Monday, June 29, 2009

British Youth Council and Young UK Ambassadors

The British Youth Council was established in 1948 by the British Foreign Office in preparation for the World Assembly on Youth. Its original purpose was to unite young people in Britain against Communism.

Today the BYC works to support youth voice; it does so by training young people, consulting and leading campaigns on issues important to young people. One of the BYC's current campaigns, for example, is aimed at lowering the voting age to 16.

BYC trainers help organizations engage young people in leadership and prepare young people to participate in the governance of these organizations. One program, called "Youth4U - Young Inspectors," helps youth in disadvantaged communities influence the delivery of services in their communities.

Another new BYC initiative is the Young UK Ambassadors program, a partnership between the youth participation networks of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Young UK Ambassadors are a team of 15 youth who will represent the UK at international events.

The BYC website also includes a resource center, a calendar of events and a jobs section.

British Youth Council
Young UK Ambassadors

Sunday, June 28, 2009

5th Annual Participation Conference: Power or Tokenism? Young People, Money and Influence

The Regional Youth Work Unit Northeast, in the U.K., is holding its 5th annual conference for child and youth participation workers on July 9, 2009 in Wigan. Speakers include the Policy Manager at the National Youth Agency, and workshop topics include:
* Young People and Participatory Budgeting
* Involving Young People in Commissioning
* National Youth Leadership Body
* Young People’s Involvement in the Children’s Plan

Conference info

A different kind of charter school

A school in Leicestershire, England has created a student participation charter that lays out, in detail, the ways in which students will participate in the governance of the school. The document was created by two members of the local youth council with the support of the borough council and the county council, and will be piloted in a Leicestershire school with the support of a nearby college.

The Forward, written by Gareth Williams, the Director of Children and Young People’s Service for the county, acknowledges the link between student voice initiatives the a healthy democracy:
Encouraging young people to both understand the importance of democratic decision-making and also to develop the skills that go with participative democracy in our communities is a high priority for us.

The democratic life of our country is dependent on future generations playing a full and active part in their communities and making informed choices in elections.

The charter includes numerous criteria by which a school can gauge its commitment to student voice. Schools judged by the Healthy Schools Student Participation Quality Assurance Group to have achieved "advanced" status will receive a Student Participation in School Award. Examples of the criteria include:
11.4 Student Representatives will be involved with the appointment of staff and are suitably prepared for this work (understanding the processes, weighting given to their views and equal opportunities).

12.7 Students will be given the opportunity to be part of the quality assurance process for teaching and learning within the school.

Leicestershire Student and School Participation Charter

Involving children in international climate change policy

Here's a very exciting organization called "Children in a Changing Climate" (CCC) that is working to engage children and youth in climate change policy, research and advocacy.
Children in a Changing Climate is a global collaborative action-research, advocacy and learning programme that aims to secure children's influence in preventing and adapting to climate change at every level - from their families and communities to the United Nations climate change negotiations.
According to the website this effort came out of an action-research project that engaged children in the Phillipines and El Salvador in policymaking related to disasters and climate change. There's currently a link to an 11-minute film about children's involvement in advocacy in these countries. The film includes some words of wisdom from young mentors to adults on how to avoid being boring!

CCC will be launching individual research, policy, learning and action websites. There's also a link to sign up for an electronic newsletter.

Children in a Changing Climate

Here's a related article from the Institute for Development Studies: Putting Children and Future Generations at the Heart of Climate Change and Human Security

The role of intermediary organizations in sustaining student voice initiatives

There's an article in the current Teachers College Record by Dana Mitra of Penn State, describing the importance of outside organizations in sustaining student voice initiatives in schools. You have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing (about fifteen bucks a year, and well worth it), but here is the nickel version:
Findings/Results: The data indicate that the persistence of a student-voice effort after the initial influx of funds and support disappeared requires support from an intermediary organization (IO)—an organization located outside the auspices of school walls. IOs can help with fostering a clear and long-term vision, providing a more stable source of leadership, identifying ongoing financial and collaborative resources, and building a network for knowledge generation and sharing.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Although they are a part of many reform initiatives, partnerships with IOs are usually considered to be short-term relationships during the implementation phase of an initiative. This research instead suggests that IOs might be better suited as long-term partners in many change efforts. An awareness of the important roles that IOs can play in the long-term work toward change could help researchers, practitioners, and policy makers think more intentionally about how to plan for stabilizing such partnerships as an avenue toward sustaining reform initiatives.

The Role of Intermediary Organizations in Sustaining Student Voice Initiatives

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

African Youth & Governance Conference August 12-14, Ghana

The Youthbridge Foundation of Ghana is sponsoring an African Youth and Governance Conference in Accra, Ghana August 12-14. From the letter of invitation:

"The 3-day event is being organized to engage the youth in Africa in development dialogue with other stakeholders on governance in African countries and the continent as a whole. It will also have highlights on the ratification of the African Youth Charter and the Africa Union’s declaration of Decade of Youth Development in Africa."

