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Training youth to think critically about their future
A NEW SOAPBOX: Foresight Clubs will give young Malaysians a say in national planning
AT the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), an agency in the Prime Minister's Department, we often define our "stakeholders" as industry, government and academia. But that is quickly changing as we seek to embed an institutional understanding of our most important stakeholders, Malaysia's young people.
When our National Foresight Institute director Rushdi Abdul Rahim set out last year with the Higher Education Ministry and youth organisation myHarapan to canvas students on Malaysian university campuses for their opinions on issues of the future, the results were astounding.
Young people today are more aware and have a greater command of topics of the future than we sometimes assume. They have greater access to information and shared ideas than we ever did.
Malaysia's young people are among the most socially networked in the world, with some of the highest numbers of Facebook friends per capita. The connections they share with peers in classrooms and dorm rooms around the globe, their access to the immense amount of data stored online and their ability to quickly access and filter this information makes them arguably the most informed 20-something year olds ever.
For too long, we have been plagued by a top-heavy approach to national decision-making. For too long there has not been a soapbox on which the youth can stand and peaceably address their nation. Maybe it's time to consider giving the youth a much louder voice.
By excluding young Malaysians from our decision-making methodology, we are not only missing an opportunity to capture the unique insights of young people but are missing the chance to inculcate skills and values in our leaders of tomorrow to make decisions for sustainable, inclusive and high-income growth.
The time for platitudes and calls for engagement of the youth is long gone. What is needed is a national platform that provides young people at universities and in the workforce the opportunity to have their voices heard.
The National Foresight Institute and its director have made this a top priority. Building on the experience of canvassing universities and on the relationships we've built with the Higher Education Ministry and myHarapan, the National Foresight Institute is seeking support for the rollout of a nationwide network of Foresight Clubs on university campuses and in community centres.
A mix of formal and informal groups facilitated by professionals from the National Foresight Institute will give young Malaysians an outlet to voice their opinion and have a real say in the national planning processes.
The National Foresight Institute will be charged with collecting and aggregating the output of this national network and providing a channel straight to the desks of top decision makers.
It will teach and spread the evidence-based approach to planning provided by Foresight and equip young Malaysians with the skills they need to make informed decisions and contributions to national planning efforts at the highest levels.
Not only will it provide an outlet for the youth to participate more fully in development but it will also train them to think critically about their future and to plan and respond to the rapidly changing world around them.
To succeed, this network will require the holistic support of important collaborators at schools and in communities and at the National Foresight Institute itself; but, most importantly, it will require the buy-in of young people who truly believe that this is their platform and an effective means to shape their own future.
Young people must be convinced that this is a framework that takes their opinion seriously. They must see their contributions to the National Foresight Institute and our national plans genuinely reflected in the way we move forward.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to promote these opportunities that capture and engage the energy of our young people, vital to making that quantum leap to a high-income nation.
I am committed to supporting the important work of the National Foresight Institute with Malaysia's young people and hope you will join me in promoting an agenda today for future success tomorrow.