By Themba Vryman
History, by nature, has always given us great lessons for our lived experiences. Either in the present or what we can imagine as the future. The slogan “United we stand, divided we fall” has its roots in old theories of the world across different spheres of life. The message from this slogan was to simply state that individuals or groups with common interests, goals, mission and vision would better arrive at their destination, if they joined hands and minds to traverse a particular journey together.
The Social Network theory is no different to this important historical fact of people working together for greater impact. This theory should be seen as the compass in the attainment of the goal for improved living and empowered life in all facets, for the youth through working together for greater impact.
ACTIVATE! as a network of young people driving change in their communities has benefitted greatly from the Social Network Theory, a brief background of the majority of Activators indicates that these are young people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. The Social Network Theory has been a currency Activators have used in the absence of the also important and required financial muscle in contributing to solutions towards improving the living conditions in their communities. Through the connections made and the vast network opened up through the network, many Activators have had the possibility to occupy and participate in national and international platforms like the African Union and United Nations.
It is becoming apparent that there are constant material changes in how societies take shape and are being reconstructed due to environmental factors. Socio-economic conditions and political factors will greatly influence the almost predetermined destination of young people. Socio-economic and political interventions such as the African Agenda 2063 and, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals will become unreachable and a futile exercise if young people fail to adapt and be active innovative participants in these significant interventions. This will further contribute to a lack of development especially amongst the young people who continue to occupy the unpleasant position of being the most disadvantaged group of people in Africa.
Africa has a population of over a billion, reports are that of this billion almost 70% is constituted by the youth population. The common factor out of this is that this 70% that constitute the African population is disadvantaged and their successful tomorrow is not guaranteed. Young people should be asking how they can solve the crisis in which they find themselves in; how do the youth create and sustain effective and efficient machinery of a cohort of young people who will work together to counter the devastating reality facing the youth through suffering and under-development.
The Social Network Theory (SNT) continues to prove itself to possess the capability to cross borders, to integrate the work of young people across the African continent and to allow platforms where young people can better collaborate and find solutions to unemployment and improved development. Initiatives such as the Mandela Washington Fellowship Programme by the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, serves as one of the ways to ensure that the Social Network Theory finds ground and relevance. A fellow of this programme, Thabang Mabuza- who is also an Activator based in Gauteng has this to say about the Social Network Theory and how such connections have played a role in his journey, “Being with fellow Africans enables us to erase the lines on the African map. As young Africans are able to unify towards promoting a United Africa; where we equally share resources; learn from each other’s cultures, are able to leapfrog on the development of each other and globally make an impact.”
Another Activator based in Free State, Calvin Khauhelo Mosoeunyane says, “Youth development is now at the centre because we have African Youth Union Commission serving under the African Union and each and every country has its own country Chapter and as part of the chapter, I believe such organisations will help become the voice of the youth across the continent. These connections have not only tried to put youth development at the center but it has also helped in creating young leaders who clearly understand the diversity of the continent and how each program or opportunity should be implemented per country.”
The Social Network Theory presents possibilities for greater coordination, improved harmony amongst the youth and common responsibility for young people to actively participate in crafting a road map for development in their communities. If the slogan “United we stand, Divided we fall” should be revived and be made to be much more relevant then the Social Network Theory is the impetus that this old slogan needs.