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What is Youth Led Development?

[Summary: two short video interviews about Youth Led Development]

This weekend I had the pleasure of facilitating at the Department for International Development/Civil Society Organisations Youth Working Group 'Advocacy Action Planning Residential' alongside a fantastic team of young facilitators and supported by Daniel Smith from BYC.

One of the key themes running through the residential promoting wider funding of, support for, and research into the impact of, Youth Led Development. Too often in international development, young people are perceived as a 'problem to be solved' rather than a 'resource to be developed' and as leaders of change. Much as Positive Youth Development (PYD) models seek to convince policy makers to see young people as an asset rather than a problem in domestic youth policy making, the idea of Youth Led Development (YLD)* seeks to convince planners and funders of international development initiatives and schemes to draw upon the lived experience, enthusiasm and energy of young people to contribute to creating positive change in some of the most challenging settings in the world.

[*Ok – the language does confuse things a little – so for clarity: In PYD we're talking about the developmental journey of an individual, in YLD we're talking about development as in 'developing country']

Of course, to really get to the bottom of what Youth Led Development is all about it's best to ask people who are in the know – so I got out the video camera and took the opportunity to speak to Anna from Y-Care International and Deborah from Voluntary Service Overseas.

And if you prefer to read rather than watch – this definition written around the 2005 World Youth Congress captures some of the story:

What is Youth-led Development (YLD)? Simply, YLD is community projects devised and implemented by young people under the age of 25. They are generally grass-roots, small in size, and carried out mostly, but not exclusively, by youth volunteers. And why do we think YLD so essential to achieving the MDGs? Because nature dictates that youth have energy to spare and the eagerness to use it. Worldwide, young people are already dedicated to addressing their communities’ needs. And, because we young people are so keen to learn, we are happy to take our wages in experience rather than cash salaries. Thus, YLD offers the most cost effective development action. YLD also massively benefits the youth who do it. They learn invaluable project management, fund-raising and leadership skills, hugely boosting their employability. Being part of a successful project builds a young person’s confidence and raises their self-esteem to stratospheric levels.

And to close this post – a quote that my colleague Sarah Schulman uses as her e-mail signature:

“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” Robert Kennedy.