Bet on Young Leaders: Highlights from the YouthPower2 Symposium
“Young people are one of our best bets.” Such a simple yet significant statement from young leader and keynote speaker, Victor Mugo, who set the tone for two impactful days at the YouthPower2 Symposium “Straight from the Source: Perspectives on Effective Youth-Driven Programming.” On November 9th and 10th, 2021, young changemakers were front and center leading talks, exchanging ideas, and providing their unique perspectives on topics such as youth engagement, relationship building, and equitable representation in development.
The online Symposium engaged youth as equal partners in development by convening young leaders, youth-focused practitioners, USAID staff, and other donors to identify and discuss successes and challenges in youth development—from analyzing lessons learned to sharing Positive Youth Development (PYD) tools and strategies.
Engaging youth at this level is crucial because, as attendees learned in the “Decolonizing Development” session, youth are often not taken seriously as decision makers or as sources of valuable information unless they have specific credentials. The YouthPower2 Symposium validated the importance of young voices by giving youth an international platform to share their perspectives through a PYD lens.
Watch the video below to learn more about the insights of young leaders
“Recognizing youth agency means recognizing that young people take action in the transformation of society. As such they are actors, knowledge holders, and, also, innovators. Youth are the leaders of today,” said Daryna “Daria” Onyshko, program officer at Community of Democracies, during the Global LEAD session.
Day One of the Symposium included three tracks—food systems, health, and education—that acted as pillars to support the greater conversation of how youth led responses to COVID-19 in their communities. The tracks were the foundation for the deeper conversations on Day Two that focused on gaps and opportunities. Participants started the morning with a Youth Networking Pre-Session that transitioned to dynamic discussion on Youth Engagement and Relationship Building. Day Two’s tracks included how to address diversity, effective strategies for working together, and youth-led approaches.
As the final day of learning ended, Faith Suwilanji Kaoma, chief operations officer of Copper Rose Zambia said, one of the biggest reasons why we are not seeing youth-led organizations scale is “because no one is betting on young people.”
She explained in the “How Dare You Tell Me Hope is not an Indicator?” session that youth-led organizations lack some systems larger organizations have, such as auditing, because they lack the funding and the teams needed to put those systems in place. Organizations, like hers, often receive short-term funding—anywhere from six to 12 months—which makes it difficult to put sustainable practices in place and retain top talent.
She advocated for youth-led organizations to receive the same terms, including long-term funding, that are given to other organizations. Faith added, “You give them a $100,000 a year for five years or even more … A lot of our talent go to these other larger NGOs because obviously they compensate much better than we possibly could.”
How can your organization bet on youth? Explore our YouthPower2 Symposium Resource Page
The rich discussions from the Symposium do not have to end. We invite you to join discussions online in one of our active Communities of Practice. Visit our resources page below to replay this and other thought-provoking conversations, as well as to access resources from Symposium sessions.
Global LEAD Toolkit
Find resources to strengthen and expand youth-related programs and projects that help young people contribute to community development and collective action across sectors.