In recent months, Fight for Peace’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team has been checking in on the impact of some of the personal development and leadership programmes that run at our London Academy. In particular, monitoring work has been done with the Lutadoras and Man Talk personal development groups, as well as our Youth Council.
MEL is integral to our work at Fight for Peace as it allows us to understand the impact we are having, hear about the experiences of young people accessing our services, and ensure that we are always learning and improving so that we deliver the very best support to our members.
Our two personal development groups, Lutadoras (all female), and Man Talk (all male) come together weekly to discuss issues of importance to participating young people. The Fight for Peace Youth Council, meanwhile, is a body of young people who develop leadership skills and abilities, represent their peers and our organisation, and create space for young people’s voices and influence to be heard and acted upon.
In looking into the impact of Lutadoras, the MEL team used participatory evaluation, based on storytelling, bringing out intimate reflections on the part of the young people participating.
“The space allowed people to really open up”, said Katie-Wambui Kings, who coordinates the group. “It was impressive. Everyone was given space and that added to the feeling of safety.”
“The young people were able to really open up, not just with Katie and I but with each other,” added Maria Gomes, who runs the weekly Lutadoras session with Katie. “It was very emotional but it was great to see them open up and share, knowing that this is a safe and appropriate place to do this.”
A number of interesting reflections came out of this session, namely the importance of residential trips – like one undertaken by the group in 2021 to a female only boxing gym in Yorkshire – in strengthening the identity of the group, and that belonging to a group over a long period of time is a key element that enables personal growth.
Lutadoras members also expressed the vital need to come together to process grief for the people we have lost in our lives. In talking about this, participants also underlined the importance of finding a space where they can talk about things that are unspoken, for example grief, and physical and mental health issues.
The evaluation of Man Talk took the form of a focused discussion carried out during a regular weekly session.
One participant described the sessions as “a space where we feel comfortable to express thoughts that we couldn’t express somewhere else.”
“I like how sessions flow and we can improvise,” added another participant. “It goes into a mad conversation and we learn a lot from it. It’s not a one-way process, participants steer the conversation and add things.”
These sessions include discussions on a broad range of topics and issues affecting young men. In the past these have included what it means to be a man, burn out and feeling overwhelmed, the role of men in society, relationships and different cultures, and how men show emotions.
One of the young people taking part in the focused discussion underlined the importance of belonging that the group brings: “I was not used to walking into a room full of strangers. But as I started coming here, I experienced a sense of solidarity among men, and I have been able to see other people’s views and learn from them. You find some similarities and some differences. It’s a space that has given me a different insight on the things I want in life.
When it came to assessing the impact of the Youth Council and its work in developing leadership, young people were asked a series of questions in survey form.
The results showed that young people felt more confident, more capable of sharing ideas and had better access to opportunities to lead as a result of being part of the Youth Council.
The survey answers also revealed that we have some work to do in ensuring that youth councillors voice and influence is a meaningful part of decision making processes at Fight for Peace, and that recommendations and ideas are fully implemented as part of our work.
This learning comes as a new Fight for Peace Youth Leadership strategy, which has been co-created by young people, and is due to be launched.
Among the objectives of the strategy are the development of leadership skills among young people, the development of understanding of youth leadership among Fight for Peace staff members and the creation of space for young people’s voices to be heard and acted upon. This promises very exciting times to come for Fight for Peace and our young leaders!
The learning generated by MEL interventions such as these, part of ongoing monitoring and evaluation at Fight for Peace, provides a rich basis for us as an organisation to better understand the services we offer, their impact, and the improvements we can make to ensure the very best design and delivery of our programmes.
The Fight for Peace Youth Council is currently recruiting new members, stay tuned on our social media channels for full information! Lutadoras (Thursdays) and Man Talk (Wednesdays) sessions run every week at our London Academy at 5pm with anyone aged 14-25 most welcome to attend!
Photography: Lily Mae (@99CLIQS)