Countries should regularly and constantly establish and re-establish, navigate and negotiate, critique and rebuild their identity, culture, attitudes and beliefs. Engaging youth as nation builders can be a key strategy whether a nation is brand-new or hundreds or thousands of years old. Children and youth can participate in creating, teaching, sharing and promoting flags, anthems, national days, national stadiums, national airlines, national languages, and national myths. Young people can also be essential in bringing different groups into a nation, whether tribes, ethnicities or races. This can all change the world in positive ways, and young people can be essential to every part of it.
Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. ― U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Ways Youth can Change the World through Nation Building
Youth as Policy Makers — Engaging youth as policy-makers can transform national identity, belonging and purpose in powerfully engaging ways, both for young people and adults. Given opportunities to be elected to office, serve in governmental roles and conduct official business, children and youth can become substantive nation-builders whose roles ensure relevance, effectiveness and sustainability.
Youth-Led Programs — Youth-led action focused on nation-building can include educational, social, cultural and political engagement that helps people of all ages learn, grow and become active citizens. Youth-led programs start with educational opportunities for children and youth that deliberately move them from being passive recipients of adult-led programs towards becoming self-led. Doing this can support long-term commitment and significant outcomes.
Youth as Advocates — When adults won’t ally with children and youth, or when youth voice is denied throughout government organizations, youth as advocates can shift opinions, attitudes and cultures. Rallying their families, peers and communities, youth can lead protests, develop research projects, teach nation building, evaluate current efforts and proposals, and demand youth involvement in decision-making.
Things Youth Need to Change the World through Nation Building
Education — Teaching young people about nation building isn’t enough. Learning about nation building requires devoted learning time as well as doing the work of nation building and reflecting on nation building. Skills including critical thinking and communication, as well as the knowledge of history, diversity and empowerment are important for young people to learn, too.
Inspiration — After centuries, decades or years of oppression, alienation and separation from adults throughout society, it may be vital to inspire young people to action. Sharing stories of children and youth in a nation’s history and acknowledging the role of diverse communities can motivate young people.
Opportunities — Providing practical, tangible opportunities to become engaged in the work and see the outcomes of nation building is essential. Whether activities and programs are youth-led or rely on youth/adult partnerships, it can be important to show young people specifically what they can do and how they can get it done.
- “The role of youth in nation building” by Saskia1 for TeenInk
- “Youth as nation builders” by Jules Dunham for Nonprofit Quarterly
- “How Youth Can Contribute to Nation Building” for The New Citizen in Tolongbo
- “Youth’s role important in nation building: Jain” for The Truibune
- “Role of the Youth in Nation-Building” by Rhys Marva (A Prezi in Filipino)
Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in nation building in your community or organization, contact us.