Dr. Nicole Goldin is a global development, youth and international affairs and emerging markets policy, strategy, research, communications and impact expert. She heads a boutique consultancy, NRG Advisory, is an affiliated expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and is a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.


Q: What drew you to focus on the topic of youth in the context of development?


A: My interest in and more serious focus on youth in development was born from a realization of the demographics we are now all too familiar with -- more than half the world's population under the age of 30, nearly 90% of whom live in developing and emerging economies and fragile states.  The more I engaged on youth issues, the more I came to understand and believe in the central role young people have historically played and can play in reducing poverty, and promoting future economic growth and social progress. For example, as much as a third of the so-called "Miracle" growth in East Asia in the 1980s and 1990s has been attributed to a demographic dividend -- where favorable population dynamics and large youthful workforce were met with significant investments in human capital that resulted in a productivity payoff.  Moreover, increasing evidence and experience affirms how youth are frontlines and inter-generational links to bridging education gaps, fighting disease, protecting the planet, driving innovation, advancing technology, defending rights and pushing reforms, strengthening governance and building peace. At the same time, the more I interacted with young people, the more inspired and passionate I became.


Q: What impact do you think youth-centered policy dialogue and investment have on the development process?


A: Following on the above, I would suggest that youth-centered policy dialogue and investment would catalyze development outcomes and necessarily bring a more integrated approach into development -- the interconnected path of youth development across multiple spheres of life demands cross-sectoral programming; and the nature of budget flows among many donors creates opportunity for increased mainstreaming and integration of youth programs into existing economic growth and agriculture, health, education, governance, conflict mitigation and other activities. Similarly youth programming lends itself to partnerships among public and private government, civil society, and business interests and organizations.  I also believe that a development process that includes more youth participation and perspectives could become more technology oriented and innovative.


Q:Where do you see opportunities for public, private, and civil sector actors to strengthen feedback loops with youth constituencies?


A: The 19th Century French philosopher Joseph Joubert once quipped "Ask the young, they know everything".  In my view, meaningful engagement begins with listening.  I think we all need to listen more and to a larger diversity of youth voices. We also need to 'speak' with a more coordinated, informed, transparent voice and share better information and evidence.  All actors need to establish or strengthen concrete channels of 2-way communication between and among stakeholders.  At the same time, youth too have a responsibility to come prepared; to seek out and be able to discuss the data, evidence, and representative insights of their peers.


Q: Based on your experience, what piece of advice would you offer young people today looking to take on these challenges in their communities?


A: Following on my note above, I would first say get informed.  Read up on promising approaches and emerging lessons learned and best practices about what works and what doesn't.  Second, I would say don't be afraid to start small and look for quick wins while setting a long term vision.  And third, importantly, remember two heads are often better than one -- seek out advisors, partners and collaborators of all kinds -- funding, information and intellectual, execution and evaluation.