Institutional strengthening was one of the major goals set out in Caribbean and Americas Regional Committee’s strategic plan. The initiatives used to achieve this goal including the organisational audits, assessment tools, a toolkit, a handbook, capacity building sessions, an advocacy training programme, consultative and peer review sessions, and the advocacy for establishing NYCs.
Work was conducted on auditing the NYCs in the Caribbean and Americas Region from November 2018 to February 2020. In the initial stages, I conceptualised the purpose of the audit, and consulted with youth development experts on the steps and resources needed to implement it successfully. Several meetings were held, with each meeting giving direction on how best to approach the audit.
After initial consultations with the youth development experts, I reached out to Vice Chair of Inclusion and Engagement (VCIE) for overall plan to audit and strengthen the NYCS as this was primarily his responsibility. However, the VCIE indicated that there was no overall plan. At that point, I requested assistance of VCIE through the assignment of personnel from his committee. Committee members were then assigned from VCIE committee but proved to be unresponsive when asked to fulfil tasks. I then reached out to Kristin Marin (CRYC 2017-2020 exec) to collaborate on auditing NYCs since CRYC had similar plans.
An informal partnership was then formed between CRYC and CYC as Kristin Marin and I merged our ideas on how the NYCs should be audited. Through the merger of our ideas, it was agreed that an initial audit should be done, followed by a technical workshop. It was agreed that NYCs would go through capacity building sessions at the workshop while more data will be gathered on the issues that they experience. It was also agreed that both CRYC and CYC would address housekeeping matter with the NYCs at the workshop. The workshop was then dubbed Meeting of Members (MoM). A committee was then formed to plan and execute the MoM.
The planning committee acquired an instrument from a consultant. The instrument was issued throughout May 2019, to gather initial quantitative data to inform the planning of the MoM. However, there was low uptake from the NYCs. Complaints from NYCS outlined that the instrument was too complex. Despite that, enough information was obtained to plan the sessions for the MoM.
The MoM was held from June 24 – 28, 2019, at Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla. At the MoM, qualitative data was obtained through sessions and focus groups. At the conclusion of the MoM, it was recommended that further research be done with an instrument that would be less complex, and more time should be given for its completion. It was also recommended, that focus groups should be done to obtain additional information from Ministries of Youth, Past NYC members. During the months, following the MoM, a draft of new instrument was created.
Work on the project was stalled in February of 2020. This was because the operations and attention of the CYC was turned towards dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Next steps include 1) conduct literature review on history, purpose and challenges of NYCs, 2) review and finalise instrument, 3) collect data with final instrument, 4) analyse results, 5) develop report, 6) develop strategic plan.
The project experienced several challenges before being stalled. Some of the challenges include the attrition of skilled personnel, lack of support from personnel assigned from VCIE committee, and lack of resources to hire a consultant. It is recommended that these challenges be resolved before the project is continued.
Meeting of Members (MoM)/ Technical Workshop for NYCs
The Meeting of Members was conceptualised through collaboration with Kristin Marin (CRYC 2017 – 2020 exec) between November 2018 – December 2018. During the conceptualization, all stakeholders were identified including the Caucus of Youth Directors. I, along with Kristin, met with the Caucus of Youth Directors to discuss the purpose and planning of meeting. Over the period of November 2018 – February 2019, the concept of the meeting was further updated with the input of stakeholders. In January 2019, the contributions of stakeholders were successfully negotiated. After the negotiations, a planning committee was formed. It consisted of representatives from the CRYC, CYC, the Caucus of Youth Directors, the Government of Anguilla, and the Anguilla NYC. Given that the affairs of NYCs were primarily the responsibility of the Vice Chair of Inclusion and Engagement, he was invited to be part of the planning committee.
During the period of January 2019 – June 2019, I worked with the planning committee to plan the different aspects of the MoM. From January 2019 – February 2019, I worked with the planning committee to develop a project timeline, agenda, concept notes, and admin notes. From February 2019-June 2019, also worked with the committee to develop sessions, obtain resources, etc to successfully execute the MoM. It must be noted that during the planning, Shaquille Knowles, chairman of CRYC 2017 – 2020, and a member of the planning committee side-lined the other members and negotiated separate arrangements with Lawrence Muli of ComSec. This caused significant friction between Knowles and the rest of the planning committee. This further called into question the relationship of CRYC and ComSec, especially since CYC should be the youth council that ComSec works through in the region.
