Amanda (she, her, hers)
This story is part of ‘Resourcing youth-led groups and movements: a reflective playbook for donors and youth organisers.’ You may listen to and/or read Amanda’s story down below or jump to the proposed exercises for donors or to those for youth-led groups and movements.
In the format of three journal entries, this story shares the experience of Amanda, co-founder and co-leader of Engajamundo, a youth-led movement in Brazil.
As she transitions out of the leadership position of Engajamundo, Amanda shares three moments of powerful and difficult learning.
You may also listen to and share this story on SoundCloud and YouTube
“Today I feel discouraged. Within the last eight months, three of my best friends and colleagues have taken corporate jobs.
I understand them. For the last year and a half, the work with Engajamundo has been constant, uncertain and… unpaid. I understand why a well-paid job is so necessary and appealing. We are all exhausted.
But it has also been amazing. We have had so much fun, learned so much. I don’t want to give up. Working alongside young people in Brazil and getting organised to address social and environmental challenges collectively feels right to me.
I am sad about the team changing, but maybe there is a lesson that we need to learn…
The only way for us to continue dedicating ourselves to Engajamundo and build a solid team is to recognise that we also need to sustain ourselves. We might not earn super well, but we need to earn something. We need to learn how to value our work.
In the last year and a half, we managed to fundraise for a delegation of four young people to participate in our first international conference, COP19 on climate change in Warsaw; we also have volunteers working from the five regions of Brazil, and we’ve facilitated a South America youth convening, the JUVENSUR…
We need to make sure that our partners recognise our work. We are not just a bunch of young people doing volunteer work.
To sustain Engajamundo we need to create more solid organisational systems. If we go from project to project, we are left with no time to train our team, create systems of internal and external communication… We need to give priority to creating a solid foundation for our work.
We need to convince ourselves this is also important work.”
Lost in the SDG contract
“So much has been going on! For the last six months, we have not had a breathing moment. When we accepted the contract to design this week-long event on the SDGs, we thought it would be a good opportunity to resource our organisation and get more visibility. This is the biggest contract we have managed yet. Getting hired as consultants meant we would be able to generate income for three of our team members for six months.
We did not realise it would take all of our time. All of it.
What bothers me the most is not just that the work is demanding. The relationship with our contractor is unbearable. It has changed the vibe at Engajamundo. Instead of feeling like we are co-creating an event, we feel that we are just contractors executing somebody else’s vision with no way to put our own creativity and heart into it. It feels so different from the work that we are used to. So different from the work we love doing.
I am so ready for this to be over…”
Many youth-led groups and movements are deciding to work with partners as consultants. Earning revenues from contracts implies that when the contract is over the group would be able to allocate their earning without restrictions.
This being said, as Amanda shares, being contracted could imply that a youth-led group or movement is not allowed to be an equal partner in the design of a product, service, or initiative.
“I can’t express how many emotions have been stirring in me at the idea of transitioning out of Engajamundo.
Engajamundo has been my home for six years. It has been a space for me to grow, learn, meet people, discover Brazil, contribute.
I do trust that Engajamundo is ready to have a new team. Most of all, I trust the decision that Engajamundo would be best managed by a team under 30.
I feel a bit lost thinking about it. Empty, confused, scared. Where am I going next?
I also feel proud. I feel proud of how much I have learned about myself, about working with a team in a way that feels healthy, about engaging and learning with other young people in Brazil.
Now the challenge is to let go gracefully. And thoughtfully.
How are we going to recruit a new team in an inclusive and diverse way? What are the important criteria to recruit new team members? The political context in Brazil is so hard right now; will the new team be able to navigate it?
How are we going to make sure we transfer all the organisational knowledge?
Will the new team members be able to retain the relationships we have built with donors?”
Exercises for donors, allies and enablers
Contracting youth-led groups and movements
Amanda was excited about doing interesting work and earning some revenue. The advantage of working on a project as a contractor could be that once the terms and conditions of the contract have been met, and the contract is paid out, the youth-led group or movement does not have to report on how they spend the payment they receive. Yet she had a very tough time engaging as a contractor.
If you contract or subcontract youth-led groups or movements: how could you improve the experience of youth-led groups and less-established organisations and movements working with you as a contractor or subcontractor?
Create a list of questions that you can explore in an interview or conversation to help understand the expectations of your contractors.
How could we shift the relationship with youth-led groups and movements away from subcontracting to becoming more equal partners? What could it look like to provide your partners with the agency to exercise their creativity and mobilise their work in ways that feel more authentic?
Talking core values
We can make improvements in our systems if we open up more radical and honest conversations. Youth groups and movements are more amenable to these reflective practices and we increasingly celebrate them for it. As a donor, ally, or enabler, how can you show up in more radical and honest ways?
Engage in a frank conversation with your team about the core values of your institution. You can structure the conversation by organising a talking circle around the values of your institution. Consider these questions as guidance:
>> How would you describe the ego of our organisation and how does it manifest in our partnerships with youth-led groups and movements?
>> What are the specific practices or ways of seeing the world that are behind the resources we provide?
>> Are there ways of working or ideas behind our organisation that I disagree with or would like to change?
A talking circle is a tradition of Indigenous people of North America. It is used to resolve conflict and create a state of shared power. Each person has the same importance in the circle.
Quick guidelines for hosting a talking circle: Decide who will be hosting the circle and introducing the process; speak one at the time – you can use a special object such as a talking stick and pass it around; introduce the circle as a space to explore ideas that will remain for now in this space, unless you agree to take further actions; speak from the heart and listen from the heart; don’t plan what you are saying, be present with the conversation and express what you feel and think when it is the time to speak; use first-person language; don’t generalise.
Exercises for youth-led groups and movements
The emotions behind our work
Can you identify the emotions that Amanda is feeling related to the various aspects of resourcing expressed across the three journal entries?
Circle the emotions that you could identify using Robert Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel.
Do you have regular practices to express your emotions and engage in dialogue around the work that you do with your friends and colleagues?
To experiment with one example of practice, you can host a talking circle to share how people are feeling about the resourcing of your work
Moments of change or crisis
What have been the moments of change or crisis in your organisation? Can you identify three moments of strong change, crisis, or transformation in your group? Reflect on these three moments:
|How would you title this moment?||What happened? Describe what happened.||What were the resourcing elements or implications during this moment?||What made it possible to overcome this moment?||What did you or your group or movement learn?|
How can you communicate with donors or contractors more openly about the type of relationship that you wish to develop with them? What could make it easier for you to feel comfortable about speaking openly with donors or contractors?
Create a list of guidelines about your expectations and offerings, such as values and practices, to share with potential donors and contractors.
Who manages the relationship with donors and partners in your group or movement? Imagine that this person was to leave the organisation in six months. Design a strategy to transition the relationship to other people.
Consider whether the relationship could be more diffused in your group of movement.
As inspiration, here are some of the activities that Engajamundo did during her leadership transition:
Write a letter to donors introducing the new person.
Invite donors to a team training.
Have two people in charge of each relationship with a partner or donor.
Other stories and exercises
Did you do some of the exercises above? How did the story of Amanda inspire you to view your role as a donor or youth organiser differently? You can let us know your thoughts by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These and other exercises and stories are also available in the pdf version of ‘Resourcing youth-led groups and movements: a reflective playbook for donors and youth organisers.’