There are over 1 billion youth in the world today and they make up over one fifth of the world’s population. The United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chose to recognize the power of this growing and increasingly aware population at the UN’s first ever youth forum, which focused on “Shaping tomorrow’s innovators: Leveraging science, technology, innovation and culture for today’s youth.” The forum was held on March 27, 2013 in New York City and hundreds of delegates were invited from around the world to discuss three major topics: Girls and Young Women in Science, Youth: An Engine for Creative Economy, and Creating Buzz: Using Social Media to Make Ideas Happen.
The forum asked multiple questions of young people, such as “How do you use science and technology to address challenges you encounter in your community? Are you constantly thinking of ways to innovate, whether through an invention or a change in practice or behavior?” A recent shift has occurred in the culture of the UN that believes young people are at the forefront of innovations in science, technology and culture and only by prompting youth to take action, will these ideas reach their full potential. As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “It is not only about telling us what kind of world you want. It is about partnering with us to realize a better future.”1
Rising Sun Energy Center (Rising Sun) was one of the organizations selected to voice the experience of young people in today’s workforce development and training programs. One of the topics of discussion focused on a speech made by Tony Wagner, a Harvard Innovation Education Fellow at the 2012 Skillshare’s Penny Conference, during which he spoke about the lack of encouragement for creativity and outside-of-the-box problem-solving in America’s education system today, “We as a country need the capacity to solve more different kinds of problems in more ways. It requires us to have a very different vision of education, of teaching and learning for the 21st century.” 2
As a workforce development non-profit, Rising Sun has been tackling this question for almost twenty years. How do we encourage youth to be creative, innovative and take action to stimulate the workforce, economy and community? While there is no magic answer to inspiring each and every young person, Rising Sun has created a unique and effective way to motivate youth through work experience in the green industry. Through its California Youth Energy Services program (CYES), Rising Sun trains and employs hundreds of young people each year in energy efficiency, water conservation and climate change. These young people then help their own community members save energy and water by providing free assessments, retrofits and education in energy and water saving. By affecting their communities in a positive way, learning hands-on and having a tangible effect on the environment, young people who go through the CYES program are not just classroom educated about climate change and community service, but are taught hands-on to become life-long innovators for change. As the UN’s first ever UN Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi declared “It’s more about action and being involved” 1 to empower the world’s youth to innovate their own future.
Rising Sun’s mission is to empower individuals to achieve environmental and economic sustainability for themselves and their communities. For more information about Rising Sun Energy Center, visit www.risingsunenergy.org.
For more information about the United Nations’ youth forum, Innovate For Change, visit www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2013/
- “Economic and Social Council: Youth Forum of 2013”, <http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/youth2013/>, (accessed April 25, 2013).
- Erica Swallow, April 25, 2012, “Creating Innovators: Why America’s Education System Is Obsolete”, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericaswallow/2012/04/25/creating-innovators/>, (accessed April 25, 2013).