For the past year and half, I worked closely with two other colleagues on an online project that attempted to develop an informal social network dedicated to the worldwide crisis of youth unemployment. The informal network would be comprised of individuals concerned about the permanent transformation of jobs and the workplace and how that transformation was exacerbating the youth employment crisis in Canada and around the world.
I use Harold Jarche’s image to illustrate how we were attempting to connect knowledge flows between people concerned about youth unemployment in the 21st century workplace.
We called our initiative Youth Profit. Our goal was to develop a learning, sharing and action network that would stimulate conversation that in turn could lead to solutions to youth unemployment crisis in Canada. Initially we had a global approach but then narrowed our focus just to Canada.
In our cause, we were especially motivated knowing that youth at the fringes of society are most vulnerable from the volatile and rapid changes happening in the workplace. Evidence was everywhere that robotics, globalization and digital technologies were causing a rapid transformation to our workplace. Jobs are permanently lost and eliminated. Young people would pay the greatest price unless solutions could be found.
Kick starting solutions – we bit off more than we could chew!
Using our Youth Profit website, we posted research findings and successful projects from around the world. We assumed this knowledge might attract the individuals we needed to kickstart innovative solutions to youth unemployment. Finding the right ingredients to attract visitors and potential contributors was proving to be very difficult.
Eventually we realized that creating a global network that could share, learn and possibly find new solutions to youth employment was too broad (and complex) a task. We decided to change our catchment area to Canada and narrow our scope to the failure of the Canadian Youth Job Strategy to create jobs and relevant training experiences for unemployed youth. We also recognized that there is a systemic failure in Canada for the education, nonprofit, government and private sector to work collectively and collaboratively on youth unemployment.
Despite the lack of cross sector cooperation, we believed that individual leaders from the non-profit, business, education and government sectors might put aside their silo behaviour and see the wisdom of cross sector collective problem solving on youth unemployment.
Using our online sharing platform we attempted to stimulate discussion and action on youth unemployment and training. We wanted to connect with individuals who understood the crisis in youth unemployment in Canada and who would welcome an opportunity to share their insights and contribute to collective solutions.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time and energy needed to connect with sector leaders. The work was beyond our capacity and we had concentrate on our families and earning an income. We chose to end our sweat equity work after our third attempt to secure start up funding was not successful.
What I learned
I believe that our goal of initiating large scale systemic changes to the youth employment training sector was very ambitious but naive. The three of us had a loose network across Canada that we could tap into however those network connections were not strong enough to initiate cross sector, informal discussions about the permanently changed workplace and potential solutions to youth unemployment.
Here are a few thoughts on what I think we accomplished.
- We created an online repository of knowledge featuring projects and countries that were succeeding with policies and practice. (research, successful projects, countries with progressive policies etc.)
- We provided assessment and commentary on issues related to youth employment and training;
- We field tested a interactive online platform that could lead to informal collective creation of practical solutions to the world wide youth unemployment crisis.
- I learned that a systemic approach involving education, non profit, government and private sector individuals is very difficult. It is fraught with pitfalls, mind fields and rigid silo thinking.
- I learned that working with individuals as opposed to large systems offers more opportunities to succeed.
- I learned that there is potential for this project to succeed providing there is willingness for cross sector collaboration that spawns communities of practice which would in turn give birth to new projects that address youth unemployment.
- I learned that informal sharing in an online network requires trust and time.
- I learned that had we invested more time and energy with key people early in the process we may have succeed with Youth Profit. (see resource links below re. Trust)
I see this initiative as “on the shelf” but not forgotten. I’m now focusing on working more on the individual organization and practitioner level rather than trying to engage high level systemic sectors. I’ll be doing this through workshops and consulting services with Social Media Tools for Work and Learning.
Further Reading – Post Job Economy & Network Solutions
Harold Jarche’s post The Future is Jobless describes the shift to a post job economy.
We show that over the past 40 years, structural change within the labor market has revealed itself during downturns and recoveries. The arrival of robotics, computing, and information technology has allowed for a large-scale automation of routine tasks. This has meant that the elimination of middle-wage jobs during recessions has not been accompanied by the return of such jobs afterward. This is true of both blue-collar jobs, like those in production occupations, and white-collar jobs in office and administrative support occupations. Thus, the disappearance of job opportunities in routine occupations is leading to jobless recoveries. – Third Way: Jobless recoveries
An Age of Experimentation – Harold Jarche 2015 – 05 – 05
Most routine, standardized work will be automated, as we enter The Second Machine Age. Any process that can be analyzed and mapped is the raw material for a machine, whether it be a computer or a robot. Cashiers, bank tellers, managers, and lawyers are some of the vocations that have been automated. In the near future, taxi drivers, analysts, and researchers will join them.
Enterprise Knowledge Sharing Requires Trusted Relationships – Harold Jarche, Posted ; filed under Work.
In order to take action and make decisions, we need access to the best information we can get. A network that is constantly creating content to share, and having conversations around it, can make better decisions. This is the business value of social networks. But it is all based on trust, for without trust, there is no sharing. Realizing the business value of enterprise social networks takes not just time, but also active and effective knowledge sharing.
What is your organization doing to foster trusted relationships in the workplace?