Youth Explorer expanded into tool for services mapping and referrals

Image: Megan Rexazin on Pixabay.

The development of the Youth Explorer by SALDRU researchers in collaboration with OpenUp and government partners began four years ago. When the portal was launched in 2017, its main aim was to help grow a coherent, quantitative understanding of the multiple deprivations experienced by young people in South Africa – e.g. income poverty; low educational outcomes; limited access to post-school education, training and employment; poor health; inadequate living standards – and of how these intersect in their lives. Such a detailed understanding of deprivation at different geographical levels is considered key to development efforts to support young people: it helps to inform youth-specific poverty and inequality interventions that aim to address these deprivations.

Since 2019, the portal has become an important tool for the Basic Package of Support (BPS) research team and project partners to understand and visualise the demographics of, and deprivations experienced by, young people aged 15 – 24 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). The BPS, an activation programme for young people who are NEET, is part of the current critical focus on youth in the national policy environment, including the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI).

One component of the PYEI is the National Pathway Management ‘Network of networks’ (NPMN) that will be coordinated by the Department of Employment and Labour, which aims to “create more jobs and opportunities for youth in the formal, informal and social economy; drive system changes that addresses barriers and supports inclusive hiring and reduced unemployment; and link youth to opportunities and to support – inclusively and for free”.

Image: Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, National Pathway Management Network, May 2021.


A database of government services for young people

The collaboration between the BPS, the NPMN, and the PYEI brought to the fore the value of further developing the Youth Explorer to include verified data on youth-specific government and other services. Providing verified data on service provision in a young person’s area is a critical component of both the BPS and NPMN approach to help connect young people to the services and opportunities relevant for their own needs and unique circumstances.

Since 2020, large amounts of data on government-provided services are being gathered collaboratively by SALDRU and OpenUp, supported by the PYEI and its partners. This was made possible by additional funding from the Capacity Building Programme for Employment Promotion (CBPEP) – a key BPS partner funded by the European Union and based in the Government Technical Advisory Centre – and, more recently, also from the World Bank. Going forward, further financial support will be provided by the Agence Française de Développement as part of the Research Facility on Inequality funded by the European Union.

The information on services is collected in close collaboration with different government departments, and includes the location, accessibility and details of the services offered. SALDRU is responsible for managing the data gathering and verification process, including the cleaning and formatting of the data. This then feeds into a central database of youth-relevant service provision, accessible to the PYEI partners.

The database includes, for example, details on labour centres, schools and higher education institutions, social services like South African Social Security Agency offices, National Youth Development Agency offices, libraries, and public health facilities.


Mapping services data on the Youth Explorer

One application of this database, which SALDRU is spearheading, is the mapping of these service points on the re-developed Youth Explorer website. Researchers, non-profit organisations, the media and members of the public, especially those working with and supporting young people, will be able to map or look up services for specific locations. The data can also be downloaded from the website.

This innovation of “mapping the services available to young people in every community, to identify gaps and target our interventions to the areas of greatest need” was referred to by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his response to the parliamentary debate on the 2021 State of the Nation Address.

In addition, protocols are in place to give the relevant departments and PYEI partners access to the complete, verified database and to develop youth-facing applications, such as, that bring the relevant information directly to young people.


Using the Youth Explorer to identify gaps and to target interventions

The new version of the Youth Explorer now presents point data information on a range of services crucial to supporting youth, alongside data on well-being or deprivation among the youth cohort at various geographical levels. This means that the portal can illustrate where service provision seems imbalanced, allowing for a first-level gap analysis between the profile of young people in a community and available support services in the area. For example, the location of institutes of higher learning in a certain area in relation to the proportion of young people with matric in the same area (Map 1).

Map 1: Location of institutes of higher learning and proportion of young people with matric, in Steve Tshwete Municipality. Youth Explorer (2021).

In other words, the Youth Explorer in its new format provides an understanding of what the youth cohort in a particular municipality looks like, and of the inequities in socio-economic outcomes and service delivery that exist between different communities within the municipality. Understanding the level of education and various deprivations that these youth would potentially enter a post-schooling learning or job opportunity with, thus can indicate the kind of additional support that they may need.


Using the Youth Explorer to provide guidance to young people

In addition to providing the basis for such a first-level gap analysis, the portal will also allow users to view specific information on service provision at the local level. For example, details on a labour centre that were collected and verified in collaboration with the Department of Employment and Labour (Map 2).

Map 2: Information on Michells Plain labour centre. Youth Explorer (2021).

BPS guidance counsellors and mobilisers working with youth – as well as other civil society organisations – can use the Youth Explorer to refer young people to these available services in their immediate surroundings and beyond.

However, further in-person verification of service points may be needed to confirm their locations and the provision of services that are listed on the portal. Therefore, various forms of in-person data collection and verification will be tested in the coming months.

Starting with the first BPS pilot area – Atlantis in the Western Cape – in-person verification of services is currently underway in collaboration with a fieldwork company, Field Innovations, and with support from the Capacity Building Programme for Employment Promotion and the Western Cape Government. This work will be continued by the BPS mobilisers during the pilot, which is planned to start in the second half of 2021. Additional and verified information will be used to update to the central youth services database and for notification to relevant departments.

Read more about the BPS pilot.

Basic Package of Support: short video explaining the intervention from a participant’s perspective.

BPSY dialogue: eight short videos on what South Africa’s youth face and need during the transition from education to employment.

The BPS initiative is led by SALDRU at the University of Cape Town in partnership with:

  • The Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg
  • The National Pathway Management Network, a pillar of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention
  • The Jobs Fund
  • The Capacity Building Programme for Employment Promotion funded by the European Union, and based in the Government Technical Advisory Centre, National Treasury
  • The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Africa
  • Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, University of Cape Town
  • OpenUp
  • DG Murray Trust
  • Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator
  • The World Bank
  • Western Cape Government
  • Western Cape Economic Development Partnership
  • City of Cape Town
  • City of Johannesburg