Monday, 11 May 2015

Update for the Wikiprogress online consultation on Youth Well-being: Last few days to contribute!

The first Wikiprogress online consultation on Youth Well-being has gained a lot of momentum with over 400 comments to date, and we have decided to extend the deadline for commenting an extra few days to the 15th May. As we’re nearing the end of our consultation, we’re keen to hear what you think our key policy recommendations should be to tangibly improve well-being for youth. Sign up and contribute your opinion here: http://bit.ly/1OwPqdd. The post below by Laura Gillies of Bluenove, one of the moderators of the discussion highlights some of the key points in the discussion so far. We look forward to hearing from you!


We have had some fantastic contributions in the online consultation this week. Many issues seem to revolve around the themes of giving youth validity and better utilizing social media, such as:

  • Youth have many ideas and seem willing to engage but they are often not taken seriously. How can we fix this?
  • Social media seems to have great potential as a space for dialogue, a place where new 'visual' languages can evolve, and a repository of data that can be analyzed to improve youth well-being, but it is often currently seen as a place for shallow dialogue. Can it be better used for youth well-being purposes?

As we’re nearing the end of our consultation, we’re keen to hear what you think our key policy recommendations should be to tangibly improve well-being for youth. Below are some of the main points discussed in the consultation in the last week.

Recommendations for policy makers

This week the idea of what recommendations can be drawn from the discussion so far was raised. Current suggestions include:

  • Well-being as a universal right should be fundamental
  • International initiatives aimed at re-defining indicators of well-being for the younger generation
  • Mental health should be seriously treated by indicators
  • Data needs to be harvested and analyzed around youth indicators
  • University networks should be mobilized
  • Policies should be flexible
  • Economic needs should be discussed and incorporated


Giving youth validity

Youth seem to be willing to participate (Obama's 2008 presidental campaign in the U.S., governmental departments in France, youth councils, university groups, etc.) but one issue they seem to run into is that adults don't take them seriously. Specific points and questions raised include:

  • Obama did not make good on the suggestions youth made to his political platform
  • Student /youth groups are often disregarded
  • Older generations are not willing to accept the new ideas being proposed by youth
  • What can be done to help youth gain more influence?

Shared responsibility

The responsibility for youth well-being policy is shared between many different actors including NGOs, parents, the corporate world, governments, etc. How can these actors be convinced to take youth well-being more seriously?

Youth participation

How can youth be incorporated into the process?  Some great ideas were raised including:

  • Creating a debate at home via schools to incorporate parents into the process
  • Using the media to create a space for conversation
  • Helping older people to accept the new ideas of youth so they feel incentivised to share their opinions
  • Creating a culture of engagement from the get-go (raising kids who feel empowered to contribute)
  • What are some other ways we can incentivize youth to participate?


Data collection

This generation of youth are more connected than ever via online platforms.
What are the possibilities for harvesting and analyzing the vast amounts of public data that can be found on social media?
What is the potential for this type of data in determining what is important for youth well-being? 

Intergenerational dynamics

This week the topic of inter-generational issues was discussed in greater detail. Some key ideas emerged including how to bring older generations on board with the new ideas of youth and how to incorporate the wisdom of elderly generations in the process. This was put into the context of paths to efficient governance for youth, and the idea of inter-generational mentoring programs was raised. 

Mental health

Mental health, alcohol abuse and drug abuse are often interwoven issues. Can alcohol and drug use be used as an indicator of youth well-being? Do higher levels of alcohol consumption equate to lower well-being? Does higher drug use? ​

Employment and well-being

This week the idea that employment problems for youth is an issue that is impossible to solve was raised. Do you believe this is true?
The idea that having an education system that values professional training rather than formal degrees may help with employment was also raised.

Conclusion

We strongly encourage you to add your thoughts to the debate, and regularly check back and see how the debate is progressing! Thank you again to everyone who has contributed thus far! We look forward to hearing from you in this final week!

