Al Ahfad University for Women. Photo: Sarah Farhat/ The World Bank

Youth unemployment has been a tough and persistent challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has further spotlighted young people’s vulnerability and the need for urgent, innovative, and effective youth employment programs. One essential feature of any effective youth employment program is how deeply and systemically it incorporates youth voice, by allowing young people to provide their feedback  during the design stage.

Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) recently published a Knowledge Brief that identifies how technology can help practitioners listen to youth before and during a program’s implementation . Program teams have used a variety of technology solutions like radio, SMS platforms, and social media as channels of communication to engage young people.

Engaging youth through radio

Radio is a reliable and useful way to communicate with youth who live in areas where internet-based technology systems are not affordable or available. Radio can also overcome literacy issues and language barriers, and is relatively affordable for organizations to utilize as an engagement method.

Africa’s Voices Foundation team members using radio to engage young people in Kenya. Photo: © Africa’s Voices Foundation

For the last five years, S4YE’s partner Africa’s Voices Foundation (AVF) has amplified over 400,000 citizens’ voices through their evidence-to-action programming. AVF has successfully used radio platforms to engage many of these young people. In 2018, AVF joined forces with Mastercard Foundation to test an SMS platform to solicit feedback from youth. AVF mobilized young people in Kenya using the popular local radio station Ghetto Radio.

Ghetto Radio presenters asked listeners what would help them achieve their employment goals. Approximately 1700 youth responded via SMS, helping AVF shape a youth employment event in Nairobi.

Making use of SMS surveys

Educate!’s SMS platform model Photo: © Educate!

S4YE’s partner Educate! tackles youth unemployment in Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya by providing skills-based education. Educate! incorporated an SMS platform into their distance learning model (which includes radio lessons) to communicate with youth and measure youth comprehension of the courses taught. Youth receive learning prompts and questions via SMS, which allows Educate! to gauge youth learning, as well as hear feedback on the platform and learning experience itself.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Educate! discovered through SMS surveys that many students have had to take on new responsibilities amidst school closures, leaving limited time for learning. This is a challenge related to gender equity, as household responsibilities disproportionately fall to girls. Educate! also learned that boys are more likely to possess their own phones than girls, making it more challenging for female learners to participate. In response to these learnings, Educate! made several program adjustments. They facilitated all-girl conference calls in an effort to create safe spaces for girls to discuss gender-related issues that have come up during the pandemic. Additionally, Educate! developed a second set of remote lessons to radio and SMS later in the day for learners with limited time, conflicting responsibilities, or those who may have to share devices. Furthermore, Educate! connected youth directly to Educate! mentors over the phone for one-on-one, individualized support and to make up missed lessons.

Social media for good

Youth participants of the MYLMI project. Photo: © MYLMI project

The Mexico Youth Labor Market Inclusion (MYLMI) project, which targets low-income youth and helps connect them with quality formal employment opportunities, has been using  social media as a way to more fully engage youth.

Typically, MYLMI relies on SMS to remind youth about project activities and to take surveys. But the team and project partners developed a communications and outreach strategy that leveraged social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to disseminate engaging, entertaining content, such as graphics and videos that may not be sharable by SMS. By using social media in conjunction with SMS reminders, the team was able to remind students about project activities, promote economic incentives for completed surveys, and incorporate their feedback into the program design and evaluation. This approach helped to increase participation rates across project interventions and surveys.

S4YE’s partners have placed youth voice at the heart of their youth employment programs by adopting the most suitable methods based on local norms. Since employment practitioners can learn from and adapt these collaborative approaches, S4YE will be launching a new series online called “How To Notes.” The first two publications will provide a quick step-by-step guide for practitioners and policymakers to develop an effective communication strategy using technology.

This blog post was originally published on the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) website. Access the post here.
S4YE (Solutions for Youth Employment) is a multi-stakeholder global program housed in the Jobs Group of the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice of the World Bank Group. It is focused on identifying, curating, learning from, and scaling innovations in youth employment programs. S4YE brings together a large network of stakeholders that includes: 1)  over 35 private companies (S4YE Private Sector Advisory Council); 2) a group of 44 high-potential and innovative youth employment projects (S4YE Impact Portfolio) run by leading NGOs/social enterprises; 3)  a group of 17 entrepreneurial youth (Youth Advisory Group) that provide youth voice on S4YE products; and 4)  a network of World Bank Group technical staff running over 150 youth employment operations in 69 countries that together invest over $17 bn. The S4YE coalition’s founding members include the World Bank, Accenture, The Rockefeller Foundation, Mastercard Foundation, Microsoft, Plan International, International Youth Foundation (IYF), Youth Business International (YBI), RAND Corporation, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Governments of Norway and Germany, and the UN Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.


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