Continuing Impact magazine’s Youth Takeover, PSI President and CEO Karl Hofmann invited International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) Youth Pre-Conference Co-Chairs Jillian Gedeon and Dr. Catherine Baye-Easton to pen his longstanding column The Last Word, which details how to approach development differently. Here’s their take on what young people really need to transform their lives, communities and countries.
Since our introduction to the international family planning community at ICFP in 2013, we have witnessed a shift in family planning development. Programs, conversations and national and international conferences like ICFP 2018 have made an effort to include youth to an extent that we actually didn’t see coming (but hope we had something to do with). Overall, the family planning community gets an ‘A’ for acknowledging youth leadership. It’s been enlightening and inspiring, but we’re voracious advocates who want to see more.
As youth, we’re thankful that the family planning community is on the right track. But we have to go further. How? By disrupting two specific norms: empowering youth beyond family planning and changing the way we fund things.
Consider a young person who attends a meeting and gains tangible skills and networks, but goes back home to face political, environmental, structural, cultural and/or war-related barriers stopping practical application of these newly acquired skills. In this case, our work with this youth hits a wall and that potential is never realized.
When we commit to supporting youth empowerment through family planning, we have to acknowledge what happens beyond the initial support. Without an enabling environment for that young person to continue growing into a contributing member of society, our investments no longer yield the greatest return.
So what do we suggest? Donors and organizations should work together. You cannot simply invest in one area of development in silos and be done. It is imperative that you support other agencies and initiatives so that, together, we are solving the world’s problems using a holistic approach. Did someone say demographic dividend?
YOUTH NEED AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT TO TACKLE AND CHANGE PARADIGMS. AND DEVELOPMENT CAN DRIVE THIS.
So donors, we want you to disrupt the existing structures and fast-track this paradigm shift.
Traditionally, donors lead the agenda and the development we see around the world. But we want the decisions to be made from the ground-up. Rather than approaching nonprofit funding the traditional way and telling organizations how a specific project should be carried out in a specific region, we should do the reverse.
Let’s take a page out of for-profit initiatives and approach donors like we would investors. We pitch to you. We tell you the expected return. You use your connections and your expertise to help us get there, and we hustle on the ground to ensure we reach our goals, together.
Let’s turn the whole nonprofit industry on its head to ensure that voices on the ground are the ones determining what is being done, the timeline at which it’s being done and why it’s necessary to do it.
We’ve come a long way. But let’s go further, together.
Banner photo credit: PSI/Kim Case Burns