Ideas from South Africa’s youth for addressing key social challenges … where to now?

Activate-710x473Recently, the DG Murray Trust (DGMT) put out a call for ideas from young South Africans for addressing the country’s key social challenges. In part, this tactic was influenced by our belief that if we are to develop South Africa’s youth as leaders for public innovation – a process of continuing improvement of programmes, policies, systems and institutions for public benefit – then we have to believe that they have the capacity to imagine an alternate reality; we have to raise our expectations of them and certainly, we have to support them to be audacious in their ideas. So, we were interested in their ideas for mobilising their peers into taking action.

In total, 64 submissions were received.  The majority of these were submitted by young individuals who are completing their studies or who have just started working.  Underpinning many of these applications was a passion and drive for social change that, we believe, signals very clearly that young people in South Africa are ready to take responsibility for spearheading positive change to improve their own lives and conditions in their communities.  We have referred a large number of these young people to the Activate! network. We hope that this will provide them with opportunities to engage with other youth to find and share solutions to the many social challenges which they have identified. These include:

  • issues relating to weak education systems
  • high school drop-out rates
  • high unemployment
  • challenges related to bullying, homelessness and gangsterism
  • building youth motivation and ensuring support for entrepreneurial development
  • improving general access to information, and
  • addressing the challenges of gender based violence and HIV/AIDS.

Overall, it was evident from the submissions that challenges relating to education, unemployment and school drop-outs were the ones that young people were seriously concerned about, and most determined to address. Common solutions that were proposed, was the need for information and guidance on subject choice selection, career options and job opportunities. There were many ideas for variations of websites, career expos and assessments. What this signals very clearly to us, is that there is a definite need to share the start-up lessons and learnings of initiatives such as Career Planet[i], while at the same time, being cognisant of the constraint of data costs as many young people risk re-inventing the wheel. Increasingly, we think DGMT has a role to play in developing the capacity of young people to be key information connectors; the go-to-persons for information on study, career and job opportunities, and so on.

Finally, we were delighted to see ideas coming from young people in the Free State and Mpumalanga. Not only does this give us some insight into what young people in these provinces see as their most important needs, but it also alerts us to existing youth initiatives in areas where we have had little interaction and engagement. We will continue to engage with the young architects of these ideas. In some cases, we will be supporting the process of further conceptualisation and development of their ideas and we are excited to see what innovative programme proposals will emerge from this. We certainly hope that some of these will become eligible to apply for DGMT funding in the near future. Although the current call for ideas closed at the end of November 2014, the DGMT does have an open application process. So, if you have an interesting idea that you might like to share, please feel free to send a one-page pitch or a two-minute video clip to We would love to hear from you.

[i] Career Planet ( provides free information, advice and tools to help young people find work, training and other opportunities.


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