RegenerAction 2022: the European Year of Young People

School dropout, unemployment and stalemate: the challenges of young people

Early school leaving and unemployment are among the greatest challenges facing Europe, and Italy in particular, when it comes to the new generations. In 2020, in Italy, 543,000 young people between 18 and 24 years of age dropped out of school after the average license according toISTAT. A significant number, if we consider the fact that Italy is at the bottom of the European average (which records an average of early school leaving 9.9% compared to 13.1% Italian) and the fact that 25.3% young people are unemployed in Italy.

In light of such data, how will these guys be able to inhabit and guide the world of the future with enthusiasm, courage and perseverance? A danger that risks encroaching on the stalemate. Our Country in fact holds the sad primato europeo per numero di NEET: children between 15 and 34 years who do not work, do not study, and are not involved in a training course.

Giving young people a clear role in the world, enhancing their position and offering them the opportunity to enter and remain in the world of work, understanding the range of possibilities ready to await them is the challenge of the coming years.

Youth potential: (more or less) evident values

After two years of pandemic, rethinking the role of young people at the heart of European and national policies is a priority. Young students and workers more than anyone today feel the need to start again. A desire that not only benefits the well-being of the individual, but also the regeneration of the territory and communities of which these young people are part.

The data that show that the new generations are more sensitive and attentive to environmental issues are now established. According to the 69% of Generation Z sustainability is an important objective, for 71% of MillennialsIt is crucial to reduce its ecological footprint, to the extent that according to research conducted by the Credit Suisse Research Institute between 65-90% In fact, they call themselves "worried" or "very worried" about the environment.

More and more in recent years young people have been protagonists of change. From Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner for her commitment to civil rights and women’s right to education to Greta Thunberg, a Swedish activist for sustainable development and against climate change; From the Fridays for the Future that have occupied the Italian squares to make their voice heard to the youth representatives within the main international events, such as the COP on climate. However, the achievement of a new awareness on the part of young people must also be accompanied by new instruments.

We have inestimable value in our hands. It is the value of the openness, imagination and freshness of young minds that, naturally inclined to the concept of impermanence, are the emblem of flexibility and adaptation: two crucial requirements to overcome current challenges. Yet, the present educational system is still too often encumbered with excessively rigid, vertical, theoretical, sectoral and hypercompetitive forms and methods. Even in terms of skills, many universities still struggle to adequately train their students with real brain drain of thousands of Italian students at the end of their studies reveals our current inability to offer young people decent paid job opportunities, to support their human and professional growth, to guarantee them a future free from precarious.

School should be the first place to train informed and responsible citizens, prepared to face the challenges and complexities that characterize our time, enabling them to critical thinking, to the dialogue, collaboration and power that we can exercise daily through our choices and decisions. The school should be the first, but not the only, landing place to spread the culture of sustainability to 360 degrees, in its complexity and entirety, as structured by the 2030 Agenda.

Young people are incredible levers of social change. Activating in them the seeds of sociality and solidarity is a central aspect to ensure the activation of entire communities.

A Europe for young people, with young people

One of the main objectives of the European Union, in line with the objectives of the United Nations, is to work with young people to strengthen their role in the world, making them aware of their possibilities, not only with a view to a change towards a sustainable and green society, but above all to make them understand their potential in ensuring peace and security in the world of tomorrow.

In recent years, the EU has been increasingly attentive to the vision, the ideas and the participation of the new generations to build a more inclusive, green and digital future. The Strategia dell’UE per la gioventù represents the regulatory framework within which to maximise the potential of youth policies in the period 2019-2027. Mobilise, link and empower: these are the three key words that summarize the strategy, which consists of 11 targetThe European Youth Forum will focus on the cross-cutting challenges that young Europeans face on a daily basis. These include gender equality, a green and sustainable Europe, the development of youth in rural areas and a greater connection between the EU and young people.

As part of the strategy, the Union declared 2022 theEuropean Year of Youth, with the aim of honoring and encouraging new generations to become active citizens and protagonists of a positive change. It is an opportunity to build a bridge of dialogue with its younger citizens, through the sharing of ideas and encouraging proposals addressed to new generations but also to provide young people with theinspiration for change.

