HIstory is witness to young people having played key roles in powerful social movements, including India’s freedom struggle, the women’s rights movement and environmental justice amongst others, all of which have transformed the course of human lives. As per trends, by 2020, India will have the largest young workforce becoming the world’s youngest country with a median age of 29 years. The role of youth power will become increasingly important and will collectively determine the future of the country.
It is heartening to see youngsters becoming progressively more involved in the environment, raising their voice on social issues and proactively contributing towards the larger good. However, India’s social transformation will require a sustained engagement with social issues on a large scale, wherein the youth can take ownership and become lifelong contributors to community welfare. As Rana Kapoor, Chief Mentor & Co-Chairman, YES FOUNDATION, has rightly said, the only way to achieve this is “through mindset and behavioural change where social responsibility becomes a habit. It should not be a singular journey, but a vector with both direction and speed.”
I believe that a change in mindsets can only happen when the youth themselves experience the impact of the work being done by individuals and developmental sector organisations at the grassroots. Towards the same, we recently launched YES! i am the CHANGE Social Filmmaking Challenge, the flagship mindset transformation programme of YES FOUNDATION, launched in 2013, to connect youth with social issues. As part of the Challenge, youngsters are required tocreate short films of up to 3 minutes duration on NGOs, Social Enterprises and Everyday Heroes. In a short span of 5 years, we have mobilised over 1.5 million ‘changemakers’ for India’s social transformation through exposure to various social causes. For instance, Kuljeet Singh, an IT professional from Noida, was moved by the plight of abused animals when he visited an NGO. He started Samarpan Troops, an animal rescue and rehabilitation movement, and within nine months, he mobilised 1600 volunteers, rescued over 600 animals and substantially brought down the animal rescue time in NCR. But the catalyst for this was exposure to the problem of the NGO and interaction with the committed staff and volunteers. Whenever youth get involved in a sustained manner, rapid social change is possible.
This year, we are providing youngsters with an opportunity to interact with social impact organisations, and bring to forefront the impactful work done by them through the medium of short films. To further deepen their association, we are providing the youth with an opportunity to act as a gamechanger for these organisations by helping them access grants worth INR 7.5 crore. Apart from this, youngsters like yourselves stand a chance to win cash prizes up to INR 10 lakh.
Engagement of youth in social causes needs to be initiated in an innovative, non-patronising, non-sermonising manner by providing them platforms to harness their latent capabilities into positive action for India’s social transformation. It is also important to use unconventional tools like media, storytelling, technology, gaming for and expand platforms for youth engagement with social issues through experiential learning. YES FOUNDATION Media for Social Change Fellowship plays a key role in providing a holistic experience at the grassroots level, channelling their energy, intelligence and resources for inclusive development. The Fellowship is a high-impact programme to develop socially conscious youth leadership through exposure to social issues and credible NGOs and strengthen communication efforts of NGOs to maximise their social impact. Since its inception in 2016, we have nurtured 257 Fellows who have continued to engage with social issues through various initiatives.
I would like to highlight an important example here. Manoj Purbhe, a cobbler, has been running a shoe repair shop in Nerul for over 15 years. Despite his meagre earnings, Manoj has been caring for over 20 stray dogs, some of whom are handicapped. Andrew Sabu, a 20-year-old resident of the neighbourhood and a YES FOUNDATION Fellow, was deeply impressed by Manoj’s dedication and generosity and decided to help him. In January 2017, Andrew decided to capture Manoj’s story and begin a crowdfunding campaign for Manoj to buy food, water, medical supplies, etc. The target was to generate INR 35,000, which would help Manoj care for his family of canines for at least 6 months. Andrew also simultaneously started a social media campaign to raise awareness about Manoj’s work which drew in donations from all over Mumbai including celebrities like Pooja Bhatt and Richa Chaddha. Against a target of INR 35,000, Andrew managed to raise INR 1,30,000, which was over 4 times his target. Today, due to the money that Andrew could mobilise, Manoj has been able to pay off his debts to local shops and he continues to receive help from animal lovers across the city. Andrew’s story has been covered by popular online platforms like The Better India and Scroll. Andrew’s story is a brilliant example of how you can make a significant social difference by leveraging available communication resources.
It’s examples like Andrew and Kuljeet, whose individual acts of kindness will collectively drive India’s social transformation. We need to recognize and respect young people as powerful agents of social change, and allocate resources to support, amplify, and extend their impact. Active and sustained participation of the youth with social causes is imperative for the development of an inclusive, vibrant and empowered India.