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YouthCafe Reboot

Can an individual change society? Perhaps not, but we can always change ourselves. We can start by not taking everything around us for granted, and thinking critically about our own lives. This idea aims to kick start that process in a supportive environment.

Photo of Ashwin Goutham Gopi
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We believe that system of education and the model of employment in most countries are based on an outdated view of the world. Education is seen as a confomring process, whereby a person is made ready to "fit" into a role and into society in general. This was very effective during the industrial era since it produced workers who were prepared to join the workforce. However, those "roles" don't really make sense today, in a world that needs complex problem solving and the creation of innovative solutions. Education thus has to teach critical thinking skills to students which would not only teach them hdifferent ways of thinking, but also allow them to do so.
College education is a ripe opportunity for self-reflection and change, as young adults socialize, explore, and experiment in an environment that provides them a safe place to do so. In this environment, we would love to introduce the notion of critical thinking. In fact, our idea would like to take that one step forward by allowing students to think critically about all institutions in general, including education and employment.
Our Concept is a 13 week workshop that is loosely structured around the steps outlined below. Each workshop is faciliated by one person who introduces the topic, brings in a guest speaker, followed by a discussion.

So far, we've been running fortnightly workshops called YouthCafe which was inspired by a concept posted in a previous youth emplyment challenge. You can read more about it below.
The youth cafe is an event where you can listen to the experiences of cool people, as they tell their story of transitioning from education to employment, and grab the tips and tricks they teach you. It is a meet-up where young people in similar situations can get together and work on projects or share stories.

The new workshop will roughly be structured similarly, though we won't just stop at discussions. The participants would also work on a project where they can collaboratively design education to be a process of discovery and learning, and employment as a way to produce value. The goal is not to help students come up with alternative models (though that would be helpful), but rather learn about what is important to themselves, what they expect from their college expereicen, and what they want to do afterward. How could we facilitate college students in thinking critically about ediucation and employment?

The Steps:

Hi, my name is [ENCRYPTED], and I am a Consumer.
  1. I admit that I have been powerless over consumerism - that my life has become unmanageable.
  2. I have come to believe that a power within myself can restore me to liberty.
  3. I have made a decision to turn my will and my life away from the care of institutions as I understood it.
  4. I have made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of myself.
  5. I have admitted to institutions, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of our constraints.
  6. I am entirely ready to have myself remove all these defects of society and myself.
  7. I have humbly asked myself to remove my shortcomings.
  8. I have made a list of all my personal liberties institutions have harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. I have made direct amends to such constraints wherever possible, except when to do so would injure myself or others.
  10. I will continue to take personal inventory, and when I am wrong, promptly admit it.
  11. I will seek through critical thought and effort to improve my conscious contact with humanity as I understand it, striving only for knowledge of my will for my life and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had increased self-awareness as the result of these steps, I will not carry this message to anyone unless they ask to do so, and to practice these principles in all my affairs.
Here, consumerism is a general philosophy that shapes many things around us. Students are seen as consumers of education, buying a service in order to "acquire" a job. This is particularly true of career services for students where the focus is on building an image that they think a company expects of a potential employee. Even the way educational institutions talk about entrepreneurship subscribes to this view, as students are taught to create solutions (product or service) and the goal is to be "bought out" for the sake of profit. We want students to rather be allowed to rethink this model in a world with complex problems that require collaborative work and open mindsets to solve.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

We believe that college students are ideal for this concept since they're in the right time of their lives where awareness of self and the opportunity for change is balanced. It is also a period of self-discovery, experimentation and socialization, so we believe that we could create a self-perpetuating model in this context.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

Our primary goal is to bring awareness about alternative forms and configurations of education, employment, society, and economics to allow students to make their own choices. We also hope that it would inspire them to develop alternative forms themselves that best suits their interests, capabilities and views of society.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We believe that the first step would be to try such a workshop at NYU Poly to see how receptive students are to this idea. We would be interested in creating a toolkit to easily replicate the model in other schools.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We're looking for students to prototype it in their own schools to help us discover what works and what needs to be improved.

The idea emerged from:

  • A student collaboration

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lei Niu

Hey Ashwin and Anne-Laure, so glad to see the YouthCafe concept being pushing forward. So my understanding of this idea that we want to create a 13 weeks workshop structure here, I'm a little bit lost when I was reading the 12 steps you put there. Will each step be the topic or theme for each workshop? Maybe I'm a little bit to rush on this, thinking about execution already ;)

Looking forward to more updates and collaboration. Cheers!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Lei, nice seeing you online!
Thanks for the question. We need to clarify. The steps are more about the critical thinking journey we'd like to invite the students to go through, not the 13 weeks of the workshop (at least that's how I understand this). We definitely need to articulate better. We'll do this soon.

Looking forward to your input and hopefully you can get a prototype in Shanghai.

Photo of Lei Niu

I would love to discuss this in details with Ashwin to understand more about how he see it concept in a big picture, then I definitely want to contribute my help to make it happen. Actually, we might have a good opportunity in Shanghai to practice this concept. I'm working with another two young social entrepreneurs to create college program to empower the students creativity and tech skills (we are aiming to have a pilot this coming Fall semester). So good timing to bring this concept to action.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Great! Feel free to reach out by email / skype. Ashwin got a few of us working on this and we are supposed to meet soon. It'd be great to have you piloting the idea in Shanghai.