The Youth Lab


This 52INSIGHTS rounds up some the latest in youth conversations and culture in the context of Covid-19 response and digital behaviours.


While socialising has become a bigger priority as lockdowns lift, young people are still very much concerned and having conversations about their future. International students studying in the US have fallen victim to Trump’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through ICE, Trump hit back at Universities seeking to safely manage the pandemic by offering online classes by banning international students from staying in the country if they were only undertaking classes online in the autumn. Naturally, this has left many young students in unforeseen and difficult situations - trying to renegotiate leases/travel plans, studying across different time zones, and facing the reality that they may likely be disadvantaged in their ability to return to the states and their education. Many students have been speaking out about the decision online and organising petitions to reverse the decision.

I regret coming here for a better education. It's so cruel to uproot lives in the middle of a pandemic over reasons entirely beyond our control. Everything is so uncertain and I’ve never felt less like a human being. #StudentBan @DivyaAvnoor

On a more positive note, digital connectivity is helping students embrace current realities and find new ways of doing things. While the college experience in autumn 2020 won’t be what they know as the ‘normal’ experience, it will still be an exciting new experience:

“I’m starting a masters in Eindhoven in September. I don’t know if I will be spending most of my time in my bedroom, but I do know that students will still find a way to connect and socialise. One student has already set up an Instagram account where students can share a picture of themselves and introduce themselves - it is like an e-intro before we actually physically make our way onto campus.” - Joanna Siewierska, outgoing Student Union President, UCD, Ireland, 23


Thanks to lockdowns, the world of home entertainment is having a major moment. Covid-19 has loudly reinforced the importance of the role of entertainment, arts and culture in people's day-to-day lives.

From museum exhibits to music, we are seeing the era of ‘live’ come into its own. On Friday 17 July, Tate will host the first online Late at Tate Britain. Curated by young people, for young people, Late at Tate Britain is a gathering space for experimentation and idea generation. In one piece, the multidisciplinary femme-focused platform HERVISIONS invites viewers to make their own face filter with artist Huntrezz - considering what reality and identity mean in the age of social media. Huntrezz will also discuss how she engages with activism through her practice.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen streaming platforms gain great success. Most recently, Disney+ streaming hit Broadway musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda has driven huge online conversation. Last weekend, according to figures from the analytics company Apptopia (the same weekend the filmed version of the hit Broadway musical went live on Disney’s streaming service), downloads of the app were 74% higher than the average of the last four weekends of June 2020. In the US alone, 458,796 mobile devices downloaded the app.

“I was so excited to see Hamilton was coming onto Disney+! I’ve seen the stage show twice and can’t imagine that it will live up to that but I’ll take what I can get while theatres are closed! I think it’s a good way to make the arts more accessible to everyone if done well but hope if anything it makes people more excited about going to a real theatre. The performing arts are really struggling at the moment, especially theatres and putting pressures on them to put shows online. Hopefully a platform like Disney+ can encourage interest in buying tickets and seeing live shows when we can again. I think the incredible quality of online entertainment from sites like Netflix means we expect a lot more from more traditional media (like BBC) and live art.” Michelle, 27, UK


"But a truth has been exposed by the tumultuous events of 2020: there is no normal to return to...actually, “normal” is what got us to this point in the first place. If we are going to evolve, to a place of greater fairness and safety for our planet and its people, our future cannot look exactly like our past. We are going to need a genuine rethink about many areas of our lives. Our attitudes, our priorities, our compassion. What and how we consume. What we stand for and how we voice it." Edward Enninful, Editor, Vogue

As we continue our own work with industry initiative The Great Reset, we are observing many conversations and initiatives around the theme of ‘resetting.’ Instead of a cover star, British Vogue’s August 2020 issue spotlights “the UK’s remarkable (and inherently fragile) natural beauty, with 14 renowned photographers and artists capturing landscapes that nod to the ‘reset’ theme in the wake of the pandemic.” This has inspired a new version of the Vogue cover social media challenge. The challenge, inspired by the nature-filled covers of the magazine’s latest edition, see’s social media users put the Vogue logo over stunning pictures of landscapes and nature-inspired imagery.

Elsewhere, business-oriented reset-themed conversations continue with the exposure of fast fashion brand Boohoo’s practises of modern slavery. Those passionate about the cause are drawing attention to the issues with social media posts. Other fashion brands are getting involved in the conversation around industry practises - Lucy and Yak, for example, hosted an Instagram live this week on unethical manufacturing.


We are loving Ziwe Fumudoh’s Instagram Live show, where she interviews guests about race. She asks questions like “How many Black people do you know?” “Did your family own slaves?” and “When you say Black people, do you capitalize the B?” Ziwe’s recent guests include Caroline Calloway and Rose McGowan.

“It’s just thinking, ‘What is the most absurd hyperbolic question that I can confront someone with and how do I make them look me in the eyes and either say an answer or not say anything at all?’ … I am just a Black woman who is an artist in 2020 during one of the biggest civil rights fights of a generation.”” Ziwe, 28

In fact comedy has been one of the saviours of lockdown for younger generations. A recent report found that ‘funny content’ was in the top three factors that have helped Gen Z through lockdown;

We asked Gen Z to list the top three factors that have helped them through lockdown so far. Friends and family came out highest - with 63% citing these, followed by funny content (mentioned by 50%).” Helen Rose, the7stars.


  • Young people are facing increasing challenges and anxieties about the future. There are major concerns when it comes to education and future job prospects. How could you help youth cope with this reality, upskill or embrace alternative education experiences in helpful or exciting ways?
  • Young people involved in the arts & culture sector are seriously struggling right now, but are also using their creative skills to inspire and reimagine new ways for people to interact with art. Digital live art experiences are an inspiring space for connection and inspiration.
  • The ‘reset’ conversation is having ripple effects across nearly all industries now. How will your brand or company play its part in resetting for the better? Have you had the conversation about your ‘great reset’ agenda yet?
  • Humour is an essential coping mechanism and powerful communications tool. Don’t be afraid to explore it with unique themes and topics. Here is some thinking on laughter as a strategy for driving deeper insights in strange times.

See also


TW: this article addresses themes of violence toward black people and the murder of George Floyd.


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