Our theory of change is based on the concept that we stop treating young people as empty vessels into which we pour our wisdom and instead we should treat young people as the most promising resource available to us in developing a new societal structure and meeting the high service needs of our communities. Our program envisions young people as part of the solution rather than part of the problem and a major force to bring positive change in the communities. We have demonstrated at various locations throughout Pakistan that once the socially-excluded, marginalized, under-served and half-educated young people are organized and provided structured opportunities to set up homegrown social entrepreneurship programs they can be changed to champions in their personal and community lives.
In order to meet our goals of youth re-branding, our current theory of change necessitates that youth demonstrate their capacity for positive effectiveness within society; we assist youth in establishing the opportunity to demonstrate that effectiveness by intervening into disadvantaged areas wherein our ideas can best be proven (i.e; areas with high numbers of at-risk or marginalized young people, high crime, poverty or illiteracy rates).
Pakistani society at large fails in honoring and valuing the lives of young people as well as developing an effective way to reach socially-excluded, at-risks, juvenile delinquents, drug addicts or overindulged youth and then to take them out of their corrupting environment and put them in a service force. We have taken the responsibility to provide a national leadership on the development and promotion of youth-led development programs to help young people feel respected and empowered, to help young people in re-establishing their identities and to channel the energies of young people towards constructive action. Our society has accumulated a great backlog of needs and does not command the resources to pay for them in full via market. Hence it is quite important from a sheer societal functional point of view to find ways to advance the common good through Youth Service volunteers who are not cost-free but who costless. The Youth-led Development Program is needed because there is no other way to meet the needs of these individuals that would be humane. Our nation needs the active contributions of young people to address challenges in areas such as education, employment, skill building, health, emergency responses, drug use, crime, care for the elderly and disabled. There are just a few areas in which young people can improve the quality of life in Pakistan by providing services not readily available in the labor force. We are convinced that many of these needs can be met or partially met by the Youth Service Volunteers contributions, where youth learn best by doing, where commitment is demonstrated through action, where there are many societal needs to be met. It will improve the economic viability of the nation in the long run by increasing the employability of those who serve and learn. It will help to headoff violence, crime and terrorism from the society.
Overall, we have seen that when young people are provided well-structured opportunities they transform themselves from passive beneficiaries to citizens in action. It is a powerful approach for reaching youth who are often not reached by conventional youth development programs. Our unique methodology provides an opportunity to youth to reflect on and address the day-to-day challenges faced by their families and communities. It provides leadership opportunities.
It has proved as a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood; a way to enable and empower socially-excluded young girls; a training ground for building good citizens; a service delivery program to the poor and needy; a way to facilitate the transition of young people from school to work; a way to reduce the incidence of neighborhood crime, poverty, drug abuse, terrorism and unemployment; a way to counter balance the years of largely passive education received by students in the classroom; a way to yield good work habits, thereby reducing the risk of hiring young employees and a source of labour.
On a societal level, our work is a functional success on many levels simultaneously, providing society with more workers at less expense, while at the same time improving the character of those workers and society as a whole. The most economically convincing function of national service is its ability to mobilize young people (and other volunteers) to carry out national and local missions otherwise left without sufficient funding in the field of education, health, environment, well-being of disadvantaged people, etc. In Pakistan, a large portion of the youth population is either unemployed or employed in the informal labor market. The economic development perspective on Youth Service views the large youth population as an under utilized resource. Some economists argue that if we wish to serve such special needs we should hire people from the work force to do the job. However, Pakistan has accumulated a great backlog of needs and does not currently command the resources to pay for them in full via market. Hence, an important secondary benefit of the program sees Youth Service (Youth-led development) impressively providing society with more, better and cheaper workers to carry out important social projects. However, admittedly, it is very hard to measure the economic impact of the program. The two types of economic impact indicators we have considered in evaluating these “secondary” benefits of the program were the number of hours worked by participants and the hourly wages that would have been paid if it were paid work; compared side-by-side with the statistics of market-rate labor, Youth Service volunteerism has been of extraordinary and cost-effective benefit to each and every community that hosts it.
In preparation for scaling up beyond our current capacity, we have identified a pressing need for more employees (specifically to meet the core function of providing trainings and consultations with youth on regular basis) and tools/commodities (including in specific communication and publicity technologies, and transportation). However, we have experienced that the local financial constraints felt by our local youth organizations in Pakistan are the hardest to solve; hence we are planning and conceiving ideas that will help us to build the momentum quickly and sustain the activities for an indefinite period.