Do Not Let Go Of Young Adults

Youth engagement happens way into young adulthood. During one of my recent training events, participants were fixated on the end of youth. “When is youth over?” “How do youth move on?” “Can we just declare a youth finished?”

“Youth” is never finished. We are all always youth, and we can never truly leave our youth behind us. I believe that “Youth,” as a time of life, is about change at home, in school, and throughout our lives. However, its also a place in-and-of-itself. To paraphrase Alfie Kohn, youth aren’t just adults-in-the-making. Youth are people right now. Sure, youth change and move and shift, but adults do that too.

Youth engagement is no different from this. The foundation of engagement we experience (or do not experience) as youth stays with us for all of our lives. As youth become young adults, communities and organizations can foster and sustain their engagement. One important way to do that is to teach youth about giving back what they have received, or reciprocity. This powerful transition moves young people from being those who are engaged to being those who engage others.

Young adulthood is a cautionary place in time though. The forces of work, college, and social life pull at the desire to be involved throughout communities. As a consequence, many young adults become disengaged from the activities that once sustained them. That makes it essential to develop and maintain partnering relationships with young adults as they move along this transition. Our programs, organizations, and communities need to encourage young adults to stay connected through concrete action and involvement throughout their communities.

Do not let go of young adults. Spend time together so they learn what responsible adults do, from bill-paying to participating in committees to leading protests. Teach young adults that adulthood is about responsibility and privilege in equal measures, and they will neither turn away from it nor lose their connection with youth.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

NO "Marketplace for Love", Mr. Pollota.

We need to do it differently, and that much is agreed upon. However, that’s about it.

Another white guy wants to sell nonprofits better.

Earlier this week I watched a video of Dan Pollota‘s recent talk at the 2013 TED conference. Hoping it was another version of INCITE‘s absolutely powerfully essential book, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, I was sorely disappointed when it turned out otherwise.

From the beginning of the talk, Pollota actually said, “Philanthropy is the market for love”. Cole Porter was talking about prostitution when he wrote “Love For Sale”, and I guess, sadly, that Pollota doesn’t seem far from this in his video. Rather than saying that nonprofits need to be turbo-charged engines run on the fuel of love in order to build democracy, Pollota actually says that running as businesses with marketplace accountability, the nonprofit sector should pimp poverty, sell missionary perspectives, and monetize humanity.

Nonprofits are not in business, they’re not selling products and services, and they do not belong tied to the neoliberal measures Mr. Pollota is advocating in his video.

There are counter-narratives on transforming the work of nonprofits. A constant advocate is the powerhouse Arundhati Roy. Accompanying what she’s written about the deeply neoliberalism roots of charity work, this spectacular speech has her discussing the purpose behind much philanthropy today. She also writes about the genuine motivations of philanthropists that support Pollota and others like him. Its a clear analysis that deftly distinguishes the real work from the purpose of what Pollota is talking about. Needless to say, alongside neoliberal drumbeaters like Pollota and Melinda Gates, Roy will never be invited to TED.

We don’t need neoliberal accountability in nonprofits, marking philanthropic “investments” against “lives saved” in a tit-for-tat approach to charity. We also don’t need nonprofits that string out social issues and make society reliant on their existence in order to rationalize their funding. What is needed is a new understanding of need, capability, and engagement throughout our society. Nothing less.

Resources

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!