Making youth policy happen – from local to global

Leon, Mexico – 8th – 11th April, 2013
The latest youth policy symposia took place in Leon, Mexico with 50 youth-led organisations, movements, professionals and activists critiquing the current state of youth participation across the region and working together to outline solutions for improving the involvement of young people in decision making. The event worked towards mapping current practice, crowd sourcing common barriers and then considering the use, value and application of existing models of participation and current practice across the region. The symposium had three clear objectives: • • • Share and learn from others Explore existing models of youth participation Generate new ideas to make youth participation more inclusive and effective

The programme
Time 09:00 Tuesday 9th April Opening & Introduction Format: Plenary Welcome, ambitions, expectations, programme & aims Coffee break Our stories & experience Format: Workshop & Plenary Personal vision, success & challenges of youth participation Lunch Our stories & experience Format: Workshop & Plenary Market Place of practical approaches, offers and wanted Tea break Emerging issues Format: World Café What are the questions for discussion? Wednesday 10th April Facing the barriers Format: World Café Exploring the barriers to participation at a local, national, regional & global level Coffee break Understanding solutions Format: Open space Showcasing different youth participation models Lunch Understanding solutions Format: Open space Offering solutions & critiquing them Departures 16:30 17:00 Tea break Understanding solutions Format: Open space Offering solutions & critiquing them Thursday 11th April Conclusions Format: Plenary Summary & Reflection of solutions, critique & way forward Coffee break Closing event Format: Plenary The next step, evaluation and piñata

11:00 11:30

13:00 14:00

Closing Lunch


Who’s in the room?
The diversity of the event, with participants from Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Haiti, Colombia, Bahamas, Europe and Africa, brought different experiences, solutions and thinking about the role and participation of young Central & South Americans in decisions made locally, nationally and globally and about global youth events worldwide. You can view a full, interactive mapping of all the participants at:

The process
The event was ambitious in trialling an alternative approach to youth participation conferences. The journey explored youth participation through:

Visions > Successes & Challenges > Questions for exploration > Open space solutions
The aim of this approach was to avoid the outcomes of the event being traditional ‘recommendations’ in a communiqué style driven by facilitators. Rather, the expertise and experiences of practioners in the room should be the focus and the role of facilitators to host the conversations. The open space style frees participants to engage in the conversations they want to, rather than what the programme demands, and put the onus of outcomes on individuals

Visions of better youth participation
• Rethink the models of youth participation. • Follow up! • Mainstream of youth issues in policy. • Question and innovate the traditional policy- making process.


• Be clear about proposals, what exactly are we trying to change? What decisions? • To be a part of technical implementation of policies. • It’s very important to educate people about the decision we’re involved in and what can be changed? • Access to opportunities at local level processes • How do you include by including (less talking, more action)?! • Young people are agents of change. • Youth diversity participation. • Challenges to transform youth participation into concrete actions. • Links between local, national and global. • Decentralisation / allocation of functions to specific audience. • Accountability of decision-makers. The successes of participation were also shared with the group but these will not be listed in this report.

The challenges to youth participation
Young people’s participation is a complex, political and unstable working environment. Below are the key issues that emerged from the group:


Questions for exploration
From the visions and challenges, a series of questions and issues emerged. These were discussed and prioritised in a world café forum. Some of the key questions were: • • • • • • • • • • • How do we define youth? What is the role of the state? Protecting and supporting rights? Young people also need to be accountable. Young people are responsible too. The structural conditions of youth participation Does youth participation in international events really make a difference to young people’s lives? How do we move between local, national and global levels as they are interconnected? Do we know what success looks like? Do we agree? How should we measure it? How can we grow participation structures organically? How do we build upon what’s working? Empowering young people means others letting go of power. What does this mean for how we work? What is the reality of the use of social media for youth participation? Political influencing – ‘Soft’ versus ‘hard’ approaches?

World Café
The world café allows for everyone’s to engage in small group discussions about each question meaning everyone has an opportunity to input but in a smaller forum. What is success and how is it measured? • “The key thing to measure is the change.” • First we have to decide what success means. E.g. The difference the project made in the long term or the happiness of people involved in the process. What can be measured? • Who is involved in making the indicators? Good participation includes this too. • Important to measure motivations and perceptions and how they change, and also what people go on to do. • What real connection can be made to change in formal policy? How do we ensure participation of young people with fewer opportunities? • Partnerships! Work with organisations who reach out to young people with fewer opportunities – admit you can’t do it all! • Start at community level. Know your community, build trust, understand exclusion and challenge it. • Youth work and non-formal education needs investment and support. • Never assume you know young people’s needs or views are. • Look seriously at migration and other challenges to inclusion of all young people – what does this mean for global governance?


