Supporting youth leadership

By Global Fund for Children | June 10, 2020 | Africa & The Middle East, Asia, Europe & Eurasia, The Americas | Youth Empowerment

By Corey Oser, Kulsoom Khan, and Katie Fuhs
This story was originally published in Feedback Labs.

Global Fund for Children envisions a future where all children and youth are safe, strong, and valued. As a public foundation based in Washington, DC, Global Fund for Children provides flexible funding, capacity development support, and network strengthening activities to partner organizations that help children and youth reach their full potential and advance their rights. Global Fund for Children is committed to raising youth voices and ensuring that young people inform their work. In order to support this vision, they developed a Youth Leadership Council to serve as advisers to Global Fund for Children. By creating space for young people to participate in their work, Global Fund for Children hopes to model power-shifting practices for their partners, inspiring them to create space for young people to lead, contribute feedback, and take on meaningful roles in their organizations.

As the Youth Leadership Council takes shape, Global Fund for Children is navigating questions of how to engage the Youth Leadership Council in a meaningful, non-tokenistic way; how to include youth voices beyond the council; and how to support their grantee partners to shift power to young leaders. Global Fund for Children came to the LabStorm for guidance on these questions. Here is what attendees had to say.

Focus on accessibility.

In order to find new members for the Youth Leadership Council, the Youth Leadership Council develops a Call for Membership. Candidates are reviewed by a group of Youth Leadership Council members and Global Fund for Children staff collaboratively, and Youth Leadership Council members make the final selection. This process puts Youth Leadership Council members at the center of decision-making and upholds Global Fund for Children’s mission to empower youth.

LabStorm attendees commended the selection process, but also noted that it could be made more accessible in the application stage. The Call for Membership is shared publicly, but may miss certain groups, such as youth who lack internet access, or youth who are not connected to Global Fund for Children’s networks.

In order to make the Call for Membership accessible to these groups, Global Fund for Children could create national youth chapters of the Council. Each of these chapters would be responsible for outreach to the diverse youth groups in their own country – whether it is through social media, flyers, radio, or personal outreach.

Another option that LabStorm attendees identified was adding sub-members to the Youth Leadership Council to support and report back on groups with less accessibility.

Integrate the Council with the organization’s leadership.

In order to integrate youth voice in all aspects of their work, LabStorm attendees encouraged Global Fund for Children to build connections between the Board, the staff, and the Youth Leadership Council members. LabStorm attendees noted that Global Fund for Children could include the full Youth Leadership Council in certain Board meetings or have Youth Leadership Council members serve on a Board committee.

Mentorship is another route to meaningful engagement. LabStorm attendees suggested that each of Youth Leadership Council’s committees could have a specific Global Fund for Children staff as their point of contact to support their work. Global Fund for Children could also invite Board members to individually mentor Youth Leadership Council members during their service on the Council.

Identify why shifting power is challenging and lead by example.

Global Fund for Children seeks to model power-shifting practices and inspire their partners to create space for young people to lead. However, even as Global Fund for Children models power shifts with initiatives such as the Youth Leadership Council, not all of their partners have been able to follow suit.

LabStorm attendees recommended that Global Fund for Children start by identifying why shifting power is a challenge for their partners. Perhaps it is not an issue of inspiration, but rather staff time, funding, cultural norms, or something else all together. By asking partner organizations what challenges stand in their way of shifting power to youth, Global Fund for Children can get a better idea of how to lead them towards shifting power.

This LabStorm reminded us of the importance of continually iterating stakeholder engagement efforts. Global Fund for Children is continually improving their Youth Leadership Council model to be more accessible and impactful. Do you have experience managing stakeholder councils? Send a message to [email protected].

Header photo: Mete Coban, Chair of the Youth Leadership Council, meets with the GFC team. © GFC

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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