Sign up and join in the discussion here:  http://bit.ly/1OwPqdd

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Balancing youth with social and emotional skills

Social and emotional skills play an essential role during all stages of life.  Along with cognitive and learning abilities, it is equally important that our youth develop social and emotional skills in order to balance and ground their personalities and strengthen their characters. This blog post on a new OECD publication,  "Skills for Social Progress",  was written by Lynda Hawe of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, as part of our focus on youth well-being during the Wikiprogress online consultation on Youth Well-being.





As we know from personal experiences, when we feel a deep sense of well-being we are far better able to absorb new information, take risks and be more responsible for our lives.  Now don’t we want that for all youth? 

But growing-up can often be quite a challenging period.  Ensuring that youth have a wide variety of skills to help them cope with some of life’s challenges may not always occur naturally.  Sometimes they will need help in building social and emotional skills - which are the kind of skills involved in achieving goals, working with others and managing emotions. 

Social and emotional skills play an essential role during all stages of life.  Fundamentally, along with cognitive and learning abilities, it is equally important that our youth develop social and emotional skills in order to balance and ground their personalities and strengthen their characters.  Some examples are:  Perseverance, which is the ability to keep going when things get tough and rough (like when the sports teacher demands that you to run another 10 laps of the pitch and you already feel exhausted).  Caring, which is the capacity to be kind to others and to be able to show and feel empathy (when you support an upset friend by listening and comforting them, irrespective of other priorities or personal time constraints).   Self-esteem, which means being able to feel good and being proud of your personal achievements, and comfortable with your physical appearances (regardless of any unpleasant comments from peers).

Luckily, some of these skills are flexible and adjustable when growing-up. This allows opportunities for policy makers, teacher and parents to provide the right kind of learning environments, in order to support and nurture them. The book Skills for Social Progress: The power of Social and Emotional Skills addresses the importance of these types of skills to enhance and balance lives.  It confirms international research studies that validate the need for a steady set of cognitive, social and emotional skill in order to succeed well in life.    In the past, we often thought that these types of skills couldn’t be successfully quantified.  In contrast, this report demonstrates that they can be measured meaningfully, within cultural and linguistic boundaries.  Additionally, the OECD will develop more measures and design an international comparative framework, in order to better grasp youth’s current and future needs for social and emotional skills.  Consequently, this report supplements the reflection on how future policies could best encourage and nurture the development of social and emotional skills, of course, working  closely with parents and teachers.

Not surprisingly, we need a wide range of diverse skills to contribute to the economy, support better social outcomes and build more unified and tolerant societies.  Cognitive abilities such as literacy and problem-solving remain crucial. Nonetheless, youth with strong social and emotional foundation skills thrive better in a highly dynamic labour market and rapidly changing world.  Investing in these skills will be central to addressing numerous socio-economic challenges, and for ensuring prosperous, healthy, engaged, responsible and happy youth.

More information
Centre for Educational Research and Innovation CERI
Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies PIAAC website

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Wikiprogress Online Consultation on Youth Well-being


From the 30 March to 8 May, Wikiprogress will be running a 6-week online consultation on Youth Well-being in co-operation with a number of partners. This consultation will be quite different from previous discussions held on Wikiprogress, and the aim will be to cover a very wide range of topics in as much detail as possible in order to produce a report for policy makers and practitioners. We intend for the results of the consultation to be presented at the OECD Forum in Paris in June – and we are counting on your participation to make sure we have as wide a range of contributions as possible.

Register for and access the consultation here.

There are more young people living in the world today than at any time in human history and there is an urgent need to better meet their needs through more effective policy-making and societal action. Last December, Wikiprogress held a 2-week online discussion on Youth Well-being Measurement and Policy. We were overwhelmed by the reaction to this topic, and it was quite clear that there was much more to discuss than the usual format allowed.

A new tool for online consultation

From Monday 30 March to the 8 May, we will be running an online consultation to explore in more detail the many questions raised by the December discussion. In order to this, we are experimenting with a new open-source tool, which will allow us to bring more structure to the conversation, and keep track of the key ideas that emerge over its 6 weeks.

