“Youth is the future” – somehow it all started with that sentence. One and half years later, we find ourselves with an organization of our own.
Imagine you’re sitting in a conference on education. The room is filled with bright and engaged young people. On the stage a group of elderly white men discuss the topic. And then it happens, like it always does: One of the men explains how great it is to see the audience so interested in the topic because after all, they are future.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have lots of respect for the knowledge and experience of older generations. Yet somehow sitting in the audience that sentence had been heard one time too much. “Aren’t we already doing things that create change?”, I asked my neighbor. Minutes after, I read a similar comment on twitter. I started realizing that my feelings hit the nerve of many of the people in the audience. There is no official minimum age that you have to reach before you can start making a difference. Our world is in a state that calls us to take action today. All of us. Older generations have had some time already to fix things. And while we really hope they’ll keep doing it, we can’t wait for things to get worse before young people are “allowed” to take actions themselves.
Luckily, lots of young people with dreams and great ideas don’t get impressed by “only” being the future. They are making change happen already. Inspired by that, my neighbor in the conference, the author of the tweet and I continued the discussion that day and started to ask ourselves:
How could we increase the number of young people who are willing to be more than just ‘the future’? How could we show youth that they can make a difference now? How could we create empowering experiences for young people who usually don’t have access to conferences and travel opportunities?
We soon started dreaming, creating an imaginary organization in our long talks and discussions about the state of the world. “It should be … horizontal, transparent and open to everyone.”, we concluded during those talks. “We have to show how causes and challenges are interconnected!”, was surely also mentioned. At the center of all of these discussions, however, was the element of reducing entry barriers to these programs. “Let’s make it in a way that every young person feels like they’re welcome to it.” And that’s a challenge we will continue posing ourselves.
It took us a while to find a name for this organization. Eventually, we came back to the sentence that made it all happen: Youth is … NOW. It felt right from the start. A bit less procrastinating of things we should be doing and a bit more immediate boldness. NOW.
This name of course is also an imperative. That is why in late 2015 our organization started to take shape. Monthly meetings brought a growing team of NOW-interested people together. What started in a Turkey, Brazil and Switzerland triangle, but we soon expanded to Argentina, Germany, Croatia, Czech Republic, France and Iceland. And it has been growing ever since.
Not surprisingly, one of the key values of NOW is inclusion. We want to make it possible for everyone to participate according to their own possibilities. This includes team members, and it means that people’s level of engagement has been very diverse from the start.
After several months of working on this initiative on a daily basis, I still find myself at times amazed by how much we have already achieved. In late 2015, we started developing the NOW Journey. In January 2016, we started reaching out to possible partner organizations and got lots of positive feedback. In February, we gathered nearly 50 supporters in our NOW community. In the following month, NOW was officially founded as an association based in Zurich. In the same month, we received our first grant from a foundation. So yes, I’m amazed to see that this is really happening. And it’s happening NOW!