Adopting an ecosystems approach to youth development
Utilizing farming and agriculture as a platform to cultivate leadership and soft skills in young people.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
My idea is drawn from research (http://www.youtheconomicopportunities.org/blog/2415/cultivating-ecosystem-youth-development) and work with an organization in New Orleans, LA, Grow Dat Youth Farm. It utilizes farming and agriculture to cultivate leadership skills in young people through an ecosystems approach. Using three change mechanisms (Real Talk, Real Work, and Real Accountability), we have engaged young people through farming to improve leadership and soft skills, and support workforce development.
The model works by paying young people to work on a farm based on a values-based curriculum. Youth work in crews of 8 to 10 with an adult crew leader. Part of the produce that is grown is donated to the local community and the other is sold to help sustain the program. Youth engage in Real Work planting, harvesting, and selling produce, which creates a platform for learning about areas of growth. Working side by side with peers and adult staff, youth learn skills through interacting and through structured feedback from their crew leader during "Real Talk", an open communication platform where youth deliver and receive feedback related to their work performance, tied to the values/types of change we are seeking to create (e.g. communication, professionalism). This is all supported by a system of accountability, where youth are incentivized monetarily for adhering to the values and demonstrating growth. I want to adapt this model to East Africa and other contexts.
Beneficiaries are young people between the ages of 13 and 25. Subsistence agriculture still dominates economic activity across eastern Africa (EA).It should be looked to as a platform to 1) advance soft skills and leadership capabilities, and 2) as a method of providing income for rural and urban settings. Entrepreneurship is being pushed across EA , but is not viewed as an opportunity by youth. This program builds skills and re-engages young people in farming.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU
I'm a researcher based in New Orleans. I work with global youth development organizations. I study entrepreneurship training, soft skill development, and other approaches aimed at tackling the youth bulge internationally. I think the ecosystem model should be adopted, adapted, and tested in E.Africa
WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?
EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)
Yes, for more than one year.
EXPERTISE IN SECTOR
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year
I include this generic visual model depicting what an ecosystems approach can look like, drawn from Grow Dat Youth Farm. The model needs to be adapted to local, East African context and tailored to the desired areas for change. For example, my research in Kenya would suggest that advancing specific skills, like communication, may be most important. I feel it represents the spirit of the ecosystem approach - utilizing various change mechanisms in farming to advance youth skills.