Making an Impact Together
Challenges and opportunities when working with other youth-led organizations
Hi there! We’re back again to give you an inside look at our youth-led organization! In our last blog, we wrote about the challenges and opportunities we face within our International Advocacy Program. This time, we want to focus on our Youth Leadership Program. Within this program we support and build the capacity of international youth-led organizations and youth leaders to successfully advocate for their sexual rights at the local, community and national level. We currently work together with partners in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, India and Indonesia. Our Youth Advocates visit our partners to facilitate trainings on topics such as Meaningful Youth Participation (MYP), advocacy and organizational development. With this blog, we invite you to peek behind the curtain as we talk about the challenges and opportunities we face when working with youth-led partner organization abroad.
To young people who are interested in doing volunteer work abroad, becoming a Youth Advocate at CHOICE might seem like a fun way to visit foreign countries. But, reality-check: facilitating trainings for our partner organizations in Africa and Asia is actually really hard work! In order to make any training week or advocacy meeting abroad a success, a lot of preparations are required. Youth Advocates often have a very short time to prepare for trainings, so the preparations can be stressful and time consuming. For some it is therefore a challenge to balance these preparations with school, university or other work.
In preparing the trainings, it’s very important to be aware of cultural differences. This can be a challenging task when traveling to countries with very different cultural and social contexts. Here in the Netherlands we are used to having our sexual and reproductive rights respected and to have access to youth-friendly health services. But our reality differs a lot from the difficult and often dangerous realities our partners experience. Therefore, before being able to discuss MYP and certain Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) topics, we need to be able to understand the local contexts of our partners. This is why we always try to adopt politically correct approaches within our trainings and to translate our knowledge and expertise to fit the different contexts.
Cultural differences may also lead to difficulties in communication. We tailor our trainings to the needs of our partner organization. To do so, our Youth Advocates engage in frequent e-mail and Skype communications with our partners in preparation of the training. Yet setting up Skype meetings can be challenging, as many of our partners are living in a different time-zone and experience technical problems with internet connections. Different cultures also means different ways of working when it comes to communication, deadlines and making appointments. During the trainings we sometimes work with a translator because of language incongruities. Working with a translator often slows down the pace of trainings and costs a lot of energy from everyone involved in the training.
Another challenge that we face when working with other youth-led organizations, is that youth-led partners from other countries are sometimes less established than Dutch youth organizations in terms of organizational structure. Our funders require us to achieve output, and the less established a partner is, the more uncertainty there is for CHOICE. We therefore must also choose to partner with organizations which have solid organizational structures in place and certain track-records. Many youth-led organizations, however, work on a voluntary basis and often have financial struggles. They are losing core funding or have difficulty receiving enough funding to cover their costs. It is a struggle many youth-led organizations face, and it would be a big loss if some of these organizations cease to exist. The instability and the high turnover that comes with being a young volunteer organization also limits their capacity building and can hinder knowledge transfer.
Despite of the challenges, working with other youth-led organizations is very rewarding! Attending a training or development workshop abroad is definitely the best way for Youth Advocates to get a better grasp of the work that CHOICE does within the Youth Leadership Program. Working with young people across the globe on improving SRHR is an amazing and inspiring experience. The energy our Youth Advocates get from other young people is very infectious. They are motivated, have strong opinions and engage in spicy discussions. It’s very inspiring to see the dedication, professionalism and ambition with which young people across the globe work on improving SRHR in their countries.
Our collaboration with other youth-led organizations is also a great opportunity to improve our personal development. Not many young people get the opportunity to travel abroad to facilitate a training and work with other youth-led organizations. By travelling to our partner’s countries to facilitate a training and through interacting with a large group of passionate young people, our Youth Advocates get to experience the local culture in a very close way. Because of their experiences, they get to improve their training skills and gain skills in intercultural communication, management, adaptability and teamwork. Youth Advocates receive the confidence and freedom from CHOICE to shape the trainings or meetings as they see fit. This trust gives a feeling of ownership and helps Youth Advocates to become more confident and empowered.
Most importantly, our interactions with other organizations are always based on the concept of mutual learning. We collaborate and share knowledge, as every organization has its own strengths and field of expertise. We are all standing side-by-side in trying to improve our SRHR and we work together in order to grow and find more efficient ways to achieve our goals. Our collaborations lead to the creation of a global youth-movement where we share information and experiences. Together, we reach a mutual understanding and find ways to grow as an organization and make a positive impact in the world.