Fifth Space

"You must do your bit for society even if it’s just a drop in the ocean."

Young people have been exhorted thus to do their duty. It’s an advice that falls mostly on deaf ears, as the young people are quickly drawn into the adult workforce of a nation on a high growth trajectory with a sole focus on employment and consumption. But there was a time not so long ago when young people were at the forefront of the movement for India’s independence. It was like an ocean on the march. When did the ocean turn into a drop?

Somewhere during the formation of the republic, young people were asked to cede the governance spaces to adults. For instance, let’s look at the indicator of political participation. Even though 26% of the population in the first Lok Sabha comprised of young people in the age group of 26 – 40, only one cabinet minister was in that age group and the average age of the cabinet was 52 years. This trend grew worse over the years with the political participation dropping off rapidly and by the 2009 Lok Sabha, the average age of the cabinet had gone up to 63 and youth representatives had dwindled to 6.3%. When the young population of any country turns apathetic about the politics and common spaces the health of the community can be said to be on the decline. So by approaching youth with a lack of an abundance mentality, spoon in hand, we have turned the ocean into a drop. How do we help young people connect again in the common spaces? How do we help to understand this exchange between the inner and the outer world, the ‘personal’ and the ‘political’?

Society today, legitimizes the four hang out spaces for young people: family, career or studies, friends, and leisure and lifestyle. We need to architect a 5th space within the mainstream imagination where young people can safely explore the world inside-out; that is to explore the connection of self to society; to experiment with changing the world but more importantly to watch consciously how the world changes them as well. In the process young people will pick up skills and perspectives that will help them nourish all the other youth spaces.

As facilitators of such a 5th space we ourselves need to become deeply aware of ‘who we are’. We also need to have the correct perspective on youth development, effective workshop design and facilitation skills, and a systemic understand of the whole world and its hidden interconnections. We call these the imperatives of a youth facilitator in the 5th space. The Ocean in a Drop Learning Voyage, constituting of 30% of the time in workshop spaces and 70% in real world on your own youth challenge, can not only change the way you approach young people, it can transform your entire approach to life.

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The Ocean in a Drop
Published by SAGE

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