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The 5th Space could be game-changer for youth

Tuesday - June 4, 2019 10:06 am , Category : ART & LITERATURE
New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Family, friends, education and leisure are the four spaces we are familiar with. But, is it possible to create a 5th Space where young people get a chance to lead, experiment, fail, learn and undertake self-to-society journeys?
Most certainly yes, say Arjun Sekhtar and Mahamaya Navalaka, the co-authors of "ComMutiny" (Konark), the sequel to "Ocean in a Drop" that talked about the need for creating empowering spaces for young people where they could take a journey as learnt about themselves and then understand how that is connected to society.
What then, is the 5th Space?
"A co-created and co-led space; a non-judgemental safe space that allowed cross-border engagement (interaction with people different from you, an inclusive space) and other such principles," Navalakha, who has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Delhi and a Masters in Social Development from the University of Sussex, told IANS in an interview.
"Using our knowledge and experience in youth-centric development, we decided to write this 'walkbook' - a how to book for creating 5th spaces. It's a fictional non-fiction that tells the story of a young person and his journey to set up a 5th space and the mistakes and insights he makes along the way," added Navalakha, a social development professional with an experience spanning 13 years in creative content writing, curriculum development and working with youth, who leads the Delhi-based NGO Arthan Foundation's career planning and education programme for government school students.
How did the book come about?
"The common perception and often real disinterest and disconnect that young people seemed to feel from the socio-political context as well as a lack of ownership of social spaces became increasingly apparent (during our research).
"But this was not always so - during the freedom struggle a huge huge percentage of young people has risen up and claimed this space, leading and participating in the movement for independence. So what had changed? This question began the journey of understanding how the lens through which youth were viewed had changed since independence," Navlakha explained.
A flip-side then emerged.
"Our research pointed to the fact that youth were not expected to participate in any real decision making and this had gradually led to a situation where they lost any real interest in the socio-political context. We realised that it was imperative to co-create spaces with young people where they could co-ordinate lead. And this space became what we called the 5th space," the author noted.
It's a concept that's being executed on the ground through ComMutiny-The Youth Collective (CYC), a coalition of over 35 youth-led and youth-engaging organisations across 17 States of India working with diverse youth in urban and rural areas creating youth-centric 5th spaces where young people get a chance to lead, experiment, fail, learn and take self-to-society journeys.
"These organisations facilitate journeys from workshops, internships, exposure visits that enable young people to focus on the ocean in every young person, and facilitating their understanding of the second and hence society," Navlaha elaborated.
"CYC aggregates these voices across the country to creates a powerful voice for youth leadership. These voices are amplified through creation of media products like films, books and games that propagate the 5th space concept . CYC also designs large-scale public initiatives reaching lakhs of youth online and onground," she added.
In sum, keeping in spirit with the principles of co-creation which an essential
ingredient of the 5th space, the book create a journey for the reader in an attempt to create an experience, a dialogue and two-way interaction with the reader. It attempts to draw the reader into the story as a participant rather than simply being told things.
"It invites them to think, choose and decide. The book celebrates mistakes, showing that each mistake brings with it an insight and in claiming these rather that blaming is the key to leadership and learning. The book talks about how focusing on the self is connected to transformation of society and provides a direction for widespread social renewal at 'scoul' - scale with soul," Navlakha explained.
What of the road map ahead?
"We have been engaging with the youth ministry and several major players in the area of youth development such as UN bodies and they are convinced about the 5th space approach to youth development. We are creating collectives in seven states. We are constantly looking at creating room for dialogue on incorporating this approach to all spaces where youth are involved.
"We see this book as being a great resource that could truly be a game-changer in how organisations work with young people," Navlakha concluded.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)

--IANS vm/am