On April 3rd and 4th, 2014, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, in collaboration with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, convened an international conference in New York City, as part of its Recharging the Youth initiative. The focus of the conference was global youth unemployment and the pressing need for collective action on this issue.
The conference was the first step after the Foundation’s announcement in October 2013 that it would commit €100 million –above and beyond its regular grant making activities – in order to create new employment opportunities for Greece’s younger generations, whose unemployment rates are severely affected by the ongoing economic crisis.
The conference served as an international forum and a space for productive dialogue, through which over 40 participants discussed and analyzed initiatives and programs that can lead to development and provide employment opportunities on a global scale. Members of the international academic community, policy makers, representatives of Greek and international research foundations, NGOs, government officials, and businesspeople had the opportunity to exchange views and experiences. Their ultimate goal was to develop proposals for active collaboration between the public, private and philanthropy sector, with the specific aim of addressing the global issue of youth unemployment.
The two-day conference included a total of 8 themed units and approximately 40 speeches. The keynote speaker on the first day of the conference was Mr. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, who focused on exports as the most effective way to exit the crisis and create new jobs. J.D. Sachs also highlighted both the challenges and the opportunities that emerge as a result of rapid technological advances and innovations, and emphasized the importance of education and expertise in the youth employment market.
The speeches on the first day provided necessary historical background on the emergence and growth of youth unemployment in Greece and the rest of Europe, as well as globally. The speakers provided an in-depth analysis of the issue and its inherent connection to the state of the economy, entrepreneurship and competitiveness, technological development, demographic changes, and the position of education and culture in society. Particular emphasis was placed on the effectiveness of work experience, apprenticeship, skills development and retraining programs, as well as on the need for the participation of private initiative and businesses in these programs. The view that private initiative alone is not sufficient to address such high unemployment rates and that extensive state intervention, for the express purpose of creating thousands of jobs is required, was debated at length, as was the question of how social entrepreneurship and support for new businesses could help address the issue of youth unemployment on a global level. Specific proposals for action in areas such as tourism, where there are opportunities for creating new jobs by approaching particular markets (e.g., China), were also extensively discussed.
The second and final day of the conference opened with a speech by Mr. Μike Lazaridis, Managing Partner of Quantum Valley Investments, founder of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and co-founder of BlackBerry, who focused on the evolution of technology, from the invention of the transistor to the present day, and its importance in the creation of millions of jobs. He pointed out that technological innovation has reached an impasse, and that quantum physics could open the door to a new era of technological innovation, which will lead to job creation. Other participants discussed programs that have already been implemented globally to address youth unemployment. The presentations evaluated their results so far and examined the potential for adapting them to the unique conditions prevailing in Greece. The speakers were also invited to present new, innovative pilot programs that could promote the development potential of Greece in the areas of research and technology, education, agriculture, tourism and culture that could actively contribute to combating youth unemployment in the country.
The Co-President of the Board of Directors of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Mr. Andreas Dracopoulos, said: “In October 2013, when we announced this new initiative, we stressed that the purpose of the conference was not only to identify and investigate programs aimed at providing new opportunities with the potential to create new jobs, but also to develop a new model, a forum for discussion, and a dialogue on effective ways of addressing the issue on a global scale. The conference provided a group of distinguished speakers with the opportunity to present their views and proposals on the issue at hand, and it led to numerous constructive discussions and debates, as well as to sound, practicable proposals for action, which will be carefully evaluated by the Foundation. In that respect, it was an important first step in the right direction. At this stage, I would like to emphasize a very important point: We made it clear, right from the start that changing the current situation cannot be achieved by the commitment of funds alone, however significant they may be. The creation of new opportunities requires innovation and the collaboration and convergence of different sectors including public, private, and philanthropy. The Foundation is no Deus ex machina, and it cannot tackle a problem of such magnitude on its own. Our role, the role of every philanthropic organization, must be sought in the space between the private and the public sector. Our aim is to create and successfully implement programs and innovative initiatives on a smaller scale, which may then be implemented on a much larger scale by the public and private sector”.
This conference is only the beginning of a long process of identifying and evaluating programs to support the younger generation, a process that will continue during the course of the Third Annual International Stavros Niarchos Foundation Conference on Philanthropy, which will take place in Athens, on June 26-27, 2014.
Although the purpose of the conference was to identify and investigate programs aimed at providing new opportunities and with the potential of creating new jobs, the Foundation has already approved a number of grants to support programs that come under its Recharging the Youth initiative.
The full program schedule is available here.
To find more information about the Recharging the Youth Initiative, click here.