Those who have taken part in previous Wikiprogress discussions will notice that this consultation looks quite different from our usual discussion pages. The idea is that by using a tool that has been specially designed for large-scale online debates, we will be able to organise contributions by theme and by question, making it easier for people to participate in the areas that most interest them. It will also make it easier to highlight key points and summarise pertinent information when it comes to communicating the knowledge gathered to policy makers. Every week we will produce a short summary of the key points of the consultation to help participants keep track of new contributions.

Anyone is free to take part, and we are especially interested in hearing from:
  • Practitioners, researchers and representatives of organisations that have a particular interest in any aspect of youth well-being and youth participation.
  • Young people themselves, who want to have a say about what matters most to them.

An evolving discussion

 The principal objective of the consultation is to gather knowledge from as wide a range of informed people as possible about how to better understand the needs of young people and how to implement policy and other actions that can improve their lives. The consultation is designed so that it can evolve, with new questions and ideas emerging as more people contribute. However, the consultation will open on Monday with a number of starting questions, in the following areas.

First, what does “youth well-being” really mean? Or in other words, what are the key drivers for their well-being and how do the needs of the under-25s differ from the general population in key well-being policy areas (health, employment, personal safety, etc.)? What resources can we use to get an accurate picture of young people’s well-being and where do data gaps exist?

Second, what actions can we take to make young people’s lives better? What do we know works and what lessons can we learn from successful examples of policy and grassroots initiatives? What are good case studies and where do we need better approaches? How can we move from rhetoric to making a real impact when implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda and other commitments?

Third, how can we improve the process of designing and implementing effective policy for young people? How can we ensure that young people’s voices are heard in the policy process, and what changes are needed in government mind-sets and institutions to improve the lives and opportunities of young people?

What will be the outcomes of the consultation?

We intend for the findings of the consultation to be presented at the OECD Forum in Paris in June, and for a report of the consultation to be made widely available for policy makers, foundations, civil society organisations and others in the Wikiprogress network.

Partners

The consultation is being held in partnership with a number of organisations working on youth well-being issues, currently including:

·        Restless Development
·        Youth Policy

We are also be adding more partners throughout the consultation. If you work for an organisation that would be interested in partnering with us, please email info@wikiprogress.org

And to all Prog Blog readers, we hope that you will join us in this exciting experiment! Sign up now, and we look forward to your contributions in the coming weeks.

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Friday, 20 February 2015

Why statisticians must produce a measure of “clean GDP”

This article from previous contributor, journalist Donato Speroni, argues the case for an adjusted GDP measure that excludes socially and environmentally harmful modes of production to give a clearer picture of countries' sustainable growth.




Eleven years after the 1st OECD World Forum in Palermo, economists and statisticians, politicians and representatives of civil society will again meet – this time in Guadalajara, Mexico  - on the 13-15 October 2015 for the 5th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy jointly organised by the National Statistics Office of Mexico (INEGI) and the OECD.

A lot of work has been done in the past decade thanks to OECD, and I have already written about it in my previous post on ProgBlog. But I have come to the conclusion, already presented in my Italian blog on the Corriere della  Sera website, that we are now facing two different directions of research.

1)  The first one is the production of sophisticated dashboards for measuring progress across all the components of collective well-being, taking into consideration objective data and subjective perceptions, the current situation of societies but also their sustainability into the future, average  well-being but also the range of inequalities in order to evaluate the inclusiveness of  societies. This has been the main challenge in recent years, and has been widely discussed in all the World Forums, from Palermo to Istanbul, from Busan to New Delhi.
2) The second one is a new way to measure production, in order to take into account its effects on the different kinds of capital (environmental, social and human) which together represent the total wealth of a nation. The purpose is to have a measure of “clean GDP”, or in other words new wealth produced, net of consumption of irreplaceable natural resources and of the fraying of the social fabric.

