As an active member of the Alliance for International Youth Development (AIYD), Plan International USA applauds USAID on the launch of the Youth in Development Policy! Along with many others in the development community, Plan has been anxiously awaiting the Policy’s launch. Plan’s work focuses on empowering children and youth in 50 developing countries, and this Policy offers an important reinforcement of the need to engage this population for lasting impact. We also congratulate Maame Yankah, a Youth Ambassador for Plan, for her participation in the Policy Launch Event, but more importantly for her many contributions to communities in Ghana and the US.
The launch of the Youth in Development Policy marks an important shift in our conversation. Many of us as youth champions are well‐versed in answering the question, “Why work with youth?” The reasons to involve youth as partners are many, and their talents, determination, and influence on the world stage is unprecedented. Yet today, with the heightened status of youth engagement within our own government, we can now embrace youth participation as an assumed component of our programming, and focus on responding to the more difficult question, “How should we work with youth?” Plan looks forward to collaborating with USAID, peer organizations, colleagues in the field, and of course the youth themselves, to collect viable answers to this question.
Now with USAID’s new Youth in Development Policy in our hands, how do we turn it into practice? For many organizations, working with youth may require a departure from current ways of operating and a renewed reliance on the youth community. Plan has made youth a heightened priority for several years, and to truly consider them partners, we will continue working with youth through these 3 steps:
1.Put Youth in the Driver’s Seat
It’s not enough to consult youth; they must be active participants and leaders in development. Because youth have unique needs and perspectives, only they possess the information to make youth programming relevant. Plan will continue to incorporate youth in the design and implementation process by calling on their experience and technical knowledge in such fields as economic empowerment, education, transparency and governance, and health. Not only will this channel youth energy into community‐building and their own personal growth, it will also breathe new life into the work that we do by dispelling old assumptions and continually driving new approaches. From a youth‐run television station in Malawi, to a performance group raising awareness about sexual abuse in India, youth are leaders in Plan’s global programming. We will look to these and other programs to track effective ways that youth can drive the development process.
2.Review and Revamp Internal Policies
USAID’s Youth in Development Policy encourages organizations to embrace youth in development as a cross‐cutting issue. As such, Plan International USA will take the Policy to heart in our own internal operations. Plan will continue to involve our domestically‐based Youth Advisory Board in organizational decisions. We will rely more heavily on our Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA) members to inspire awareness raising efforts on global issues among their peers here in the US.
Through the Because I am a Girl Campaign, Plan will continue to highlight the need for gender equality, as young women and girls face additional societal barriers. Plan will also increase efforts to measure youth involvement and youth‐led impact, involving youth in the monitoring and evaluation processes and in improving the evidence base.
3.Engage in Sharing and Learning
With the Youth in Development Policy, Plan is challenged to both share and learn from examples of what works to engage youth. In order to assure the greatest return on investment with limited resources, the youth community must be committed to communicating best practices and forming a community of learning. With this new focus on youth, we are accountable to not only our donors and partners, but especially to youth around the world. We need to work together to deliver the most responsible, impactful, innovative, and youth‐led programming possible. Only together as a united force can we adequately reach the scale necessary to meet the demands of the global youth population.
As a community, we won’t have the answers on how best to engage youth overnight. But with the launch of the Youth in Development Policy, we now have a call to action on behalf of the world’s youth. Plan International USA and the AIYD members are honored to have USAID’s support with our ongoing youth programming. Going forward, we will delegate more trust and authority to our youth partners. We also hope to engage with new youth champions, inspired by youth’s heightened profile within USAID. Congratulations to USAID on this momentous occasion‐ now it’s time for development actors and youth around the world to put the policy into motion!
About Plan International USA: Plan International works in more than 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children by developing long‐term sustainable solutions. Founded in 1937, Plan’s vision is of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity. In addition, Plan International USA engages youth at an individual level through its Youth Engagement and Action (YEA) program, which involves a network of students and youth, as well as teachers and adult allies, in taking action on global issues. YEA’s mission is to build a global, youth‐led grassroots movement to help end the cycle of poverty for children and communities. YEA facilitates engagement through group meetings, school curriculum development, and advocacy reinforcing Plan’s global community development work. Within the United States, programs include educational outreach initiatives, organized retreats, and other special events and activities for youth participation, designed to help young people develop an understanding of the challenges faced by youth in the developing world.