Youth policy and social innovation

When I was involved with the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group I proposed reform of youth policy so that it supported the capacity of young people to contribute at the community level.  The proposal promoted the concept of social entrepreneurship.

Key elements included:

  • The recognition and genuine commitment on the part of a young person to an idea that has the potential to produce a positive social outcome.  The young person would need to have suggested the idea and retain ownership of the process;
  • A targeted approach on the part of Government in terms of linking human resources and partnerships to further develop the idea.  In this way a young person or group would develop project management skills and direct support; 
  • An opportunity for the idea to receive cash assistance in return for its facilitation.  The assistance would be in the form of purchasing products or infrastructure necessary for the project, with ownership to be retained with the individual.

A key focus of the policy is to actively encourage and faciltiate partnerships across sectors.  Effective partnerships create capacity development opportunities, build and strengthen social networks, reduce waste and duplicity and create environments that enable community participation.


Recently I heard from a local youth service provider that one of the main challenges in the sector is the fact that most young people (particularly those who require the services) are not aware and don’t have sufficient understanding in terms of access and availability.  I remember when I was a teenager having little knowledge of the outside world.  There are many young people who have innovative ideas for practical change, have strong skills and ability, but need targeted assistance. 



By providing cash incentives for the purchase of products or infrastructure the project idea would receive the necessary investment.  Retaining ownership of those assets with the young person would encourage full facilitation of the project and maximum involvement.  In some instances it could encourage business development (an assessment of each project in terms of market competition impact would need to be considered so that existing enterprises are not disadvantaged).

In a good governance context, productivity in terms of social/community development policy could be assessed by monitoring the development and achievements of projects. 


For example, a person employed to facilitate this policy (ie a full-time eployee working for government or a statutory body) would have x number of projects in his/her portfolio.  The number of projects and achievements could be used as a tool to indicate the social productivity of this specific policy.  Those who have high achievements could receive financial incentives.  Reforming social/community development policy in this direction, as opposed to the existing model of broad subjective goals, has the potential to improve public resources and accountability.


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