I say this because, after all the work that has been done, we have to face an unpleasant truth. Gross domestic product, the ubiquitous measure of wealth production that influences the policy of all states, will not be, at least in the short and medium term, replaced by an all-encompassing measure of welfare. Neither the legendary Happiness Index of Bhutan, nor other complex indexes to measure progress will undermine GDP.

This does not mean that progresses made in recent years, including indicators of BES, (Benessere equo e sostenibile) developed in Italy, are not important. But indicators of well-being may coalesce into a "dashboard" presenting many different data with limited impact on politicians and media: in the Italian BES there are 135 indicators. They cannot be synthesized into one composite indicator. As Nobel Prize Joseph Stiglitz once said, “it would be like pretending to have in your automobile only one indicator which tells you simultaneously the speed at which you are going and how much gasoline is left in the tank”. There are also big difficulties in international comparisons of well-being dashboards, because what matters most to an Italian can be very different from priorities of a Finnish and even more from those of an Indian person. It is for this reason, I think, that the OECD Better life index leaves the choice of the weights of the different dominions of well-being up to the user.
Yet GDP alone is not enough, as Robert Kennedy had already declared nearly 50 years ago, and it is less and less useful to measure the actual progress of a society. The new book by Naomi Klein "This changes everything", dramatically raises the issue of the type of growth that can be compatible with the increasingly difficult objective of containing climate change within the limit of two degrees centigrade.

We don’t have to agree with all the political proposals by Ms Klein to recognize that we have a big problem, which requires an urgent solution. No one can propose a generalized “degrowth”, because the world certainly needs more development. But the opinion of Ms Klein is that the richest 20% of the world should contain their consumption to leave room for other countries and decrease their emissions by 8 – 10% yearly.

However, (in my opinion) the reduction of total consumption, even as a result of virtuous practices, could result in a disaster for our national economies. Imagine for example the impact of the spread of the “car sharing” practices, inducing many families to give up their car. It would result in reducing car manufacturing and consumption and therefore a significant drop in GDP. If the parameters of international assessment remain attached to GDP (e.g. financial ratings and ratios between GDP and the stock of sovereign debt, as in Europe), the country that had courageously embarked on the path of reducing the use of automobiles would lose its credibility on the international markets.
Yet, somehow we have to deal with this problem. We know from the Global Footprint calculations that mankind actually consumes 1.5 times the resources that the Earth can produce in one year: we already need one and a half planets to meet our consumption needs and we will need even more when in the next 20 years the middle class of the world, earning from 10 to 100 dollars a day, will move from 1.8 billion to 4.8 billion people.

It we take GDP as a measure of consumption, we can calculate that a reduction of one third of the average world per capita GDP (down to a measure comparable with “consuming” the resources of only one planet per year) would result in a per capita GDP similar to that of Kosovo or Mongolia. For a country like Italy, this would mean going back to the GDP per capita rate of fifty years ago.
How to make this transformation, without falling into a Great Depression, but rather promoting, to use the language of Klein, aGreat Transformation’? Probably the first thing to do is to look beyond the aggregate figure of GDP to get a more accurate picture of production and consumption patterns. In fact there are different kinds of GDP. The quality of our consumption is much different in comparison to 50 years ago. Cars travel more miles on less fuel and fewer changes of lubricant, refrigerators require less electricity and can be partially sourced from renewable sources. So, getting back to the GDP level of 50 years ago (or more correctly, to the level of exploitation of planetary resources that was needed to produce the GDP of 50 years ago) would not necessarily mean returning to the quality of life of 50 years ago.

