Russ Carrington (right), chairman, Rural Youth Europe
Recently I was elected as chairman of Rural Youth Europe (RYE) which is a huge honour for me, having worked my way up through the Young Farmers movement in the last 14 years.
RYE is a non-governmental organisation which provides a platform for a network for rural young people throughout Europe. It is an umbrella for 20 rural youth organisations across 18 countries and represents more than 500,000 young people.
My day job is executive secretary of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) and I originate from a mixed farm in Herefordshire where I am still actively involved.
This two-year position, which is entirely voluntary, is already providing me with a fascinating insight into the role of young people in rural communities. It is becoming clear they are vital to the adaptation of business and society in these current uncertain and fast changing times.
I am 30 years old and consider that I am reasonably with the latest technology and means of communicating, but some of the young people I meet in their late teens are in a whole different league.
Short videos of less than 10 seconds in length are fast becoming the main form of instant messaging, coupled with an assortment of emoticons to show emotion and feelings.
So how do we involve young people in our businesses, who may not yet have all the practical skills and life experience?
Young people have an inbuilt optimism and great flexibility.
This means they cope well with change and have a good handle on future market trends.
They also have a willingness to learn and tend to aspire big.
However, they still need suitable opportunities to be involved and empowered, and allowed the space to bring their own ideas to the table – whether this is in individual businesses or society at large.
The Brexit polls showed many young people in the UK did not step up to have their say. Were they too afraid, too busy snapchatting, or did they feel powerless?
Discussions in RYE have suggested the rise in nationalist tendencies across Europe have made youth fearful and resentful of politics.
Therefore, perhaps the real opportunity for youth participation is on the ground at the grass roots.
In the PFLA, our staff team has an average age of 29 and we tackle challenging tasks with energy and enthusiasm, adapting quickly as priorities change.
However, youth alone would be naive, so mentoring from those with wisdom and experience is another crucial part of empowering young people. Much like the role of the PFLA board of directors.
Develop your young people, invest in them, and let them lead the innovation which will be needed for a successful future. Know a young person? Go and ask them about their big plans for the future.