Viewpoint By Bill Reese
It’s not always easy to recognize when the needle moves, even a little bit, in the right direction. Yet over the past few months, I’ve been heartened by what I see as some real progress on one of our toughest problems: global youth employment. A few weeks ago, I was in Kenya at the invitation of The MasterCard Foundation, where I joined a small group of nonprofit CEOs for a lively four-day discussion on how to expand economic opportunities for Africa’s youth. From there I went to Davos, Switzerland, to participate in the 2014 World Economic Forum. In both settings, I was struck by how much more IYF’s youth development strategies and interventions are resonating in the current global debate. Here are some of the changes I’ve noticed lately.
This year's theme for International Women's Day, "Inspiring Change," prompted me to rethink what truly inspires me about the young change makers I've met over the years. Initially I think of the social activists I so admire: the young Egyptian leader raising her fist at a pro-democracy rally surrounded by armed police; the 22-year-old Afghan woman whose outrage at the Taliban for shutting down schools for girls led her to open her own; the American college student who upon learning that blindness was often due to poor health care founded what became a global NGO dedicated to saving people's sight.
I was incredibly frazzled on my ride to the airport in Bangalore to catch a plane to Davos, Switzerland where I would be one of fifty 50 Global Shapers to participate in the World Economic Forum. It felt wholly inappropriate to be so preoccupied with funding proposals, technology issues, and the administrative needs of my social venture when I was poised for a week of amazing interactions. As the mental anguish continued, I suddenly realized that what made my presence at Davos interesting to those who invited me was probably the amalgam of all these scrappy social entrepreneur experiences, alongside the fierce drive and sense of possibility that myself and my social change peers possess. It would be a fun juxtaposition, I realized, to have the leaders of million dollar institutions engaging with the 50 of us, bristling with intimate knowledge of our communities and ideas for setting them right. So I gave myself up completely to every worry, excitement, thought, and impulse that came my way that week and got so much back in return