the skills needed to make sure your initiative become s a true success are delivered right on your front door, during workshops free of charge for all selected initiatives, before the final selection that may make your initiative and yourself become one of our Grantees. Management courses, fundraising tips, meet-and-greet with the future mentors of our program, one-and-one sessions with our team to help push your initiative forward; and this is just a sneak-peak into our workshops. This way, we make sure that even initiatives that are not selected to join our pool of Grantees, are provided with the basic skills and tools to implement positive change in their communities.

Let us be crystal clear about our end goal. Young Enough Ambition is not a tool to manage projects for young people. It is a tool to provide them with everything they need to manage their projects, by themselves. We want to make communities more resilient, more sustainable, not more dependent.

A word now about the spirit behind Young Enough Ambition, and the people behind it. We were all born on a privileged continent, Europe, with its flaws, its benefits, but mostly with the incredible chance of having the opportunity to develop our initiatives in an easier fashion than what can be witnessed in other corners of this globe. This privilege should not and does not make us feel guilty in any way, as some could suggest. But it does mean that we have to be somewhat responsible. Each one of us has a duty to help others prosper. Not only so that we can all prosper, but also because prosperity, in every sense of the term, means a more peaceful world. 

We are young enough to act. You are young enough to act. 

This blog was written by Francois Reyes, cofounder of Young Enough Ambition. He is also the Founder of Reveil Citoyen, a think-tank whose mission is to counter extremism and create understanding by bringing people together through dialogue.

Published on 09/04/2018