Bob Diamond

Helping marginalized young people achieve economic inclusion

Bhumika Kumare lives in Mumbai, India where, by some estimates, more than 4 million young people are between the ages of 10 and 19. These young people are often socially and economically excluded, and opportunities to develop their own skills and knowledge are limited. Bhumika took part in a project to train young female leaders, providing them with financial literacy, and entrepreneurial and life skills. At just 16 years old, Bhumika is already a role model and inspiration for other young women in her community.

To date, 3,400 adolescent girls from the slums of Mumbai have taken part in the training produced by a partnership among Barclays, UNICEF and the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. In an environment of inequality and discrimination, they have learned essential life skills that have empowered them to continue their education or set up small businesses. They have learned the basics of financial literacy (including through workshops led by Barclays employees). Some have joined us at Barclays for work placements and others have had mentors from among my colleagues in Barclays.

Bhumika has ambitions to become a doctor. “It is only by studying that I can make it out of poverty,” she told us.

It is widely acknowledged that a young population that is well educated and financially aware makes for a much stronger economy. The lack of financial capability and employment prospects for young people can lead to increased poverty, inequality and civil unrest. The dangers are potentially greater in urban environments where so many impoverished children are growing up.

Recognizing that many development programmes fail to address the fact that about half of those unemployed in many developing countries are young adolescents, Barclays and UNICEF partnered in 2008 to launch Building Young Futures and attack the underlying issues. The programme, backed by an investment of £5 million, aims to provide financial education and training in employment and enterprise skills to 600,000 marginalized young people, across 13 countries. It is a departure from traditional forms of partnership between the private sector and development organizations, because we knew, when it was conceived, that we had to find a new way of solving the issues we observed.

As a global bank, there are many opportunities for us to help in the communities in which we operate. But we know that, to have an impact, we have to focus our contributions in areas where we can make a real difference based on the skills and capabilities that we bring with us. By partnering with UNICEF, we can expand enormously the range of ways in which we can help, by combining their skills and expertise with ours. Building Young Futures does just that, tackling the issue of youth exclusion via basic financial knowledge and employment. I have seen the work of UNICEF for myself, and it is working. Let me share another example.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Building Young Futures partnership has joined with the Brazilian labour department to run a pilot initiative aimed at reaching 200 adolescents, providing them with training and work placements to help them enter the labour market successfully. To date, more than 250 young Brazilians have taken part in the project, and 10 per cent have secured apprenticeships in the finance industry. Some are now employed by Barclays.

Evellyn dos Santos, an apprentice hired by Barclays in Sao Paulo, told us: “I now have a very different view of the world of work. I dream about getting into college. I have also arranged to receive English lessons from a colleague at the bank and I understand that I need to broaden my possibilities.”

To date, Barclays colleagues have invested nearly 3,500 hours in the partnership. They have been actively involved in the programme, volunteering their time and skills.

Make no mistake, establishing a new way of working in partnership is complex, and both organizations have learned a lot about bringing together two very different skill sets and cultures. However, we are united in our common goal of creating a new way in which to bring businesses and development agencies together to tackle the issues of development. One of our principal aims has been to move from the traditional model of philanthropic donation to one of shared engagement and delivery, and we are beginning to see the benefits of having made that shift.

I am acutely aware that Barclays has a huge responsibility to play our part in helping to create a stronger global economy. In forging this new paradigm, Barclays is applying its global capabilities to local challenges. We are enabling our local communities, and the young marginalized people who are growing up in them, to prosper.

Bob Diamond is the Chief Executive of Barclays PLC.

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