1. THE VISION
The YMCA worldwide has a shared commitment to Youth Empowerment—in local YMCAs, in national contexts–and around the world. We believe we can do more and be more effective in Youth Empowerment. We believe that with a global focus on Youth Empowerment we can bring positive life changing experiences to young people worldwide. Strategic leadership and coordination is vital for our success in reaching and mobilising more young people.
The emerging vision for Youth Empowerment in Action comes from our research within the YMCA and from extensive years of programme practice of all YMCAs. We see that the YMCA has a unique and exciting role in Youth Empowerment worldwide. This unique role has significant value in three fields – Our Image and Impact, Our Programmes, and Our Scale. We believe that the YMCA has an underlying ‘theory of change’ in all we do. Based on our learning, we are now able to present a framework for a change model based on our common reality and goals in youth empowerment. We believe this framework will guide us to fulfill our collective potential for a global impact as a YMCA movement worldwide and as an organizational leader in youth empowerment.
Through Youth Empowerment, the combined and interconnected value of our image and impact, our programmes, and our scale will create energy to make a difference, contribute to a cause, and foster change on a scale of significance. The YMCA will stand for Youth Empowerment–and with increased visibility, capacity and impact locally and globally—we will become a thought leader and reference point on young people .
We draw inspiration from out roots and from our heritage. We also build on the work of our predecessors. “The YMCA is a world-wide Christian, ecumenical, voluntary movement” and this change model is built on our Christian values and principles. The Youth Empowerment framework and change model is open for young people of all backgrounds, faith, and cultures. The YMCA seeks to serve all young people unconditionally.
2. THE CHANGE MODEL
Youth Empowerment in Action is the YMCA change process. This change process is youth led, youth focused and youth determined and leads to a change of circumstances, abilities, and opportunities for action. Every day YMCAs are acting in local communities to empower and change young peoples’ experiences and opportunities. Young people in many countries are engaged in leadership, in programmes, in governance, and as advocates for change. The YMCA has a long history and a vast expertise in programmes ranging from Subject to Citizen (S2C) in Africa, to YMCA Lideres in Latin America and the Caribbean, to Peace and Reconciliation and Ten Sing in Europe, to Vocational Training in the Middle East, to School of Peace in Asia and Youth Parliament in the Pacific, Youth Peace Network in Canada, Youth in Government in the USA, Global Citzenship –this is just the beginning of a mass mobilisation of young people with common hopes, aspirations, and cause for change.
In the NEW WAY Strategy, the World Alliance of YMCAs launched a research process to begin to identify the common understanding of youth empowerment.
In this first phase, interviews took place with 71 key leaders of the world YMCA family in September 2011. These interviews included senior staff- NGS/CEOs and volunteers, young staff and volunteer leaders.
This process is developing new learning of who we are as a global movement and how we are creating impact in youth empowerment.
Based on these interviews and this learning about who we are and what we do, young volunteer leaders crafted a common definition of how we as a YMCA movement worldwide understand youth empowerment, as follows:
“To give youth the platform and tools they need (whatever that may be, depending on the young person’s starting point) to feel needed, trusted, and able to believe in possibilities, to further trust themselves to lead and believe they can make a difference, thereby becoming a change maker in the world.”
This definition is giving clarity and a new understanding to the YMCA process for Youth Empowerment. This framework and change model has 3 three key components:
The YMCA will be an empowering, creative and self determined space for young people to experience life, discover their potential and develop their talents.
The YMCA will empower young people by offering tools for self-development, training for life skills, education for increased knowledge and self-esteem, which leads to:
Young people will have impact on their own life situation, their local society as well as the global world, individually as well as collectively.
 Theory of Change definition: A theory of change states the assumptions about the process through which change will occur, and specifies the ways in which all of the required early and intermediate outcomes related to achieving the desired long-term change will be brought about and documented as they occur. The core elements of a Theory of Change are: 1. A Pathway of change that illustrates the relationship between a variety of outcomes that are each thought of as pre-conditions of the long-term goal. 2. Indicators that are defined to be specific enough to measure success. 3. Interventions that are used to bring about each of the pre-conditions on the pathway, and at each step of the pathway.4. Assumptions to explain why the whole theory makes sense. (Source: Aspen Institute)