For a Renaissance to happen in Africa and result in a more positive future, it is critical to groom and prepares young people for the responsibility they carry at present and into the future. The wise men say “the future fails to happen not because we failed to plan for it but because we failed to imagine it”. Albert Einstein concluded that “imagination is more important than knowledge”. Thus it is important to help young people to imagine the future, plan for it, and be equipped to handle it. In April 2012, the global YMCA movement, under the leadership of the World Alliance of YMCAs, re-dedicated the YMCA’s work to be youth-focused, stating “...We, therefore, choose to collectively stand for youth empowerment” through global coordination and cooperation, to support young people to realise their individual and collective potential for personal development and strengthening communities. Africa will have a larger working-age population than India or China in the next 50 years. Thirteen countries in Africa will host approximately 74% of the population with over half being young people, living in cities or urban areas. Yet, currently, the YMCA barely reaches even 1% of the African youth population. Moving this ever-increasing number from subject to citizen towards the African Renaissance will indeed be a huge challenge. There must be strategies in place for YMCAs to reach young men and women far and wide across the continent, irrespective of gender, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, ethnicity or race. YMCAs must attract more young people, create safe and empowering spaces for them, and build a critical pool of facilitators to support young people. Young men and women who have an inherent quest for personal significance and contribution to something bigger than themselves must find places for articulation. Adult leaders have an important role to play in facilitating this for young people. Young people too need to negotiate, persuade and constantly remind leaders of their priorities. This is true in their communities, at the local and national level, as well as within the YMCA movement. YMCAs in Africa have a duty and responsibility to sensitise African leaders while simultaneously equipping young people to identify priorities, improve their livelihood and be responsible citizens in the present and for the future. In this strategic period, YMCAs in Africa will seek out and build relationships from local to continental levels with youth-serving organisations and youth groups, formal and informal, to increase reach and impact in the lives of young people. This is detailed in this first pillar of the strategy. The Youth Empowerment pillar focuses on three key outcomes. The achievement of these outcomes is the responsibility of YMCA at local and national levels, and at the continental level by AAYMCA. The expectation is that all parties work closely and in harmony. These outcomes and indicators of achievement are described overleaf.
- At least 1 million youth able and committed to lead, engage, and influence governance practice for improved opportunities for young people and Africa
- African YMCAs as safe, inclusive spaces for diverse groups of young people’s ideas and initiatives
- AAYMCA capacitates member movements to deliver coordinated youth empowerment initiatives contributing to the African Renaissance
- Young African citizens driving cultural, social, economic and political change from community to international levels
- 17 member movements implement programmes aligned to the S2C philosophy Staff and volunteers’ capacity enhanced to implement and support youth-focused programmes
- By 2018 Africa YMCAs mobilise at least 1 million young people every year to effect change.
The desire to be a strong, stable, credible and relevant actor in Africa’s development for the long-term is motivation for the alliance of African YMCAs to reflect on their purpose; in so doing there must necessarily be a change in culture, shifting how and why the YMCAs conduct business. In the last strategic period, African YMCAs agreed on the need for a distinct approach to enhance sustainability.
The AAYMCA developed a model which is touted as an important tool for sustainability. The Economic Model offers a clear link between the YMCAs brick-and-mortar assets with the vision-and-mission focus of youth empowerment. This second pillar of the strategic plan focuses on the YMCAs’ institutional readiness for a paradigm shift to achieve the goals in pillar 1 to actualise the ideals of the Economic Model. To do so, the national movements need to address several distinct yet connected issues. These include: dead capital, human resources, membership, visibility as a credible youth agency, and membership, visibility as a credible youth agency, and building and strengthening external relations through networking and partnerships.
Reviving Dead Capital
African YMCAs are renowned for the facilities and properties they own to generate revenue. Frankly though, most YMCA facilities and properties yield significantly below their optimal revenues. In the last strategic period, the observation made was that “almost all the YMCAs in Africa have dead buildings, underutilised facilities and huge logbook of unexploited assets” and that this was “a hindrance to financial stability”. Many YMCAs sought strategies to capitalise on the existing assets, facilities and properties. Some successfully undertook property valuations, renovated facilities, acquired or developed new ones. National movements acknowledge that this is still a work in progress but are also cognisant of the efforts taken by the AAYMCA to date. In this strategic period, the alliance of African YMCAs will focus strategically on reviving “dead capital”, creating the YMCAs as a social enterprise, generating revenue and surplus income for the special purpose of youth empowerment in Africa.
Human Capital Development
Surveys undertaken in the last strategic period indicated that adequate and highly skilled human resources is critical for YMCAs’ effective institutional performance. YMCAs further identified a need to review recruitment strategies and staff compensation. One of the changes at the national movements that has been attributed to AAYMCA’s efforts in the last strategic period was the improvement in the governance, leadership, and management practice of the national movements. This has resulted in stronger volunteer leadership and improved management of human capital within the YMCA. However, weak governance and leadership at the national movements was still identified as a key challenge. This warrants increased investment to reach the volunteers and staff at local levels too. A firm foundation at local level will inevitably enhance the performance at national level.
Continental Visibility and Membership
The alliance of African YMCAs has the ambition to grow in influence as a strong, sustainable, mission-driven continental movement. In order to do so there must be increased visibility of the YMCAs in the current jurisdictions and also an increase in geographical coverage. To do so effectively requires the increase in numbers of individual and corporate membership at local and national level. The challenge of how to establish new national councils in Africa is alleviated in part by the increasing trends of philanthropy and volunteerism in Africa. Research by Trust Africa/ Association of Grant makers indicates that individuals, corporations and communities in Africa are increasingly interested in organised volunteer action and organised giving. Thus, the need for YMCAs to devise strategies for strengthening weak or emerging YMCAs as well as to establish new YMCAs across
Build Strategic Networks and Partnerships
As a grass-roots based international organisation, the alliance of African YMCAs must proactively interest local communities in the important mission work of the YMCA. As established earlier in this document, the investment in youth in Africa can only yield returns if the actors are dedicated and influence young people for Africa to continue rising. This requires the involvement of adults who may be political, religious, opinion leaders or parents. The YMCA is well-suited to equip them all to strengthen their engagement with young people. A successful YMCA will be one that makes the paradigm shift from being project-oriented to mission-driven in its operations. In this strategic period, the AAYMCA will focus on equipping national movements to make this significant shift. National movements will, in turn, apply themselves, mobilise their membership and draw in new members and new insights on how to operate optimally through this mind-shift. There is no doubt that African YMCAs must begin to do things differently to be self-sustaining, credible organisations. This pillar on Sustainable YMCAs focuses on two key outcomes. The achievement of these outcomes is the responsibility of YMCA at local and national levels, and at the continental level by the AAYMCA. The expectation is that all parties work closely and in harmony in applying the AAYMCA Economic Model. These outcomes and indicators of achievement are described below.