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OneWorld US Special Report

Back to OneWorld US

Part I

Part II
Demographics and Values

Part III
The Impact of Seattle

Part IV
The Fairness Revolution

Part V
Bringing Globalization Home

Part VI
Scanning the Terrain

Part VII
Anti-Sweats and Ethical Consumption

Global Education

Part IX
Different Approaches to Global Education

OneWorld US Special Report

Youth Activism and Global Engagement: Part X


"It is neither too soon nor too optimistic to call it a movement," an article in The Nation declared. This prevailing sentiment among the "progressive community" represents a rush to judgement. It is indeed too early to tell whether the upsurge will eventually turn into a movement, whether the hodge-podge of issues and causes will achieve a programmatic coherence.

Initial successes, which direct action helped to achieve, have created a context in which the short-term, propulsive techniques of insurgency will have to give way to a more drawn-out process of consolidation and growth. In this phase the Achilles heels of youth activism--attrition, infrastructure, and sustainability--become increasingly apparent.

The future remains uncertain, and whether the energies now being unleashed will achieve some critical mass depends not just on the inventiveness and strategic acumen of young activists themselves, but on the quality of the collaborative support they receive from adult-led organizations.

Adult-led organizations have deep stakes in helping young activists acquire the skills and perspectives they need to campaign effectively, to bring others to the cause of global justice, and to stay the course when the going gets tough. As more and more youth activists get their hands dirty in various campaigns and hit up against practical problems and strategic dilemmas, they begin to understand how much they don’t know. And they become primed to learn.

Adult activists can contribute to filling this learning gap. Contexts must be created so that fledgling and seasoned reformers can exchange ideas and insights, argue and debate, reflect on what works in social campaigns and why, and map out together the road ahead. Now is the moment for an older generation of activists to engage in critical dialogue with those coming on behind.

Corporations have the advantage of being very simple creatures: they exist for one thing only, profit, and so it is easy to determine what solutions they like. But if you don’t believe that what is good for corporations is necessarily good for economics and the people who by right own the economies, then you also confront the fact that cultures, societies, histories, geographies are all very different. We are fighting the tyranny of the single-visioned corporate state; we must (and do) embrace the variegated world of differences…While acknowledging this central difficulty, we still have to find a way to answer the questions raised repeatedly by those to whom we make our presentations or by journalists and legislators: what would we do instead? We must come up with convincing pictures of the future that express our values of cooperation, sustainability, and justice.
(Ambrose,2000,Reflections on the Mobilization of the Movement)

Coming up with these "convincing pictures of the future" represents the teamwork that older and younger activists and visionaries could benefit from taking on.