3 Reasons Why Relationships are Vital to Expanding Youth Networks
The Youth Action Team (YAT) and Youth Action Lab at CIVICUS has now had several rounds of calls for candidates to champion youth engagement and civic space. A question we are now asking ourselves is - how are we making sure there is a diverse, committed, and innovative pool of candidates to select from? Here are some of the key lessons we have learned so far, highlighting the relevance of building strong social capital -through fostering reciprocity, trust and generating value for individuals and the community.
1. Past participants of your programme are your ambassadors to attract new ones
When creating a programme, we need to make sure to give participants a great experience. Of course, this includes the project length but goes beyond it. Keeping in touch and being a witness to their journey, ongoing communication and providing support to make sure they reach their full potential are ways in which we can build long-term connections. This is an end in and of itself, but the benefits do not stop there. When people have a good experience, they are compelled toshare it with friends and networks. In fact, a recent survey showed that 90% of YAT participants said they will recommend the programme to peers. That is exactly what happened ahead of the call for applications for the YAT this year, where92% of the chosen candidates applied because the experience was recommended by a colleague who participated in a CIVICUS programme.
2. Young activists acting locally are well-connected and can extend this network to your organisation
The Youth Action Lab co-design teamhas a great bearing on the representation of countries and the number of applications received in 2020 for the Youth Action Lab. Even though CIVICUS membership has a global coverage of over 175 countries, receiving more than one application from countries like Iraq or Trinidad & Tobago in an open call is not very common. The local networks of the co-design team served as a direct pathway to these countries and, instead of relying only on the reach of CIVICUS alone, their outreach in the recruitment process was very valuable to achieve more diversityin the pool of applications.
3. A good relationship can last for years and lead to ongoing collaboration
The co-design team had its first engagement with CIVICUS in 2019, when co-creating the Youth Action Lab. