The British Council has been conducting its Next Generation research series since 2009, and the approach is clear. It’s not just about youth attitudes; we initiate our research in countries experiencing a period of significant change, in order to ensure young people’s voices are heard in the decisions that will affect them, now and in the future.
In the UK, that was sparked by the Brexit referendum. In South Africa, it’s the ‘born free’ (post-apartheid) generation coming of age. In Colombia, a young generation coming to terms with the new peace settlement.
So what does our research tell us?
We have found that young people have a strong interest in engaging internationally. The internet has broken down many barriers and, as the world becomes ‘smaller’, so national borders have become less important.
Our research shows us that there is lack of engagement in formal politics, but not because of apathy. Young people have spoken passionately about the things that matter to them – inequality, climate change, education, housing, global conflict, the refugee crisis – and of wanting to bring about change. Yet they are sceptical about whether their voices are heard and believe it is hard to make a difference.
The next generation prize education and place a high value on it, and how it will help them achieve their goals. Yet young people globally question whether the education they receive is fit for purpose.
Despite the challenges they face, we do see tremendous optimism and resilience from young people. As one UK Next Generation participant put it, ‘We can create change when given opportunities, or are empowered to build our own. We ask to be trusted, to succeed and be encouraged to do.’
Through our Next Generation research series, we will continue to listen to and engage with young people around the world at times of change and crisis. In the coming months, we will publish research from South Africa and from Kenya, and we have just commenced Next Generation research in Myanmar and in Ireland-Northern Ireland.
The research that emerges will continue to feed into the British Council’s work, providing us with new insights. It will challenge our thinking and inspire us so that we can, with the support of our partners and the young people themselves, co-create the programmes they need and deserve.
Find out more about Next Generation and other British Council research.
All Next Generation reports include a series of policy recommendations, either written by young people or generated with them from the research. We urge our colleagues and partners to use the research and findings to inform projects and programmes. The research team is always happy to talk through the research and its findings. You can contact our Global Research team.