12 August 2014, International Youth Day:
It’s 7am in El Salvador
Jacinto was up at 6 to take the bus 3 miles to reach his local Plan office. He logs on and begins the call using Google Translate while he waits for his supporting staff member. “Hola!” “Hola!” replies the group.
It’s 9am in the USA
Sara is skyping in on her mobile on her way to school.
Every other Tuesday the Global Youth Advisory Panel meet via Skype to discuss all matters relating to the roll out of Plan’s global strategy on engaging young people in internal decision-making.
Despite the different time zones, dodgy internet connections, language barriers and travel difficulties, this inspirational group of 8 young people come together every 2 weeks to support each other, share learning from their countries, help to develop organisational tools and guidance, and hold me to account.
It’s 1pm in Sierra Leone
After several failed attempts to connect on Skype we call Kamanda in on his cell phone.
“Sorry, the internet’s down and I’m in the middle of a workshop. The Port Loko youth advisory panel are devising a play about the dangers of Ebola; we’re taking it out to schools and communities next week,” he says.
It’s 2pm in the UK
Simone is on her gap year and takes her lunch break from the sandwich shop she works in, timing it so she can join the call.
This incredibly motivated and committed group of young people have played a central role in the development of Plan’s youth engagement in decision-making strategy and continue to provide unique insights on the development of ‘how to’ guidance.
The group discuss everything from how many hours a week is realistic for young people to volunteer for Plan to what tools Plan’s country management teams need in order to open up their decision-making spaces.
Plan has to lead by example. In our post-Millennium Development Goal positioning we are pushing for greater youth participation in the new development framework. We recognise that whilst 43% of the world’s population is under the age of 25, their thoughts and concerns have often gone unheard by national and global leaders.
We believe that young people have the right to be heard in development debates and that they have bright, creative ideas about how to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Internally, Plan makes decisions on a daily basis that directly affect the lives of millions of young people and we are slowly opening up these decision-making spaces to ensure we support their right to participate. Equally importantly, we believe that their opinions will help us to make better decisions about how we spend our resources.
This is about organisational transformation. So while we know it will take time and it will take resources, the benefits for the organisation and for the young people will be incredible.
It’s 3pm in Sweden and Norway
“So, what do you guys think about the list I sent for the youth trustee pack?” says Tova. “Can we include something about training the adults on speaking in accessible language?” says Frida. Both Tova and Frida are trustees of Plan.
It’s 4pm in Uganda
Frank has cycled 2 miles to Plan’s programme unit in Kamuli to join the call. There seems to be a chicken having a party in the background.
Like so many of the young people Plan works with, Frank had a challenging upbringing, leaving school at 14 to support his brothers and sisters after his parents died. Frank is back in school and so proud to be representing Plan’s East and Southern Africa region on the Global Youth Advisory Panel. He was selected by his peers and, like his global peers, he brings that raw perspective founded in real-life experience.
The Global Youth Advisory Panel is part of a youth engagement movement inspiring change across the organisation. There are now 24 national panels directly engaging in Plan's governance, and we are working towards the ambitious target of all offices having a panel by 2020.
The impact of youth engagement can be felt from the very grassroots level of the organisation right up to Plan's highest decision-making body, the Members' Assembly, where we now have 2 seats for youth observers.
I feel very privileged to call the members of the global panel my colleagues – they are the reason I joined Plan. We're showing that we're an organisation that believes in putting children and young people at the heart of what we do; that we're ready to be challenged by the young people we aim to serve.
It’s nearly 10pm in Indonesia
Having enthused the group about the fantastic progress being made with Plan Indonesia’s new national youth advisory panel; Agung is struggling to keep his eyes open and I am mindful of time.
So, until next time...adios, and Happy International Youth Day!
International Youth Day is celebrated across the world every 12 August.