Unpacking Youthwashing

The last few years, we have seen the rise of youth like never before. 

Millions of youth are taking to the streets, mobilizing and organizing. It’s inspiring to see this resilience and yet, there is a new scary trend emerging. 

YOUTHWASHING: But, what exactly is it and what does it look like in everyday life? 

What is Youthwashing? 

Let’s break it down and take something familiar. Greenwashing is maybe a term that is more well known. For those of you that still need a refresher:

Okay but, what does this have to do with Youthwashing? 

Well, put simply - young people are the new “sheen” and used for a very surface level engagement with corporates. And the intention also stays very limited to promotional material only. 

So we can only ask the question: are we being taken seriously? Or are we stuck at being only inspirational. 

As a young changemaker myself, I’ve struggled with this on an ongoing basis. Sadly, I'm not really sure what the answer is to the question above! And of course, it really depends on the interaction. It's case by case and luckily there are still many incredible organizations and businesses that interact meaningfully by giving youth a long term “seat at the table” platform. 

And as we’ve heard from many changemakers around the world: Applause means nothing if there is no action. We do not need more panels or photos, we don't want more cops or reports, we want action. 

How do we prevent youthwashing? 

The list is long so the summary I’ve chosen to share with you in this article includes these 3 points which can be seen as a “starting point”: 

  1. Do give us the stage. Don't get me wrong, young people have a message and we deserve to be represented on these platforms. But pay close attention to the following points!
  2. Go a step further than just the stage and involve us in the “behind the scenes” process - we want to get involved backstage too and understand the process! 
  3. Offer us funding opportunities. We may be young and have less experience than some of the other experts in the field but our ideas and our time + energy should be properly compensated.

So there you go! Let's start a discussion on what are some of the other methods that can be used to prevent YOUTHWASHING.