Here is the challenge that arises for economists and statisticians. Alongside dashboards measuring overall well-being, we must have a specific measure of "good GDP", i.e. that part of the production of wealth that does not impact on the environment and corresponds to an effective progress of the community. Recall, for example, that GDP measures not only the production of goods (which almost always requires the use of natural resources and results in harmful emissions into the environment) but also that of services, which (usually) do not have these drawbacks. Paradoxically, if we exchanged poems on the Internet for a fee, we would increase GDP.
Of course we cannot live on poetry: we need goods, starting with food (which requires consumption of land, water, agricultural machinery and fertilizers) and beyond. But the attempt to measure the production of wealth through the lense of sustainability deserves more attention, because “good GDP” could grow even if “GDP overall” might decrease. In the OECD World  Forum in Busan, in 2009, Stiglitz told the audience that during the Clinton administration he had proposed a way of measuring GDP net of carbon dioxide emissions, but said he was stopped by the reaction of the American oil companies.

Recently, in an interview to an Italian newspaper, Stiglitz said: “GDP is a good measure for industrial, commercial and financial production, but measures only the amount. Instead you must calculate the quality of production, taking technology into consideration”.  
This is precisely what we mean by "good GDP": a number that measures not only the quantity of goods produced, but also their technological quality, because a GDP that destroys the resources of future generations is not real wealth creation.

I don’t underestimate the methodological problems. In practice we would need to calculate a "value added" that not only subtracts the use of raw materials and semi-finished products from total production, as happens now, but also emissions and other negative impacts on the natural and social environment. Of course it is not easy to “give a price” to the destruction of the environment or to other negative impacts of production on society, but GDP calculation already includes difficult estimates (for example the value of the production of the public sector, or the value of the black economy and of some criminal activities), so I think that statisticians could do it. The Genuine Progress Indicator is already an effort in this direction.

Why do I think that this is important? Because such a revolution in national accounting would change political priorities, with significant consequences in the balance of power, helping the world to face the difficult challenges of the future.
Donato Speroni
@Dospe



Thursday, 4 December 2014

A critical moment to engage young people

This post is by Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat. In 2013, the Commonwealth launched the first-ever global Youth Development Index, which measures the status of young people in 170 countries around the world. This blog has been posted as part of the Wikiprogress discussion on "Youth well-being: measuring what matters!

As the world deliberates on the post-2015 agenda, there has never been a more critical moment to engage young people. The inclusion of youth perspectives, and the energy, diversity and talent that young people bring, is a clear-cut imperative. Young people have an incredible amount to offer to national development processes, and, with the right support and opportunities, can be empowered to realise their full potential.

Today, almost half of the world’s population (48.9%, according to Euromonitor International) is aged under 30, and the proportion is generally much higher in developing countries. It is therefore essential that young people’s capabilities are leveraged and they are recognised as drivers of sustainable development.



At the Commonwealth, we strongly believe that the empowerment of young people is a vital and valuable investment. Through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, we have spent the past 40 years providing assistance to our 53 member governments in the creation and implementation of youth-related policies and programmes.

We provide technical assistance for the development of national youth policies, and advocate for the professionalisation of youth development work. We are also actively committed to expanding the ways in which young people can engage with decision-makers, and in facilitating the establishment of youth-led organisations and networks.

However, attempting to achieve these targets without a baseline from which to measure progress would be a futile endeavour. Accordingly, in 2013 we launched the first ever global Youth Development Index (YDI), a tool to track global progress on youth development in 170 countries.

The YDI is a composite measure that includes basic needs such as health, nutrition and adequate education, along with secondary needs such as political, economic and social participation. It was formulated to help governments, decision-makers and stakeholders identify and learn from areas of success, pinpoint priority investment areas, and track progress over time.

It gauges youth development according to 15 indicators that are grouped into five key domains: Education, Health and Well-being, Employment, Civic Participation and Political Participation. Similar to the Human Development Index, the YDI calculates a score for each country between 0–1 that indicates the national average. It then groups countries into three key categories: High youth development, Medium youth development and Low youth development.

Since its launch, the YDI has also become a basis for data advocacy, highlighting the importance of gathering national statistics on key indicators of youth development. Its findings also underscore the complex and multiple issues facing young people today, and the urgent need to create enabling youth structures and environments.

