Last week the Chicago Council hosted our annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, focusing on youth, agriculture, and the future of livelihood opportunities in low- and middle-income countries. Simultaneously, young people gathered in that same city and across the United States to gear up for a youth-led movement focused on policy change around gun control, culminating this past Saturday. Youth have a long history of leading change, often in the form of public protests, both civil and uncivil. Recent observations show that the frequency of these protests appears to be increasing globally and their nature is shifting. For example, one analysis of modern protest trends noted that current observations point to movements that are increasingly ‘leaderless, organizationally minimalistic, dependent on social media, and wary of old forms of civic and political organization’.
The effectiveness of protests or social movements resulting in change varies by circumstance and issue and requires further study. But, at a minimum, a good starting point would be a focus on specific policy changes and on the policy makers who control the decision-making. That assumes the ‘fix’ to the problem is known. But what if protesters and policymakers alike are not sure of what’s needed to impact the problem? What if the variables are changing too fast to know what the best policy change is to make?
In ‘Youth for Growth: Transforming Economies through Agriculture’ we describe a challenging policy scenario that is getting more complex with the passage of time. Youth populations are booming in low-and middle-income countries. Food insecurity remains stubbornly high in many places, driven in large part by unproductive agriculture. Water resources are often scarce or difficult to manage, and soils are degrading. Unprecedented rural-urban migration is underway, the globe is home to some of the largest displaced populations in history due to conflict or natural disasters. Gender inequality is visible across many indicators and just one result is seen in the intergenerational cycle of undernutrition, which passes from mother to child if not interrupted. Quality education at the primary school level remains elusive despite rising enrollment rates, and secondary education is simply out of reach in many low-income populations. Even with an education, employment opportunities may be scarce or of poor quality. There are many factors that could drive a young person to demand policy change.
How does the smart policymaker intervene to make a difference for young people?
This Thursday, we will continue the dialogue from last week at the event ‘Youthquake: The Next Global Rise of the Next Generation’, talking to the report author, Felix Kwame Yeboah, Council Distinguished Fellow and former Executive Director of the World Food Program Ertharin Cousin, and Director of the Data Science and Public Policy Institute, Rayid Ghani about how policymakers approach these challenges now and how they may continue to do so in the future. Between these three individuals, we have a deep subject matter expert in Kwame Yeboah, a well-tested global leader with practical decision-making experience in the face of desperate humanitarian circumstances in Ertharin Cousin, and a researcher representing a ‘high-tech’ data-driven revolution coming to the world of policy analysis in Rayid Ghani.
Bring your best questions to the room or sign on to the livestream and ask a question via our online platform or via our Facebook group. We will be talking about how public and private-sector leaders can respond to current challenges in youth and agriculture while also imagining a future scenario in which machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer-assisted modeling might help us react faster and better to social issues with sound policy.
Right now, the tools for youth movements are social media platforms and compelling messages; but perhaps in the future youth protest will begin with a thoughtful algorithm, comprehensive data sets, and compelling data-led policy options. Join us as we consider these possibilities and more!