On the Same Page is a special column by Janiece Evans-Page, head of the Fossil Foundation. Here, she shares the insights and strategies behind our global impact.
Fossil Foundation is constantly learning about the youth population that our social entrepreneur partners serve, so we rely on substantive data to know how young people are doing. Thanks to Nicole Goldin and her colleagues, we know much more about the nearly two billion people on the planet between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest youth generation in human history. Nicole is the principal author of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index, a pioneering tool that analyzes how youth are faring around the world. I’ve spoken with Nicole at length, and I know she shares our relentless commitment to the wellbeing of young people. There’s plenty to dissect in this data-rich index, but I’ll discuss some key findings that inform our efforts at Fossil Foundation.
Wealth Doesn’t Guarantee Wellbeing
There’s a disconnect between the relative wealth of some countries and the wellbeing of its youth. You might expect to see the wealthiest countries atop the index in every category examined, but surprisingly, some rich nations falter in important areas. The U.S., for example, slips a few notches in the overall rankings due to high levels of youth stress and self-harm. The U.S. also ranks in the bottom third in citizen participation, a known indicator of community cohesion and sustained engagement into adulthood. Russia lags even further in citizen participation, ranking last among the countries examined. Another strong economy, South Africa, ranks last in economic opportunity.
Wealth has its advantages, but it doesn’t always translate into engaged or prosperous youth. For example, a country with more constraints like Vietnam serves its youth generally well despite the resources. And in low-income Uganda, high levels of youth entrepreneurship propels the country near the top third in economic opportunity.
It will be interesting to see how nations respond to these discrepancies. Our organization’s response will be to continue our efforts in both struggling and robust economies, filling gaps in opportunity wherever they exist. We believe that focusing strategically on innovative learning and career readiness, as well as partnering with social entrepreneurs, is the most resourceful and impactful way we can level the playing field for youth along all points of the economic spectrum.
We’re optimists at heart, and we know we’re not alone. We’re encouraged that Nicole has identified pockets of optimism in places where we may not expect it. In Indonesia and Uganda, for example, youth are optimistic about their current status despite relatively lower socioeconomic levels. And in low-ranking countries like India and Tanzania, youth actually score quite high in citizen participation. We want to capitalize on that enthusiasm. A young person with the right tools, a positive outlook and a spirit of involvement can accelerate progress.
Learning As We Go
As comprehensive as the index is, there’s still a lot to be learned. Nicole will be the first to admit that it’s a work in progress. We tend to view ourselves that same way as an organization. Curiosity is part of Fossil’s DNA. We continuously strive to learn. We aim to be contributors, not merely recipients, of data. We’ve aligned with social entrepreneurs whose passion and creativity have proven instructive and inspiring. Together, we’re well on our way to understanding the data and helping young people improve their lives everywhere.
By the way, congratulations to Australia! Of the 30 countries examined in this inaugural index, Australia’s youth are faring the strongest overall. I hope to visit my friends Down Under to understand why young Australians are thriving. (Invitations always welcome!) I’m also eager to see how our partners are making strides in countries where youth are flourishing at far lower rates. Lessons and opportunities abound on both ends of the spectrum, and because of resources like the Global Youth Wellbeing Index, we now have a baseline from which to measure our impact.
Head of Fossil Foundation
Learn more about the Global Youth Wellbeing Index