One of the biggest challenges to quality education in Mexico is the lack or devaluation of alternative educational models for advancing job readiness and youth wellbeing, especially for youth not in employment, education or training (NEET or opportunity youth). When Ashoka took on the task of mapping best practices transforming education in the country in 2017, the NGO identified an IYF initiative reaching NEETs with a holistic, youth-to-youth approach.

Orale: Orienting Youth to the World of Work, an initiative of IYF in partnership with the TK Foundation, received an Education Innovation Award for strengthening Mexico’s educational sector by providing better and greater opportunities for vulnerable young people to gain the skills they need to become agents of change in their communities. Ashoka selected awardees according to their innovation, proven impact, and potential for systemic change.

The Orale initiative, which closed at the end of the year, aligned with Ashoka’s and IYF’s understanding that transforming education goes beyond traditional ways of teaching. Orale was based on a positive youth development approach that integrated a comprehensive training in life and job skills for at-risk-youth, led by young professionals who serve as peer trainers and mentors. Working with local partners in Leon, Tijuana, and Guadalajara, the initiative recognized youth as assets in their own development. This approach represents a transition away from conventional methodologies and toward fostering healthy relationships, engaging youth as a source of positive change.

The study on the results, Transformative Education in Mexico: 21 Cases of Innovation in Education, was presented last fall in Colombia at the 1st Meeting of Transformative Education: Reinventing Education in Latin America. The four-day event brought together over 300 global leaders from academia, business, civil society, journalists, and social entrepreneurs, who shared good practices and knowledge with the aim of fostering a change in the conversation about education in the region.

Judith Hermosillo, Project Manager for Vinculos y Redes, an IYF local partner for Orale, received the prize on behalf of the initiative. “This award confirms that when we think and speak about, and work for education, we shouldn’t just view it as something exclusive for conventional schools. We must also build and promote innovative spaces for community-based, peer education.”

Andrea Padilla is an IYF Program Officer in Mexico.