In 2012, The MasterCard Foundation established a Youth Think Tank. As part of a wider Youth Engagement strategy, The Think Tank is one of many ways the Foundation is able to directly hear from and listen to the voices of young people. The Think Tank is intended to provide insight on issues surrounding our two program areas — Youth Learning and Financial Inclusion — and develop youth-led ideas for our programs and strategies.
To ensure their contributions fed directly into research that was relevant to the Foundation, it anchored the Think Tank to the following question:
How can we increase youth employment (formal, informal, and self-employment) in growth sectors such as agri-business, green growth, ICT, and financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Eight Think Tank participants from seven partners and five countries in East and West Africa dedicated their time and energy to answering this question. They interviewed 160 young people, business and community leaders and collaborated to analyze the themes and emergent learnings. Each member clearly demonstrated the dedication, passion, and thoughtfulness possible when providing young people opportunities to conduct research and participate in this type of process.
The participatory research and wider Think Tank process challenged participants to question their assumptions about youth employment in Africa while building their skills and networks across the continent. As Maurice Bukenya from the African Leadership Academy noted the biggest learning opportunity was from my fellow participants and interviewees. These two groups pushed me to think beyond my assumptions especially on a critical issue such as youth unemployment.
This sentiment was echoed by Peris Mwangi from Equity Group Foundation who said the interviews allowed me to understand and interpret young people’s understanding of youth employment. Discussions with other Think Tank members gave me perspective and diverse views. During discussions, I was able to share my views and listen to the views of others providing a connection between employment challenges and what can be done about them.
At the Foundation, the research completed by the Think Tank provided a nuance to the role parents play influencing the employment and education choices of young people. It highlighted the desire of young people to take leadership roles and participate in the decisions that impact them, and it challenged our own assumptions about growth sectors and the meaning of entrepreneurship. So much so, that we drafted a new research question that will help us refine our Youth Learning strategy.
Our Think Tank completed another 96 interviews with young people and business leaders to help test our assumptions, compliment our research, and ensure the voices of young people were integrated into our strategy development process. Critically, this process has helped demonstrate to our partners and other stakeholders one way to engage young people at an institutional level.
The development and administration of the Think Tank will continue throughout 2013 and into 2014. It has been the result of the commitment and efforts of numerous Foundation staff across multiple departments, participating partners who share our commitment to working alongside young people, as well as the energy of our participants. As Maurice rightly says, before this I had not worked on anything like a Think Tank, and for a first experience I must say that this Youth Think Tank has been phenomenal.
Source: Mastercard Foundation Blog