The MoM was held from June 24 – 28, 2019. At the MoM, I assisted in the execution of the MoM. Hannah Katwaroo of the Caribbean and Americas Region Committee was the lead facilitator for the sessions at the MoM. At the MoM focus groups were held to further examine the state of NYCs. Also, capacity building sessions were conducted to help improve the skillsets of participants and their organisations. Countries that were physically represented included Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Turks and Caicos. The representatives included NYC executives, youth leaders from other youth leading organisations, and ministry of youth officials. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were virtually represented; their representatives were all from NYCs. At the MoM, a special session was held representatives on the progress of the CYC in the region. During that session, I addressed concerns that NYCs were having with the CYC and received feedback on how the CYC could improve its relationship with the NYCs.
After the MoM, a report was written outlining the proceedings, outcomes and next steps following the MoM. During July 2019, I attended post MoM meetings to debrief and decide on next steps. However, there was no follow through on the next steps that were agreed upon. [There was no follow through because:
- Youth directors that were the driving force behind the Caucus of Youth Directors, Audit, and MoM either resigned, or were transferred to other government positions
- Kristin Marin (CRYC 2017 – 2020 exec), the driving force of the initiative in CRYC going off to studies in London
- The relationship between CYC and CRYC became fragile after the actions of Shaquille Knowles (CRYC 2017 – 2020 chair)
- There was little to no support from VCIE and his assigned committee members
Figure 18 Delegated and attendees at the Meeting of Members (MoM)
Figure 19 Hannah Katwaroo, Director of Programme Implementation of the Caribbean and Americas Region Committee and the lead facilitator of the sessions at the Meeting of Members (centre) leading a breakout session of attendees including Franz George, Caribbean and Americas Region Representative (extreme left)
Figure 20 Franz George, Caribbean and Americas Region Representative, speaking at the Meeting of Members (MoM)
CMC- EU Advocacy Training Programme
Following the MoM, it was acknowledged that the NYCs were in great need of continued capacity building. It was also recognized that the NYCs’ areas of weakness, needed to be addressed for the NYCs to be more impactful, for the CYC to be more effective, and for the overall goal of institutional strengthening to be achieved. Lastly, it was acknowledged that the CYC needed assistance given its lack of resources and the Vice Chair of Partnerships and Resources to obtain adequate funding for CYC projects.
I then sought partnerships that could allow the Caribbean and Americas Region Committee to address the capacity building needs of the Caribbean and Americas NYCs. During the period of August 2019 – September 2019, I entered negotiations with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) with how the CYC could partner with them. I was able to successfully negotiate CYC’s participation in the CMC’s Advocacy Training Programme for Community Serving Organizations (CSOs). The advocacy programme is funded by the European Union and lasts a total of 3 years. The programme is aimed at strengthening the capacity of CSOs to effectively design and engage in public advocacy campaigns. The first phase of the programme aimed at training participants in specific topic areas of (i) Legislation, (ii) Policy Formulation & Implementation, (iii) Advocacy, (iv) Monitoring & Evaluation Basics, and (v) Crafting Media Messages and Effective Communication. During September 2019 – October 2019, I enrolled participants in the training programme. Participants were made up of NYC representatives, National Delegates and other youth leaders from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Tobago. Barbados, Bermuda, Dominica, and Canada did not submit any participants. The participation of the NYCs, and NDs was especially geared towards addressing capacity gaps in the area of advocacy that were identified at the MoM. As part of the training, the CYC participants had to choose an issue and develop an advocacy campaign. Participants chose to focus on Gender Based Violence in the Caribbean. The decision was then made to integrate the Advocacy Training Programme with the advocacy campaign that was outlined in the strategic plan.
During the months of October 2019 to Noember 2019, I coordinated the CYC participants and acted as liaison between the consultants of the training and CYC. I also assisted in assessing the challenges that participants experienced during the programme. The project suffered from high attrition of participants. Also, some participants expressed that the training was too demanding. The project was put on pause because of the Covid-19 pandemic. CMC submitted a report to the EU and outlined that the project may resume in 2021/2022 pending a decrease in the severity of the pandemic.
