2021 Reflections By Elisa Novoa, Enhle Khumalo and Leonardo Párraga
Thanks to the richness and power that the CIVICUS Youth communities hold, the CIVICUS Youth coordination team learned and built up our practices in 2021 around:
- How to run a genuinely inclusive recruitment process by shifting the decision-making power
- How to bring onboard new members and transfer information in an effective way
- How to create opportunities and spaces for networking and visibility
- How to create a culture of peer accountability and solidarity
The following series shares the learnings and reflections encountered by the CIVICUS Youth team during 2021 while engaging with our different youth communities. We want to show the challenges and possibilities of meaningfully engaging young people to promote stronger civic spaces.
The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic left many learnings for civil society practitioners working to foster a culture of collaboration and solidarity among like-minded people and groups. The CIVICUS Youth coordination team is one of those groups of practitioners that aims to strengthen youth civic participation following innovative, dynamic, and peer-support approaches. The following reflections include experiences about creating a culture of accountability, inclusion, and resilience with a membership of 3400+ young civil society actors from 150 countries. CIVICUS youth communities are based in multiple time zones, work on diverse topics and have a wide range of different needs and expectations, adding extra layers of complexity to our youth engagement practices.
The two central communities of CIVICUS Youth are the Youth Action Team (YAT) and Youth Action Lab (YAL). YAT serves as a leadership body setting the agenda for the CIVICUS Youth members and interfacing with the CIVICUS Secretariat and Board of directors advocating for meaningful youth engagement in the alliance. The second one, the Youth Action Lab (YAL) exists to test models and approaches to better engage and support young individual activists and youth-led collectives or movements with non-youth focused organisations. The YAL offers financial and in-kind resources to make their activism more effective, resilient, and sustainable. In 2022, a new community of Young Ambassadors will be launched to bring all these learnings from youth power to national youth networks.
In the first quarter of the year, we started recruiting the 2021 cohortsof the YAT and the YAL with a one-month gap and two different objectives and target audiences. One group is formed by young activists belonging to national or regional networks of young people - primarily well-established or registered – (Youth Action Team). The second one is integrated by outstanding and brave individual activists from unregistered associations, collectives, or movements who have not received funds so far and have not participated in an international forum before.
In the second quarter, we continued onboarding the successful young candidates(11 from the YAL and 13 from the YAT). Due to travel restrictions, these processes happened online using simultaneous interpretation and communication platforms such as Zoom, e-mail, WhatsApp and Google Drive.
In the third quarter, we focused on networking opportunities among the groups and external stakeholders to grow their networks and visibility. These efforts used different virtual event formats and dynamics adapted to the specific objectives of each meeting and audience.
In the fourth quarter, we saw the outcomes of the efforts put into trust and community building through group evaluation and check-in sessions. Activists were being very transparent about their progress, challenges, and availability to continue with the teams, and we saw expressions of team solidarity and peer support without the intervention of the Youth coordination team.
We hope you enjoy reading about our experiences. These would not have been possible without all of you – members, partners, friends in the non-for profit and justice seeking groups and organisations. 2022 will be a year of showcasing the inspiring work, achievements and struggles members of the Youth Action Lab faced in 2021. Hope to see you there and have the opportunity to meet them or connect with them again.