Researching and Empowering Youth Activism
Generating insights to support and empower youth activism
Discover and understand technology related issues that animate youth activism and the barriers young people face to support social change venture, Omidyar Network’s, vision of a technological ecosystem that empowers youth and makes technology outcomes more accountable, equitable, and inclusive.
Generative research and strategy recommendations informed directly by youth voices. Our research revealed seven recurring issues that youth are focused on today, helping to align areas of focus and opportunity to Omidyar Network’s core strategies. Recommendations for a wider group of philanthropies and funders were also created.
“Artefact’s roots in human-centered design made them the ideal partner to help Omidyar Network create a strategy inclusive of youth voices. Their commitment to centering youth voices throughout the process generated actionable insights and recommendations. Omidyar Network is excited to use these findings to shape future engagements with digital natives. ”
Informing strategy with inclusive & continuous research
Omidyar Network needed actionable insights to ensure their learning strategy serves, supports, and empowers youth. To achieve this, we pursued a mixed methods research approach that included social listening, in-depth 1:1 interviews, and focus groups discussions with young people who have spoken about how technology is affecting their generation.
Whether it was engaging digital natives to comment on our preliminary research insights, or inviting them to attend a key milestone presentation to Omidyar Network, we sought to ensure digital native voices remained centered throughout.
Identifying and centering seven focal issues that activate youth
Our research revealed a common theme – today’s youth is a generation attuned to the systemic and interrelated nature of many of the issues they are passionate about.
While the topics young activists care about are diverse, we identified seven recurring focal issues that animate youth today. These seven areas can help Omidyar Network and other social change ventures gain a deeper understanding of digital native activists and their generation-specific journey, experiences, challenges, and needs.
Understanding the three core needs of young activists
Now that the seven focal issues at the heart of digital natives have been identified. A second question arose: what do youth activists need for sustained, organized, and successful activism? Again using a mixed-methods approach, Artefact continued conversations with youth participants to discover their needs, and apply those discoveries to Omidyar Network’s funding and philanthropic strategy.
Our conversation with digital native activists and leaders revealed many areas of need that youth organizers have regardless of the focal issue of their activism. The diverse needs could however be bucketed into three categories: personal, organizational, and external needs.
Needs related to current and aspiring activists as people
How might we make activism more balanced, sustainable, and life-affirming for individuals?
What if digital natives had access to youth activist support circles, workshops, and wellness retreats?
Enable focus & flexibility
How might we create freedom for young activists to evolve and grow beyond one issue or model of change?
What if there was a youth activist cohort designed for or co-created with digital natives?
Needs related to running a youth-led organization
How might we reduce the administrative burdens and risks associated with organizing?
What if resources and consulting on the organizational landscape were committed to digital natives?
How might we help youth-led organizations maintain momentum over time?
What if digital natives received stipends or compensation for their work?
Create healthy partnerships
How might we support mutually beneficial partnerships that are respectful?
What if mixers, chats, or formal mentorship offerings existed for digital natives?
Needs related to interacting with others
Create space for impact
How might we help digital natives find places where their voices are valued?
What if digital natives received invitations to participate (through grants, fellowships, and competitions)?
How might we reimagine the evaluation standards for digital natives?
What if there were programs that met activists where they are?
“Young people starting their own thing need to believe in a cause, and commit to investing in it […] The fast paced nature of online social justice discourse has made it the norm to care about caring about things.
That’s not enough. We need mission, community, and a deep, collective sense of care.”
Recommendations for investing in better futures for our youth
With insights, opportunities, and organizational goals aligned, Artefact helped Omidyar Network ask actionable and generative questions. If teams were to consider allocating resources to address personal needs in youth activists, for example, they can ask “how might we create freedom for young activists to evolve and grow beyond one issue or model of change?”
Asking questions such as these, will help focus Omidyar Networks’s offerings and serve as a gut-check to ensure efforts continue to center youth needs.
What we delivered
+ Generative research
+ Ecosystem mapping
+ Strategic assessment