What needs to happen for governments and decision-making institutions to give away power and meaningfully involve young people? • Young people need to be included at the beginning of the process, including setting the agenda. • We need to work on political will and keep working on it as decision-makers change. We need to keep making the case for youth as well as try to mainstream participation. • We need to educate ourselves in the language of young people. • Parliament representatives should attend sessions of youth councils. • Use the UNCRC as an instrument for advocacy and action. • Be persistent, have high expectations and be confident not to accept what governments offer if it is not meaningful. Working with complexity and chaos • In a rapidly changing world we can’t just assume that old models will work now. • Structures make us feel comfortable. Structures can nurture our ideas / projects but they can also get in the way of allowing projects to evolve and develop in better more responsive ways. • One way to work with complexity is to try lots of things out and measure and evaluate their impact, gradually increasing them. If a negative shift happens, why did it happen? Is there a tipping point? • Acknowledge that each of our experiences and contexts might be different. • Small interventions can have a big impact, and our actions can have unintended consequences • Solutions can be counter-intuitive

Open space conversations
From these questions, over 13 open space discussion groups emerged. Over an afternoon and morning, each group had the opportunity to discuss their issue and propose solutions. The aim of the sessions was not to report back to the main group for adoption of outcomes, but simply to offer a space so that discussion could inform subsequent professional practice after the event. One outcome that was the ‘Leon-Checklist.’ Case study: Leon Checklist Despite ‘millions of dollars’ being spent annually on global youth events, questions emerged over their effectiveness and the real improvement they bring to the lives of children and young people as a whole. The organisation, quality and inclusiveness of global youth events are often key to their success, yet many seem to be falling below the expected standards. The ‘Leon checklist’ is a set of indicators setting out the pre, during and post facets of youth events that need to be incorporated into the design, delivery and evaluation of the event to meet the international standards. The checklist could act not only as a guide for organisers, but also by participants to critique the event and hold organisers to account. The checklist was present by Action Aid and UNAIDS and the conversation will be taken forward over the following months online.


Summary of links and resources
Here is a summary of the links, resources and ways to engage in the discussion beyond the Mexico event. • Here is a full mapping visualisation1 of the participants attending the symposium. It includes details about their organisation, experience of participation, the challenges they face, the things they can offer and what they would find useful to better participation in their work. • • • • • • • • You can also download the full Participant List2 here. A copy of the Final outline programme3 and the Final facilitator programme4 and Event Slides5 can also be downloaded. Photos are available here.6 Here is a list of all the participation resources7 used, mentioned and critiqued throughout the symposium. The ‘Who’s who?’ gives a snapshot picture of the participants at the symposium, where they are from and the participation challenges they face. Follow and join all the discussion from the symposium using #YPSMex on twitter. Check out this nice visual tweet show here. Watch Ricardo, Ashley, Angel and Maria share their thoughts and expectations about the symposium. The full video produced by HixMedia is also available.

Evaluation quotes
The key benefit of the event for individuals was the networking opportunity, followed by discussing the challenges relating to participation and the showcasing of organisations. All evaluation respondents agreed that these events were useful, providing they are run well, and that the facilitation was effective for this event.
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6 7


Outcomes “The entire symposium was a learning experience, but what I really took away from it is a new outlook on youth.” “The main outcome for my organisation was being given the opportunity to share our youth participation model during the workshop segment; and learning about different approaches that can be utilized to foster youth participation throughout the Caribbean.” “From my experience, spaces where you can meet other people from around the world are always good platforms for dialogue and learning. The challenge is how to make the most out of them.” The approach “I think the methodology employed by the organizers has been really effective in achieving generate contact and exchange of material labor among all forum participants.” “It was an innovative and fun way to explore different experiences, challenges and stories of success regarding youth participation.” “Thank you very much for a well organised, interesting, inspiring and exciting few days!” Room for improvement “The symposium can be improved in regards with the organization of the whole event and expenditures.” “It is very important to start engaging participants prior to the event and to have a clear program delivered at least two weeks before.” “I felt the focus was at times a little vague, I wasn't always sure why we were doing some of the activities we were doing.”

The symposium “Making youth policy happen – from local to global. A critique of current practice in international youth participation” was co-organised by the British Council and the Open Society Foundations, IDEA Mexico and the British Youth Council. Thanks to the IDEA Mexico volunteers for all their help and support. This report was compiled by the British Youth Council.


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