It is a strategy that is beginning to find support in activities and actions. In the course of this year, the Union has launched the organisation of multiple discussion tables with young people to disseminate new solutions designed by young people, for young people. A different and innovative way of achieving the objectives of European policies by making the targets the protagonists of their conception.  An example of such an attitude is the webinar organized by the EU last April entitled "Energy for the European Green Deal", in which young Europeans aged between 18 and 34 were confronted on issues of ecological and sustainable transition and youth involvement.

also the NextGenerationEUwhich the Commission sees as a European recovery plan focused above all on the needs of the new generations, is not just an economic fund from which to draw. Instead, the objective is to provide young people with the necessary tools (a total of EUR 809.6 billion invested and a long-term recovery plan) to make Europe greener, digital, inclusive, healthy and strong through active youth participation. Objectives such as lowering the rate of school drop-out to 9% by 2030 or the resumption of the European agrifood chain, starting from a relaunch of agritech and greater attractiveness of the sector for the youth sector, have thus become part of the Union’s plans for the coming decades. Just think that in 2016 only 11% of EU farmers were young people under 40.

Seeds of the future: when young people are protagonists and co-authors prosperity

The new generations are the beating heart of a development that involves People and Planet towards the regeneration of the territory and its communities. For this they need care, attention, skills and motivation.

For Future Food, change starts from education: cultivating the knowledge and curiosity of future generations is the only means that allows them to know, understand and revalue the beauty and complexity of today’s world. Through education it is possible to re-spread key values for humanity such as cooperation, trust, reciprocity and respect. Without these values, it would be unthinkable to pursue a co-design process - necessary to solve current challenges - and to create the basis for informed and sustainable forms of leadership.

Since its earliest years, the Future Food Institute has formed hundreds of Climate Shapers (mainly young) in the various Boot Camp co-organised together with FAO. A new way of conceiving education, starting from the value of food, the challenges of the entire food chain and the dense network of transversal consequences that allows to implement an integrated educational-behavioral approach that involves educated and educating, doers and thinkers, and which has recently been awarded internationally for innovation, originality and creativity applied to the field of international education.

A commitment that continues in the desire to create new foundations for the school, to make it capable of providing the citizens of tomorrow with the right tools to live in the complexity of today. The introduction in Italian schools of new learning methodologies, effective and interactive as that of hackathon, pursues precisely this aim: to give voice and power to children, making them aware, sensitive, bold and real protagonists of change. TheHackathon in schools, organized in cooperation with Cosmopolites, is only the last in chronological order.

Transitioning towards a real youth empowerment is a mission that the Future Food Institute pursues daily and directly also within its Living Lab in Pollica, a small village in Campania: a region among the most affected in Italy by high rates of early school leaving (17.3% in 2020 alone). Preventing the abandonment of villages - which in Italy means counting 5,383 small towns at risk, of which 2,381 municipalities in an advanced state of neglect and the remaining already completely depopulated - is still possible and to do so, we chose to start from their roots: from the earth, from food and from the young.

"Agri-culture Wellness young",s la scuola di imprenditoria per rilanciare le competenze imprenditoriali giovanili a Pollica, e la Rareche Academy, un programma formativo per avvicinare per la prima volta al mondo dell’agricoltura rigenerativa giovani NEET per fornire competenze, e creare modelli di business rigenerativi per ripopolare e rigenerare aree e comunità rurali sono solo due esempi per rilanciare il potenziale giovanile a Pollica. Ma i giovani hanno anche bisogno di nuovi spazi di aggregazione e di cultura: coinvolgere le generazioni future nell’ideazione, progettazione e costruzione stessa del territorio è un modo efficace per far sì che essi decidano di rimanere e sviluppare le loro potenzialità in un luogo familiare. La challenge organizzata lo scorso Aprile da Future Food per the construction of the new playroom di Pollica is an example of how young and very young people have identified themselves in the role of designers for the revaluation of the territory. Starting from a place as simple as the playroom, the design challenge was for these children and young people the seed of a change capable of making not only the individual individuals who attended the event flourish, but the entire community.

These are the seeds of the future that should be sown more often, capable of generating collective and shared prosperity. During the week of Agrifood, young people will again be the protagonists of a design challenge in hackathon "L'Uno Salute Hack - Agricoltura, Cibo, Sport, E Turismo Nel Quadro Dieta Mediterranea”.

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