The benefits of promoting a Youth Led approach

10/06/2020 – Direct from the Fight for Peace coordinated UP Unity & Peace programme in Kingston Jamaica, Country Lead Kellie Magnus talks to us about the multiple benefits of promoting youth leadership, both for the personal development of our young people and for the strengthening of our work.

“Putting a youth council together within a collective impact framework comes with its challenges. Unlike at a Fight for Peace Academy, in our programme, young people are rarely in the same physical space, they may come from different communities and often don’t have a shared experience. Ordinarily these young people may never meet because they are doing a different activity related to our programme in a different location. This can make creating cohesion between groups difficult to generate in the first instance.

Nevertheless, the benefits of promoting youth leadership for both young people and for us as an organisation are huge and, through the energy and drive of key young people that we are working with, and a recent opportunity presented by our partners UNICEF to work on a research project, our Youth Council is striding forward, paying dividends for us all.

Our Youth Council members are drawn from across the six communities in which we work and we currently have eight youth councillors who, in normal non-COVID-19 times, meet up to twice a month. They represent our different activities and we try to ensure that they are balanced in terms of gender and age.

The group recently completed a very exciting collaborative project with UNICEF which involved creating a vital directory of services for children and families in Jamaica. Lots of services are based in Kingston and so for people living outside of the capital, it can be difficult to get information on what’s available. Our young people were responsible for researching and writing entries in the directory, which includes services for young people with disabilities and those who have been victims of violence, prior to it being edited and published.

Along with the professional experience the opportunity offered, participating young people received payment, as well as laptops and cellphones. The project made use of young people’s skill sets, was a way for them to get work experience and earn money and a way for us as an organisation to respond to urgent needs in the sector. Parents, social workers and NGOs across the country are able to use this directory, and it is especially important  for those in rural areas that are not as connected to services in Kingston, our capital.

The benefits of promoting youth leadership in this and other ways are multiple. It enables us to create opportunities for young people, but it also makes us more honest as an organisation and ensures that our programme is much more responsive to young people’s needs. It means we are always plugged into young people and their thoughts and needs, and when we do that it is always to our advantage. The Youth Council itself is also an opportunity to connect communities that typically have rivalries between them.

When we create opportunities for young people to have leadership roles in our programmes it functions as a personal development initiative. We have young people who have become really strong in Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, we have young people supporting us as coaching assistants and with graphic design and other services. Any contribution young people make to the project strengthens their role in it, develops their leadership skills and, with the knowledge they gain about the work we do, they become stronger advocates for the programme in our respective communities, helping to broaden the impact of UP Unity & Peace further.”