Young people will be both the heirs and the champions of the post-2015 agenda. We must commit to investing in their participation and empowerment; otherwise, we run the risk of silencing and constraining this powerful generation.

Katherine Ellis is Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat. With over 20 years in the private, public and civil society sectors with extensive expertise in youth development, organizational leadership and cross-sectoral collaboration, she is responsible for promoting the social, political and economic empowerment of young people across the 53 Commonwealth member countries.’


Follow @ComSecKatherine @ComSecYouth 

Join the conversation on 



Tuesday, 2 December 2014

How to help the world's youth

This post is by Nicole Goldin, director for Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative with the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and director of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index project in partnership with the International Youth Foundation. This blog has been posted as part of the Wikiprogress discussion on "Youth well-being: measuring what matters!". 

Brimming with talent and ideas, today’s youth – the largest and most connected generation in human history – are creating a new global reality, and charting an unprecedented course for themselves and their communities. They are defending democracy, promoting peace,  and with an enterprising spirit, desperately wanting  the opportunity to work hard, build a sustainable livelihood and live up to their potential.  Today’s young people are an inspired generation, poised to drive global prosperity and security not only for themselves and their families today, but their communities and nations for generations to come.
But we know demography is not destiny.  Their fate may be challenged.  The promise in youth is often overshadowed – and in some cases undermined – by absent or ineffective policies, weak systems, poor infrastructure, unsatisfactory education and training, or inadequate investments and avenues of participation that limit the opportunities youth deserve and the world demands.
Fundamentally, however, young people’s needs and aspirations have too often gone largely unnoticed or unheard.  Why? One reason is that we simply don’t have a strong enough understanding of how they are doing or feeling.
Video

To help shed light on how young people are faring around the world, and in turn increase youth-centered policy dialogue and investments, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF), with principal support form Hilton Worldwide, have today launched the inaugural Global Youth Wellbeing Index in hopes of facilitating thought and action by, with, and in the interests of today’s youth.
The index measures youth wellbeing based on 40 indicators comprising six interconnected domains in 30 countries, covering 70 percent of the world’s young people. And there were some striking lessons [findings?]:
– A large majority of the world’s young people are experiencing lower levels of wellbeing – 85 percent of the youth represented in our Index live in countries with below average scores overall.
– Even where young people are doing relatively well, they still face specific challenges and limitations. Spanish youth, for example, face economic exclusion, while Saudi young people grapple with safety and security.
– Though young people may not be thriving overall, they display success in certain areas. Colombian and Ugandan youth, for example, top the ranks in terms of citizen participation.
– Across countries, average scores indicate young people faring best in health, weakest in economic opportunity, and with the most variance in information and communications technology.
There are roughly 1.8 billion young people on the planet, living for the most part in emerging and developing economies and fragile states.  Yet these global youth are not a monolithic group, and face cultural, geographic, economic, and political constraints and opportunities.
While we anticipate young people, policy makers, donors and investors will largely respond within their immediate communities and countries, we hope this index will also help stimulate discussion about the global economic, social and political agenda (including the Post 2015 development framework) for young people, allowing for recommendations that can be acted upon both globally and locally – anywhere and everywhere.
So where should action start? The index also highlights the need to elevate and better connect and coordinate policies and investments concerning young people, and for closer attention to youth satisfaction and aspirations, increasing youth participation and elevating youth voices by highlighting the opinions and outlook of young people themselves.
Of course, providing sufficient opportunities, addressing needs, meeting aspirations and supporting success among millions of youth is a real challenge – especially for still cash-strapped governments still trying to steer their economies back toward sustainable growth. But the potential payoff is huge – not least economically.  Now is the time to invest in strategic policies, partnerships and programs that engage and equip youth to be productive and realize their ambitions.
If this transformative generation can be given the tools it needs to thrive, then we will all be the better off for it.

Nicole Goldin
Twitter @nicolegoldin and @csis

This blog was first posted on CNN, here

Join the discussion on "Youth well-being: measuring what matters!", click here.