Rewriting the Manual for “Normal”: How digital community platforms could give hope to the COVID-19 generation

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This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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The environment for young people in a post-COVID-19 world will certainly look different to the past, and the path is likely to be a thorny one. What we previously thought of as "normal" no longer is, and if there were ever a vague manual of survival strategies for society as a whole, I believe it has been scrapped. However, this should also be an opportunity for us to normalize new systems and improve the current situation, now that the pandemic has been undoing society’s fixed ideas.

There is something that the government is uniquely positioned to do in order to turn the plight of young people today into an opportunity: build nationwide scaled community platforms for them to meet and engage in a wide range of discussions. This will be an investment in the future generation with undiscovered possibilities.

Read I Am the Future of Work —now what?! and other OECD Policy Responses on our COVID-19 Hub

Read I Am the Future of Work —now what?! and other OECD Policy Responses on our COVID-19 Hub

The unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves has forced many events to be cancelled or rescheduled, and while it is true that a number of events have gone online, I still feel that their overall number has reduced dramatically. In countries where there are significant regional disparities, being able to attend an event can make a huge difference in terms of meeting new people and encountering new ideas. In my country, Japan, the youth gap between regions has deepened. Youth in cities have had more opportunities during this crisis, while youth in other areas have had to strive hard to access a single one.

Given that for a whole year we have had no spaces to nurture inspiration, I feel that there has been no opportunity for young people to start anything, especially those who should be innovating for the betterment of society. That is why the government, with its broad local influence, should take the lead in creating community platforms. These can become launching pads for innovation, enabling people to become actively involved and make the most of their talents, to the benefit of society.

I would like young people, whichever region they are in, to be provided with equal opportunities to access community platforms through which they can explore new interests and meet people with whom they can have in-depth discussions. If such an environment develops, I believe young people will be able to live with hope for society, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. This will also become the first step in solving many existing social problems.

Find out more about what the OECD's Youthwise is doing to place young people's concerns at the centre of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis

Find out more about Youthwise, the OECD Youth Advisory Board

To turn this predicament into an opportunity, I want to start first of all with what I have around me, tackling one issue at a time. I thought about how I could take the initiative using my own efforts, and the first thing that came to mind was to disseminate information.

In the past, I have avoided expressing my views on topics such as politics on my personal social media platforms. I thought it would be a source of trouble. However, now I deeply regret that risk-averse behaviour, and now I try to be proactive in communicating what I think is needed for today's young people and what I think needs to be changed. I want to convey to as many people as possible that it is right to be interested in society and to express one's opinion.

When I start university this April, I would like to create a community platform for students during my time there. I believe that it becomes easier to implement something if top-down and bottom-up reforms progress at the same time, and this also meets the needs of today's society. I am currently in contact with a small group of people in different parts of Japan, and together we are trying to build the foundations of community platforms in the country.

Get the latest OECD data, recommendations and policy advice on
Youth and COVID-19: Response, recovery and resilience

Get the latest OECD data, recommendations and policy advice on Youth and COVID-19: Response, recovery and resilience

In the midst of the pandemic, we must accept reality for what it is yet strive to innovate. The environment for improvement is in place, so the rest is up to us.

Related Topics

Tackling COVID-19 Digital Inclusion Future of Education & Skills Digitalisation

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Kyoko Ozawa

Student, former Chief Future Officer, Euglena

Kyoko Ozawa is 18 years old. Born in Japan, she lived in the US for two years and now makes her home in Tokyo, Japan. In 2019, she served as the first ever Chief Future Officer for Euglena, a sustainable bio venture company. She received the silver prize in the 2019 junior contest from the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology and Agrochemistry and has been a guest columnist for ATOMOΣ, journal of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. At her school, she has been an active volunteer and has served as the director of its sports festival. Ms. Ozawa will be starting university in April 2021 and plans to study sustainability in economic fields.