The conference will be organized around three themes:
• Policy
• Participation and Empowerment
• Mobilization in Africa.

Registration closes July 6. For more information visit TakingITGlobal or the conference website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tunisian President touts youth engagement efforts

In an interview with Mark Newton, of the Oxford Business Group, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali discussed some of his administration's accomplishments with respect to youth civic engagement. Among other things, President Ben Ali noted that the minimum age for membership in Parliament and municipal councils had been lowered to 23, and the voting age was lowered from 20 to 18.

According to President Ben Ali, hundreds of thousands of Tunisian youth participated in the government's "Dialogue with Youth" program in 2008, which seeks to include youth voices in policy development. The dialog led to the creation of a "Youth Pact," under which a commission will be established to formulate a national strategy for youth policy. Political participation of young people will be a key area of focus. President Ben Ali states,

I am convinced that involving youth in making decisions and in conceiving and formulating policy can only deepen their sense of responsibility.

Ben Ali: We have managed to accomplish a number of significant achievements in Tunisia

Monday, June 22, 2009

Singing in the Istanbul rain

A hundred and fifty young people from across the world were invited to the fourth World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey this past March. Unfortunately, they experienced the kind of treatment from the political leaders that is too often experienced by young people trying to make a difference. According to Emilie O'Herne, one of the young forum participants,

"Across the world, the younger generations are patronisingly patted on the head by their seniors for taking an interest in global issues - if as much - and then efficiently ignored. There is little that quite boosts a politician's popularity like playing the "I love youth" card, but to actually listen to them seems out of the question. Youth involvement in this domain has become a nasty piece of tokenism in which young people are invited for the sake of being invited and nothing more. It is simply not enough."

Fortunately, Emilie and her young colleagues refused to be ignored at the conference and were able to get some attention. And despite her frustration, Emilie offers these words to other youth:

"[W]e should not be discouraged even if we are turned down; after all, live to fight another day and one day soon you will be old enough to be taken seriously."

Singing in the Istanbul rain

Zuma observes anniversary of students' uprising on 'Youth Day'

Durban, South Africa, June 16: While honoring the young people who died protesting apartheid 33 years ago, South African President Jacob Zuma promised that the country's National Youth Development Agency would "assist in promoting youth participation in democratic processes, community and civic decision-making and development at all levels."

Zuma observes anniversary of students' uprising on 'Youth Day'

Looks like some in South Africa have their doubts about this agency, however.

Participation Works

Continuing in the international vein, one fantastic resource I've found on youth and child participation is the Participation Works portal operated by six national children and young people's agencies in the United Kingdom. Participation Works provides information about events, jobs, new publications, news and professional networks for "participation workers."

The "Topics" page, for example, includes links to resources in the areas of Arts & Creativity, Early Years, Governance, Learning and Research, Measuring Change, Policy, Rights, Standards, and many others.

Even if you don't live in the U.K. it's got lots of useful links and resources.

Participation Works

Moroccan youth eager to participate in communal elections

Note: This refers to elections that took place in Morocco June 12, but it's still pretty interesting.

Communal elections were held recently in Morocco. As the elections approached, observers noted a major difference from the last national poll. In 2007, young people seemed apathetic. This time, however, many young Moroccans planned to vote, or even stand for election themselves.

Some young Moroccans were skeptical:

“Whether we go to the ballot boxes or not, whether we defended our own existence and run in the elections or not, the situation will be the same,” university student Rachid complains.

“It's the same old clich├ęs – democracy, change, transparency, and service of public interests – which can be seen in all party slogans and speeches by their leaders, but we don't see any implementation on the ground,” he says.

Others are more hopeful:

“Participation in communal elections this year represents a break with the past,” Younes Naoumi tells Magharebia. “It's also an opportunity for young people to defy the stereotype that some people give us as the weak link in building Moroccan society.”

Naoumi is among 25 candidates under 30 years old who will be on the ballot June 12th for local leadership positions in the Hay Mohammedi neighbourhood of Casablanca. He has a strong desire to change the traditional image of communal advisor because, to his view, communal officials have consistently failed to achieve the goals and needs of their constituents.

Morocco's National Institute for Youth and Democracy (NIYD) offered training and support for the young candidates. About forty young men and women were accompanied during the campaign by NIYD experts who advised them to be tolerant and to respect their competitors, and not to make false promises.

Moroccan youth eager to participate in communal elections

Young entrepreneurs lend voices to improve employment for Arab youth

"In a new three-way collaboration, Silatech, the British Council and the Qatari Students Network brought together 50 young entrepreneurs from across the Arab world and the UK to lend their voices to efforts to improve the employment prospects for young people in the region."

Powerful collaboration on Arab youth employment