How to harness the youth bulge? For INJAZ, the sum is greater than the parts.
Roughly 65% of the Middle East's population is under the age of 30. This youth bulge is both a threat and an opportunity. INJAZ tackles it by recognizing the importance of setting up programs that create three stepping stones in an emerging youth pathway: Build the skills, Inspire and guide the careers, and Foster entrepreneurship and employment programs. The success of each requires forging cross-sector collaboration between the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Say "Middle East" and "youth" and myriad visions likely come to mind. From the hope expressed by throngs of youth in Egypt's Tahrir Square to more menacing images of youth entering into and even leading armed conflict across the region.
When roughly 65% of the Middle East's population is under the age of 30 and a country does not offer pathways for helping these youths seize the economic opportunities to be productive members of society or political participants in their future then it is only natural for disillusionment to arise and for frustration to be channeled into other outlets. And historically this "
youth bulge" is not unique even to the Middle East.
The larger issue then seems to be one of pathways per se and not necessarily silver-bullet interventions. Perhaps that is the lesson we can learn from Injaz.
Established in 1999 and formalized as an independent Jordanian non-profit in 2001, it seeks to build the pathways for youth to become productive members of society and contributors to national economies, having reached over 700,000 young and aspiring citizens. The strategy? Partner with public, private, and non-profits to build three stepping stones: Skills building, inspirational and career guidance, and an entrepreneurship and employment program. Without one of these pillars the pathway is blocked.
All three are needed, otherwise disillusionment and frustration will appear: A youth with skills that isn't inspired or hasn't the knowledge to pursue a career strategy; a youth with inspiration but without the skills; a youth with an employment opportunity but without the skills to be successful nor the inspiration to take advantage of the chance to work.