Development of ComSec’s assessment tool, toolkit, and handbook for NYCs
During the period of August 2019 – March 2020, I assisted in the development and review of an assessment tool, toolkit, and handbook for NYCs. I participated in the initial stages of development from August 2019 – December 2019. The handbook was aimed at supporting youth leaders to strengthen and sustain national youth councils; assess NYCs; and build the capacity of youth leaders within NYCs. The work that was previously done on the NYC audit and the MoM was fed into this the development of the assessment tool, handbook and toolkit. Following the completion of the initial development, I moderated a peer review workshop/consultation with NYCs at the Caribbean Youth Leaders’ Summit (CYLS). The summit took place from January 21 – 23, 2020 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. In the session, the representative of NYCs and other youth leaders were presented with the drafts of the toolkit and handbook and were able to provide feedback and make their inputs. In March 2020, I then provided feedback on the penultimate draft of assessment tool, toolkit, and handbook.
Figure 21 Franz George, Caribbean and Americas Region Representative (centre), moderating a consultative session during the peer review workshop on the Commonwealth NYC Toolkit and Handbook at CYLS 2020
Figure 22 Franz George, Caribbean and Americas Region Representative (centre standing) moderating a breakout session at CYLS 2020
Establishing a NYC in SVG
Establishing NYCs was a significant part of the plan towards institutional strengthening. Following the MoM, countries that did not have NYCs were given the opportunity to work with the CYC to achieve the goal of establishing the youth councils. The Ministry of Youth of SVG followed up with the CYC and requested assistance and technical expertise to achieve the goal.
In August 2019, a committee was established to undertake the development of the NYC. The committee was made up of Franz George, Caribbean and Americas Representative of CYC, Kesley Cambridge, an employee in the Dept. of Youth, and a ND; Moureeze Franklyn, coordinator of Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors’ (CYPAN) Vincentian Chapter; Andre Brown, CARICOM Youth Ambassador (CYA); Shafique Sam, member of CYA Committee and later appointed CYA; and Odian Marc Hillocks, member of CYA Committee. The team was led by Kesley; he was tasked with this as it aligned with both his duties as a ND and an employee of the Dept of Youth.
During the initial meetings of the committee, I outlined the process of establishing an NYC and coordinated the initial rounds of planning and strategizing. Over the period of September 2019 – November 2019, this process was updated overtime as new processes and strategies were crafted when developing the Commonwealth NYC toolkit and handbook.
I also acted as a liaison between the committee, CYC and ComSec.
During the month of November 2019, I lobbied the Dept of Youth to give more support to the committee. The committee expressed that there was a lack of both human and financial resources to set up the NYC efficiently and effectively. Kesley outlined that apart from money, there needed to be another fulltime employee involved in the process since he had other duties to tend to and all other members of the committee were volunteering part time.
In January 2020, members of the committee engaged stakeholders from ComSec, CYC, CRYC, as well as youth development experts and practitioners at the CYLS. The engagement was focused on how assistance and expertise could be provided to the committee and the Dept. of Youth in establishing the NYC. Following the CYLS, I outlined the committee’s progress to the Dept of Youth and continued lobbying for the allocation of more resources However, the Dept. of Youth outlined the challenges they were beginning to experience because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the project was put on pause from March 2020– September 2020.
In October 2020, I reengaged the Dept of Youth on the need to restart the process of establishing the NYC. Kesley was moved to a different department in the Ministry of Mobilization. As a result, Shafique Sam, assumed the duties of leading the committee.
The plans to establish the NYCs were then revised. From November 2020 – January 2021, the committee developed a draft of a data gathering instrument that would be used to assess the number and nature of active youth groups in SVG. Shafique then advocated the Minister of National Mobilization, the minister in charge of youth, on the need for an NYC to be established. In February 2021, a proposal brief was developed and submitted brief to Minister of National Mobilization. However, the project put on pause due to the eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano April 2021, and the ongoing relief and recovery efforts.
Figure 23 Some of the members of the committee that was established to undertake the development of the NYC in SVG. Picture taken while attending the Caribbean Youth Leaders’ Summit in January 2020 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.. From left to right: Kesley Cambridge, Franz George; Shafique Sam and Odian Marc Hillocks.