Rural youth hubs: a pilot from Indonesia
A youth hub is a youth group that have a common goal and share a community feeling. Not all hubs have a physical space but all do meet up regularly. They can come together for various activities, such as skill trainings, discussions, access to finance and displaying and selling local products that they produce. The hubs help the youth access information related to the job market, entrepreneurship, soft and hard skills, materials concerning sexual and reproductive health, as well as climate change and gender-based violence. Through youth groups, young people are connected to the hubs to access capacity-building services for better employment and entrepreneurship. This concept has been piloted in Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In total, 17% of Indonesia’s 43.3 million young people, aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed in 2019 (According to the latest World Bank data retrieved from ILO). In the targeted regions, over 10% of the population live below the poverty line. Engaging with youth from the most marginalized rural communities can be challenging due to geographic distance and limited resources and opportunities. The establishment of youth hubs in these remote areas can offer great opportunities on different levels. In Indonesia, the youth hubs are located in Sulawesi and Java.
What makes this pilot innovative?
These hubs are completely youth-led. The youth groups in the target areas identified their own needs and wishes for the hubs as well as which resources are available in their area, resulting in hubs with different focuses. Likewise, the hubs are a safe space where youth learn to be independent and gain acknowledgement from their community.
Some of the topics addressed in the hubs include eco-farming, fishery and tourism. In some areas, such as in Southeast Sulawesi, the youth prefer their hub to serve more as a place of learning rather than for work. In other areas, such as in West Java, youth prefer the hub to become more of an entrepreneurial workplace. Services at the youth hubs are provided by a variety of partners, and a community business model is in development to ensure that they can be sustained long after the program period.
The hubs were developed through co-creation with the youngsters, implementing partners and the community, based on the Human Centered Design (HCD) methodology and with the consultant Butterfly Works. These activities were kicked off in July 2017 with a co-creation workshop which trained stakeholders on HCD and identified the main goals for the hubs. The youth played a leading role in this process by identifying local issues and relevant stakeholders, brainstorming ideas and mapping out themes related to the hubs. The main themes that were identified were marketing, sales, processing & production, awareness, trainings, community engagement, tourism and services. After this, there was an expert panel consisting of government representatives to which the youths could ask questions. The youth then voted on a concept for the hub, designed a prototype and identified remaining needs using HCD tools.
During the implementation of the hubs in Indonesia, an E-motive exchange between Indonesia and the Philippines took place to gain solutions on certain challenges the hubs were experiencing. The goal was for each team to share their expertise on creating a sustainable space for young female entrepreneurs in rural areas to set up enterprises for their economic empowerment in the areas of eco-tourism and eco-farming. This exchange inspired the community-based tourism model, currently being implemented as a pilot.
- The implementing partners were able to execute the HCD training with different youth groups which resulted in a total of 36 youth hubs in the three implementing areas, which are youth-led and feed into their specific needs. In total, 2,872 (1,518 female) young people are involved with the hubs.
- Engaging the youth groups is necessary for the youth hub’s success. This must be done through recruiting young people that are already motivated to participate and not already involved in other big projects. Following up with the youth groups is important especially at the beginning, and providing the youth a roadmap is valuable to motivation by visualizing their journey.
- While the youth found the HCD process useful, they also found it time-consuming and sometimes difficult to understand. It is important to make the HCD more interactive, fun and practical for youth.
- Sustaining the youth hub is more sustainable through an impact enterprise model rather than government funding. For example, a community-based tourism model was adopted as it values traditional methods of handicraft and agriculture while promoting sales to tourists. The learnings regarding business models have been integrated in the youth trainings.
- Having interaction between youth and key stakeholders such as the local government from the beginning is very important. The youth gain a deeper understanding of the roles of the stakeholders and the importance of building a relationship. As for the local government, they learn that young people are able to be independent and work towards a plan.
- At first, young women and their families were hesitant in them joining the hubs, as the social norms in these areas dictate that women should focus on the household. After many conversations with the community and grouping the trainings based on gender, women were able to join and let their voice be heard as well. The trainers were of the same sex as the group in order to make them feel more comfortable.
- Younger children (15-17 years old) have different needs than the youth that are older and have finished their education. For the younger groups, the focus lies more upon skill building (e.g. confidence building, learning about what they like and find important, being able to formulate what you desire), which asks for more time and supervision from the partners. The older groups want and can focus more on income-generating activities and taking leadership based on their group needs.
Sustainability and scaling
What plays a crucial role in the hubs becoming sustainable is that the youth feel ownership in knowing how to use their local resources and knowing how to create business plans that link to markets to gain income. The youth obtained business trainings from partners such as the university in Makassar, already creating a network for accessing markets in this big city. The youth hubs that practice organic farming are trying to link to agriculture officials in their districts. The youth are now more able and confident to apply for village funds, and the goal is to have the hub model adopted at the provincial level. It is also important to link the youth to private companies that work on their CSR portfolio regarding community development, as they could offer a different kind of expertise and network.