Supporting young people’s transitions through community engagement programs: Building the Global Youth Social Enterprise Network GYSEN

As we have discussed in previous posts, social enterprises develop a social ‘mission’ which often includes a focus on community and belonging and, as such, have been identified as a way of engaging marginalised young people and supporting their transition into the workforce through ethical, socially aware frameworks (Humphery, 2010; Kelly et al, 2015). This post is about research we recently carried out in the US (September – October in 2017).

We looked at how and why community concerns are taken up by the social enterprise sector, and how young people are encouraged to imagine their future, their sense of self and employment prospects in relation to community concerns.

First of all, we would like to say a big thank you to those organisations in the US who participated in the research project, Supporting young people’s transitions through community engagement programs. The aim of this  project was to establish relationships, which we hope will be long lasting, and to understand how social enterprises and community organisations in the US engage young people in education and employment programs.

During this research the need for an international youth focused network for social enterprise and community organisations became apparent. We have responded by developing the Global Youth Social Enterprise Network (twitter @GlobalYSEN) which will combine research and practise based knowledge transfers.

We also looked at how organisations build social justice and community concerns into their education and employment programs for young people. We think of this in terms of two key questions:

  1. How do people participating in and managing social enterprise and community programs engage with community?
  2. How is community engagement connected to employment, training and young people’s transitions?

Interviews were carried out by Dr Perri Campbell in September and October while she was visiting at the University of California, Berkeley. Perri was hosted by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and supported by Associate Director Christine Trost.

The interviews carried out have provide a great deal of knowledge about the transitional programs offered to young people on the West Coast, and how community engagement and social justice issues play a significant role in their design. Perri and the team will be working with and analysing this interview material over the next year, as we begin carrying out interviews in Australia with social enterprise organisations.

At this stage it is clear that community concerns, politics and history, culture and social justice issues provide organisations with a range of resources and reasons for doing what they do. Social justice missions, for instance, supporting the mental and physical health and well-being of young people, are communicated to participants through the environment created by organisations. Different programs engage with their community particular ways to address specific issues. This type of engagement relies on a deep understanding of complex and inter-twined social, economic, class, race, and gendered issues.

Many of the organisations we spoke to shared a strong interest in the creative arts and music. While job readiness programs were available to participants, pathways into musical and digital industries were popular.

We will discuss these research experiences further over the next couple of posts. 



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