As recent events in the Middle East have foretold – large scale democratic and social change can harness technology as a tool to give youth a voice and active role in their communities.  This phenomenon of wide scale change championed by youth will not just be a marker of the Arab Spring but one that will continue to have a wide effect on the future trajectory of the emerging and developing economies.
 
Consider that 30% of the developing world is aged 10 to 24 and 60% of the Middle East region’s population is under the age of 25.  This “youth bulge” as sociologists and demographers have described yields both incredible promise and the potential for an incredible missed opportunity with great consequence if youth needs are ignored.
 
A youth bulge without promising prospects for the young gives rise to extremely serious negative conditions in the immediate geography, and yields an equally serious domino effect globally.  However, a managed youth bulge can open the door to opportunity for positive social change, with the youth at the helm of that change.
 
Collectively, we have the opportunity to empower these youth with knowledge, and provide the guidance to help them become the leaders of tomorrow.
 
Innovations for Youth Capacity and Empowerment
 
Young populations today are increasingly connected and familiar with technology. Social gaming offers a creative, interactive way to teach children and young adults critical skills necessary for their transition into adulthood by meeting a population where they are – in the online virtual space.  The second largest use of Internet café time in the developing world after social media is games.
 
Serious Games leverages the “cool” or interesting aspects of game play but adds a dimension of learning.  The youth experience is similar to the entertainment-based games, however, the difference is that serious games have built-in learning outcomes and drive behavioral change. NetHope started the Innovations for Youth Capacity and Empowerment (IYCE) project, as part of the Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) Alliance with USAID, to investigate, collaborate and implement serious social games that strengthen youth development in developing countries. IYCE is currently developing a gaming pilot with an initial proof-of-concept implementation rollout in Jordan.
 
IYCE has two levels: The project level; and the program level.  The project level is focused on the pilot implementation, although the design is informed by a larger vision for replicability and scalability across different geographies.  The program level takes a broader view beyond the pilot and includes a vision for program sustainability, global rollout, partnerships and the building of a global community in support of the serious games for affecting youth outcomes. Both look to create new connections, collaborations and innovations to push forward the gaming industry as a whole.  IYCE intends to integrate its games on the ground, directing gamers to local organizations’ programs. For educators, youth workers and gaming professionals, an online community will serve as a space to share experiences and ideas to improve future games.
 
NetHope looks forward to fostering the dynamic public-private partnerships necessary to move these gaming solutions forward. As a catalyst for collaboration, NetHope will continue to offer the opportunity for gaming professionals to collaborate with its membership of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations; together, we can create innovative, replicable gaming solutions with far reach and large positive impact.

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