Engaging young people in decision-making, the YouthBank way

Vois-Africa, YouthBank International (YBI) and the East-Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) hosted a one-day workshop at the Golden Tulip Hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya. Its purpose was to introduce the YouthBank concept to various representatives from organizations in Kenya that work with young people. Some of these organizations were founded by young people who, through their organizations and foundations, pay it forward and address issues that they feel passionate about that impact youths.

According to YouthBank International, “A YouthBank is a youth-led grant-making organization or programme within a host organization, which channels money into projects that will improve the quality of life of local communities. It is also a process and way of working with young grant-makers that encourages and trains them as they develop essential life skills as well as increase their employability capabilities. Local YouthBanks are run by young people for young people wherever they are. YouthBank is unique in that it puts money directly into the hands of young people who decide on how it will be spent.” (www.youthbankinternational.org).

The room was a buzz with music and the chatter of young people. To avoid the confinement of a rigid workshop-style set up, there were fun group activities provided for interactive learning purposes. Young people engaged in group discussions, shared professional experiences and personal stories. They also received networking opportunities for further engagement beyond the workshop.

The workshop began by unpacking the reasons why young people give. There are different influences that ultimately determine the decision to give or not to give. For example, each person has gone through their own life experiences that have shaped their values which form the basis of decision-making. Other giving criteria suggested included the extent to which a problem is understood which speaks to how clearly it was communicated, how far-reaching the impact of the problem is, and whether or not the solution (giving) will be sustainable.

 

What stood out the most for us was the extent of the involvement of young people in development. Vois-Africa believes that young people are significantly contributing to developmental change on the African continent. The exchange of professional experiences and personal stories re-affirmed that young people are creating their own footprint in philanthropy, in their different industries. However, the narratives that exist that document these stories are few and far between. It is through Vois-Africa assuming the role of convener that we hope to bring more young people together in this manner throughout the continent; to relate their stories and empower each other. The spreading of these narratives will shift and change incorrect perceptions of giving in Africa, break down stereotypes about the involvement of young people in philanthropy and development, and motivate others to actively participate.

We walked away feeling optimistic about the impact of the workshop and looking forward to the next steps in conducting a detailed training on establishing YouthBanks in Kenya. This initative goes beyond putting money into the hands of young people, but also giving them direct decision-making power and skills, whilst uplifting their communities.

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