Who are “youth,” as a group, within both the cooperative movement and our larger societal context? We, within the USA Coopeartive Youth Council, have come to define youth as folks in their late teens through to age 30 for three main reasons:
- PRACTICALDepending on the state, you can’t be an owner of enterprise (so, you can’t be a member of a cooperative) until you are 17 or 18. While engaging young folks in cooperation is important for sure, there is only so far you can go with it. In a similar vein, you are legally considered a “child” and are largely without autonomy or rights until 17 or 18 – this holds true for many other places throughout the world.
- INTERNATIONALThe United Nations and its agencies talk about youth in different ways, but it always starts in your mid to late teens and goes up towards age 30. This is largely because most folks in their early teens and younger do not have social, political, or economic rights. In the cooperative movement outside the US, youth is classified as late teens or early twenties to age 30/35.
- HISTORICAL This is the most compelling reason for our identification. While it’s true that there are people doing awesome things at every age, but what is unique about the youth contingent is their historical and our current role in doing awesome things – together. The Civil Rights Movement was propelled largely by youth and students – the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee was all young people who were leaders as youth and as elders. Agitation and collective power building has historically been a trait of youth all over the world and not just in the US – the Arab Spring and the Quebec Student Revolution are relatively recent examples. What is unique to the US context is the stigmatization of this role of youth as a “phase” or as (the worser of the two) “endearing.” To be clear, when attributing this collective agitation role to youth, it does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that every “youth” considers themselves a revolutionary or even sees value in that agitation work. But, all over the world and throughout the last century, this has been one of youth’s most important contributions to society.
We understand the role of youth as one of agitiation in societal development. We understand our role as youth in the cooperative movement as one of agitation and innovation. #organize #organize #organize