Relaunching YouthVoices: What we learned and what’s coming next

The project began with two simple questions:

What is your dream job?

What’s standing in your way?

Since The GroundTruth Project and the Global Center for Youth Employment launched the digital storytelling initiative YouthVoices in February, hundreds of answers have come from more than 20 countries, spanning cities, suburbs and rural areas around the world.

The dreams, shared in writing, photography and video, are diverse and compelling:

Bring the gift of light to young Filipinos through electrical engineering.

Open a restaurant and bakery in El Salvador and eventually offering jobs to 40 high school graduates.

Push Zambian authorities into action by working as a radio journalist.

Create a network for teenage American entrepreneurs.

Tackle the world’s understanding of human consciousness through scientific research.

But the obstacles to those dreams are often significant. The posts begin to illuminate the complex interplay for current and future jobseekers, balancing individual aspirations, social norms, family resources and expectations, as well as political and economic realities.

Some YouthVoices participants opened up about financial constraints and family obligations keeping them from pursuing needed degrees. Others cited lack of transportation and gender discrimination as factors standing in the way of their dream job.

And all of this information is immensely valuable. One year ago, we began to brainstorm the concept of YouthVoices as a way to boost the stories and ideas of millennials growing up in a challenging and rapidly evolving global economy. In February, we beta-launched YouthVoices with our two simple questions, requesting feedback from everyone we could.

We heard several things, some very loudly and some with trepidation. Several of our users asked us for a cleaner design, easier ways to post and share stories, and more incentive to use YouthVoices in the first place.

So before the launch of YouthVoices 2.0 on April 30, we redesigned the site, ramped up our social media capabilities and developed a concept for a series of “35 Under 35” profiles to be published with Huffington Post. And we have several new features for YouthVoices in the works, including commenting, voting and audio sharing.

More quietly, we heard from several potential contributors that they didn’t have dream jobs at all. In fact, they said, times were so tough that they really didn’t have time to dream — or inspiration for a job they’d enjoy that seemed at all attainable.

So when we relaunched YouthVoices, we opened up the platform to offer a variety of new questions, and we’ll keep publishing new ones, including utilizing suggestions from within our community.

We believe their voices can and should play a more prominent role in shaping the laws, policies and programs that affect their lives. And ultimately our goal is to work with partners around the world to connect young storytellers with the jobs they dream about.

We invite you to join GroundTruth and the Global Center on this initiative, which is made possible by RTI International and the MacArthur Foundation. The Global Center will host its quarterly meeting in Washington, DC on June 15. If you represent an organization working on youth economic issues and/or telling those stories, please get in touch at [email protected]