If you only read one thing this week…

Culture and Context: Capacity Building for Youth Led Social Change by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 1, 2006, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book reviews, If you have time for longer reading!

Following the identification of youth as a strategic priority, Jana Potter, Mercy Corps’ Middle East regional Youth Programming Officer recommends a great resource for youth programming from the Collaborative Fund for Youth-Led Social Change (CFYS).

CFYS grew out of an effort of funders and youth practitioners to support work at the intersection of youth development and youth organizing and empowerment. They undertook a five year study of twelve U.S. youth organizations in an effort to understand what factors and practices characterize organizations that put youth at the center. The researchers recognized that to truly engage young people requires understanding, (1) how they identify themselves; (2) the strengths (and limitations) of the organizational model; and (3) the context of the community in which the youth live. The key understandings can be summed up as understanding and acting within the cultural context of participant youth.

By exploring a combination of youth development, youth organizing, and identity-based work, organizations involved in CFYS discovered that creating new strategies is about more than simply adding youth organizing activities to youth development work, or adding a youth development focus to youth organizing work. This discovery has led to the exploration of new approaches to youth-led social change, including ones that: (1) Address youth-identified needs; (2) Link individual development to larger societal issues; (3) Use the arts and youth popular culture as a means of creative political expression; (4) Work more deeply and broadly with youth; and (5) Work to change power structures, societal values, and community culture. A youth centered practice challenges the stereotypical hierarchical, donor driven non-profit organization which, in the words of the report, “too often embodies the basic imbalances of power and stereotypes they seek to overcome.”

The report is organized into three books, which you can download as free PDFs here.

Book One: Stories and Lessons from the Field abstracts lessons learned.

Book Two: Capacity Building for Youth Led Social Change is an invaluable resource for those of us working to build authentic youth organizations with the potential for effecting sustainable social change positively impacting the lives of youth participants. (If you can read only one thing this week, start with Book Two.)

Book Three: Voices from the Field is a collection of stories from the participating youth organizations which provides an insightful presentation of how oral histories can impact and inform capacity building and organizational development.

For more information, you can contact Jana at jpotter (at) mercycorps (dot) org.


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