India is currently home to more than 35.6 crore youths. This means that the country is witnessing a dramatic demographic shift in favour of those falling between the ages of 10-24 years. Hence today more than ever it has become imperative that the youngsters play a central role in the growth narrative of this country.
Community-The Youth Collective (CYC), an initiative undertaken by a Delhi-based non-profit organisation called Pravah, is working towards just such a goal. The aim of the initiative is to instill the values of our shared humanity in contemporary youth — to encourage the youngsters to better engage with the society.
The idea is to a build a vibrant eco system across the country with a view to giving a platform to young social entrepreneurs, change-makers and activists in both urban and rural settings.
One of the innovations of CYC involves a unique youth-centric approach to development: “5th Space”. The concept focusses building the leadership potential of youngsters. Ashraf Patel is one of the co-founders of Pravah, who has been associated the CYC ever since its inception.
“We encourage the youths to discover themselves and their identity through our self awareness workshops, and most importantly, we try to instill a feeling of empathy in them.”
She says, “We try to facilitate young people and help them expand their scope beyond the typical areas of career and education, leisure and lifestyle, family and friends. This they do by exploring the 5th space, a journey from self to society and back. We encourage them to discover themselves, their identity through our self awareness workshops and most importantly, we try to instill a feeling of empathy in them through various social engagements.”
The construct of the 5th Space was crystallized by Pravah after more than two decades of intensively working on social issues involving adolescents and youths across the country. The members of the organisation worked in schools, colleges, local communities and other popular “hang-out zones” in urban centres to design their awareness and training programmes.
“By 2020, we will become the youngest nation in the world,” says Neha Buch, CEO of Pravah. “There’s a lot of focus on skill development, so that we can use this huge cohort for national growth and prosperity. But it’s of utmost importance that along with education and training, we also empower the youth with knowledge about the harsh realities of our society, the relativeness of each of us as humans, and get them to imbibe the values of love and compassion early on.”
To help the youth, both Pravah and CYC have held a number of self-awareness workshops focussed on citizenship and social entrepreneurship education, as well as leadership training and incubation programmes, internships, cultural campaigns and mentoring sessions across the nation.
Both Pravah and CYC have now scaled up their operations significantly. For over 22 years, they have worked with around 6,78,900 youths indirectly, and more than 1,00,000 youths directly. Pravah has also launched some 57,500 young leaders in various cities and villages, and incubated around 300 young social entrepreneurs across 20 states. The 5th Space movement is now set to expand further, with a country-wide network now in the works.
Currently, more than 400 organizations are being facilitated by Pravah and CYC to adopt the 5th Space principles to launch young change-makers across the country. And the two bodies are also using the 5th Space model to help shape the national youth policy of India.