Youth Ecosystem Survey on what organisations in the youth ecosystem are doing and where the gaps, in supporting the youth lie.

Fostering greater collaboration amongst SA’s youth-focused NPO sector

October 2020 – The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created the need for greater communication, partnership and collaboration amongst the tireless non-profit organisations (NPOs) focussed on the youth of South Africa. These organisations in the youth ecosystem have historically worked in siloes, which has resulted in them missing out on collaborations and peer-learning opportunities. Youth development lab Lucha Lunako today released the key findings of its Youth Ecosystem Survey that sheds some light on amongst others, what organisations in the youth ecosystem are doing and where the gaps, in supporting the youth, lie.

The survey has been designed to build on some of the background youth ecosystem work undertaken by Bertha Centre of Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, Lucha Lunako and others: through the lens of COVID-19 and its impacts on a sample of youth ecosystem stakeholders. The premise has been to unpack the dimensions of operations, health and safety, adaptability, youth-centeredness, access, financial sustainability and strategy.

Adaptability to change and long-term planning is key  

The survey uncovered six key findings which are the cornerstones of the results.

1.         The first of which is that organisations focusing on youth empowerment are resilient and adaptable to change. Many respondents report having made a plan to pivot their operational model, as well as undertaking actions to adapt to a plethora of health, safety and wellbeing measures in order to survive COVID-related financial setbacks.

2.         The second key takeout of this study is that shifting the here-and-now mindset is necessary, as questions around longer-term strategy reveal that many of the respondent organisations are treading water at the moment and, at best, focusing on short to medium-term strategies. This is understandable as uncertainty has become the order of the day during the new normal period, however the data revealed by this study shows that consequently, longer terms strategies and planning further ahead for a post-COVID-19 world has become a major gap area for organisations in the youth ecosystem.

“For us, what is key about this industry insight is that there is scope to work with youth organisations to workshop and develop longer-term, scalable strategies that are also agile enough to respond to the changing world,” says Alana Bond, Co-Founder of Lucha Lunako.

A sector with its fingers on the youth trend pulse

3.         The third key takeaway from the study is that the youth ecosystem is overwhelmingly in touch with our youth. Lucha Lunako’s Youth COVID-19 Poll from earlier this year revealed some fascinating insights into how the pandemic and resultant lockdown has impacted the youth and this latest poll reveals that the respondent organisations are keenly aware of needs, concerns and challenges, and have put programmes in place to address these.

4.        Another key takeaway is that COVID-19 has had various financial impacts on this sector including fluctuations of various funding streams. Despite this, respondent organisations have demonstrated a commitment to continuing to pay full staff salaries and youth stipends demonstrating their commitment to the wellbeing of South Africa’s youth.

“The survey shows that there is scope to assist or train organisations to diversify their income streams in order to help them mitigate risk and enhance their financial sustainability,” asserts Bond.

The digital migration of service delivery and need for industry collaboration

5.         The fifth key takeout is that online access requires deliberate intervention, because across the survey, access to staff and youth has emerged as the single biggest operational issue, due to infrastructural barriers ranging from high data costs through to limited access to smartphones/laptops and digital literacy. So, while the move of programmes and support initiatives online is highly commendable by NPOs in this sector, it does mean that many disenfranchised groups and youths will now lose out, because of lack of access to tools that enable online access.

6.         The final key takeaway is that the youth ecosystem is ready for collaboration and forming strategic partnerships in order to combine resources, pool expertise and learnings, and by so doing do more and reach a wider number of youths.

“There is further work to be done in establishing a common definition of collaboration and thereafter looking at practical ways of catalysing it in a meaningful way, taking into consideration barriers and inhibiting factors. However, this study clearly shows that the youth ecosystem is ready for a golden era of collaboration,” says Luvuyo Maseko, Youth Innovation Project Manager at Bertha Centre of Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship.