By Bayan Khaled and Dr. M. Evren Tok
We celebrate International Youth Day every year on August 12 and as UN Secretary-General António Guterres put it, “Young people are on the frontlines of the struggle to build a better future for all. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the dire need for the kind of transformational change they seek – and young people must be full partners in that effort.”
This day marks the urgent need to bolster hope. Youth-driven hope is crucial to diagnose the challenges we might face in the future and design interventions at all stages. The COVID pandemic has proved that to us over the last two years. Not only do we need more resiliency generated by the youth, but also a proactive stance in designing a more fair, inclusive, and sustainable humanity for us all. It is not surprising that this year’s theme is related to ‘youth innovation for human and planetary health’.
Before, the youth used to be seen as a liability due to their lack of experience but now, if anything, they are an asset. They are not only involved in things like decision making, global action, political involvement, and undertaking economic initiatives, but they are integral to them. Leaders and decision-makers at all levels need the youth to mutually reinforce the will to co-design a better world. Their input in setting local, national, and global agendas is vital.
As Turkey faces the tragic wildfires, the Palestinians face annexation, and the Uighur Muslims struggle in concentration camps among other world crises, youth are the ones pushing for action. They take their passion and drive for change to the digital world to influence global public opinion and call for action.
Now, more than ever, with the power of social media and the experts who use it, i.e. the youth, they are reaching much larger audiences and climbing to higher positions of power. The rising generations are more likely to listen to other youth like them, therefore, youth are the ones who are shaping the world we live in today and they should not be underestimated.
Changing the “world” is such a far-fetched goal and can be overwhelming. However, breaking down changes into specific, smaller, more realistic, and achievable goals is more encouraging, as small changes lead to big effects.
Today, SDGs and the related discussions focus on localization-related issues. Having the youth focus on how they can tackle the SDGs, especially with the new challenges that arose with the COVID pandemic is easier done within their local communities. One facet of localization that gets ample attention is the student-driven initiatives as the engine of localization.
At Maker Majlis, we try to bring the youth together to embrace their perspectives in reimagining a post-COVID humanity by starting with their communities. Maker Majlis is a platform operating under the College of Islamic Studies (CIS) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) for youth to engage in activities related to the SDGs. It is a space where the young leaders of the world can unleash their creativity and innovative ideas to contribute to achieving the SDGs through workshops, educational programs, and events.
To list a few examples, our Design Post-COVID Normal (DPCN) one-month program was an attempt to work with the youth and explore some of the ways in which participants would develop products, services, or system (solution) ideas that are effective and applicable to a defined SDG problem on a prototype scale.
Due to the success of this program, Design Post-COVID Humanity (DPCH), a more extensive version of DPCN, was created. DPCH focused on three core values, taaruf (acquaintance), taawun (cooperation), tarahum (mercifulness). It was an innovative, blended, and multiplex educational space to collectively work on the new normal and the new humanity awaiting us. It was an effort to show the global youth the similarities of the challenges we all face, despite having different localized practices and the need for global collective action.
As part of DPCH, youth also participated in a two-day event called AHD, i.e. “pledge” where they drafted pledges to design a better world by incorporating the SDGs in their lives and their local communities.
To emphasize the power that youth have in social media, Maker Majlis also hosted a two-day panel discussion titled “#IslamGenZ” with prominent and well-known speakers. The goal of this panel discussion and conversation was to create a forum for understanding the influence of social media on the Muslim community.
Finally, Maker Majlis’s upcoming program titled “Science, Faith and Innovation for Human Dignity (Schifa)” offers an opportunity for young scholars, professionals, entrepreneurs, and innovators who aspire to plan, engage, reflect, and act upon the nexus of science, faith, and innovation to respond to global challenges that undermine social cohesion and human dignity.
What all these programs and events have in common is youth. Youth are at the center of change and Maker Majlis has been influential in helping the global youth to benefit from a moral compass while they actively pursue their activism and purpose. Our programs provided these tools in innovative and experiential ways, so the youth had a chance to learn about design thinking and other techniques to innovate for the post-COVID humanity in an ethical, moral, and inclusive way.
Although today’s youth are surpassing expectations with their reach, their influence, and their dedication to design a better humanity, they cannot do this alone. The SDGs cannot be achieved without them, but it is imperative for them to be guided by the generations before them. Driving without direction could be risky. This is where Maker Majlis and everyone else comes in. We need to bridge the gap between youth and the elder generations to direct their passion and energy in a way that is beneficial to everyone. By doing so, we can unlock the youth’s greatest potential for worldwide change.
Bayan Khaled is a Research Fellow at the College of Islamic Studies while Dr. M. Evren Tok is Assistant Dean of Innovation and Community Engagement, Associate Professor of Islam and Global Affairs, and founder of Maker Majlis
This article is submitted on behalf of the author by the HBKU Communications Directorate. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the University’s official stance.