The YP Foundation is not unusual in the fact that it works with young people, what is unusual is the approach that has been taken to how young people can engage in processes of social change and social justice. We feel that purpose of becoming an ‘organization’, when we were born as a movement of young people, was to strengthen our ability to build bridges across youth movements and advocate for effective policy and accountability processes. This approach varies to those developed and implemented by most youth led initiatives, for the following reasons:
Challenging Youth Led Work Being Labelled a ‘Hobby’
Youth led organizations are not seen as professionally stable and able to produce qualitative and quantitative data that can contribute to the economic and social discourse of young people’s movements or their health and rights. TYPF is working with young people on producing youth led data and specifically monitoring and developing evaluation mechanisms in the organization that ensure that young people have the skills and tools to concretize and share data as an evidence base from their work with policy makers who consider the same in their work.
Overcoming the Lack of Data on Young People’s Needs
Considering the lack of global, national and regional data on young people’s needs and effective strategies on impacting behaviour change, it is critical that youth organizing factor into its capacity design, strategies for impact evaluation that can chart behaviour change outcomes. This is challenging in the research field in general and it is important for young people to work in partnership with adult organizations and experienced researchers to develop the same.
Bringing Together Diverse Networks of Young People
The organization is designed to work with Human Rights in an intersectional way; the multispectral design of our six programmes ensures that there is cross cutting work happening by young people within the institution across several different movements. This strengthens the collective impact and social change outcomes in work being done as well as ensures that conversations that challenge behaviour and values are not retained within a specific network but are shared across the board. This includes having the unique flexibility to bring together diverse networks of young people to lobby for collective causes, building stronger bridges between youth movements.
Strengthening Inter Generational Dialogue
There is a serious disconnect between a younger generation of women working in social change movements and the older generation of feminists and activists from the women’s movement. TYPF makes a concerted effort in both strategy and execution to build partnerships and work as a part of alliances and global and local levels that encourage young people to meet, exchange ideas and learn from older women in the movement. Working with young people in entirety, we have the opportunity of expanding these spaces to work with both young women and men.
These inter generational linkages are important because most youth movements are not cognizant of the socio-political and economic history of what activists and women’s organizations have build and therefore, do not have the benefit of that experience or understanding of that history. For women’s movements, these will eventually die out if conversations are not expanded to challenge stereotypes and include younger women within the same.
Challenging What Leadership Is
The traditional understanding of being an ‘expert’ and ‘leader’ on young people’s issues is that a young person needs to be ‘adult’ in their experience of youth issues, i.e., have a high level of wisdom, content and experience in being able to effectively input on these issues. This ideally means that young people either cannot participate in giving concrete inputs to policy and programming (as they do not have this ‘expert’ experience) or alternatively, their participation is tokenistic.
We have challenged the ideas behind meaningful participation by engaging young people with local experience in their communities with specific forums at policy levels that could benefit from the same. In this process, we encourage young people to build productive relationships with different stakeholders and help them strengthen the content and impact of their messages and voices. These are further strategized and carried forward at both local and global levels.
Strengthening Young People’s Advocacy Skills
TYPF does not advocate from the perspective of presuming to know what is needed ‘for all young people’, but advocates for basic rights and information that all young people are entitled to. We also train young people on strengthening their advocacy skills and help them bridge and build these critical relationships, maintaining that our primary impact and importance continues to be at local levels, in our own communities. An increasing part of this learning is also teaching young people to monitor and input the commitments made by their governments on health and financing for development and funding a ‘rights based approach’.