Last week we took part in the 2017 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit in Washington, DC. It was an engaging and inspiring conference with participants from all over the world. There were stories of success from young entrepreneurs and international development organizations, all striving to incorporate more youth in economies around the world.

Over the course of the three days, two key challenges that youth face surfaced multiple times, 1) a perception that young people are lazy and 2) the belief that they are not interested in agriculture. These are two pervasive stigmas that follow young adults around the world. However, from the sharing during multiple workshops it was agreed that this stems from the barriers that many young people face with a lack of opportunity and connection to resources. Young adults are often not given a chance to make decisions in a family or in the local community, they are not part of the creation or design of new projects, and, specific to agriculture, innovations are not trickling down to them.

But the youth at the conference were adamant that young people bring passion, energy, and they are leading the way of many solutions to address lack of access to clean water, climate change, and family income. And the research presented backs up their claim! The truth is that most young people want to help create a better life for themselves and their families- and they want to go into agriculture. As one young lady at the conference stated, of course youth are interested because “three times a day you interact with agriculture.”

This conversation matches with our experience here at Coffee Kids. There are many youth who want to work in coffee, but they want to have a chance to do it differently than their parents and grandparents. They want to use technology and marketing and to be involved in understanding other parts of the supply chain. Therefore, a key component of our work with youth is reaching out to families and our supporters as you all are the gatekeepers with the ability to give opportunities or perpetuate the reputation of youth as lazy.

The Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit is an annual event hosted by Making Cents International. It is the culmination of the year-round work of a broad network of organizations working to expand youth economic opportunities, including policymakers, donors, researchers, and young leaders.

As we continue on this journey, some of the components we will be working to incorporate are co-creating with our youth and incorporating them with in the design of the trainings and mentorship opportunities. As another young lady pointed out, “if you are co-leading, you have to let go.” We will also be working toward increasing exchanges among our participants, starting later this month. We are very excited to announce that two of our young men from Colombia will be joining to attend the SCA Avance conference in Guatemala City. Along with our Regional Manager of Latin America (and me!) we will then travel to the Trifinio region of Central America, visit our youth in all three countries, their businesses and organizations!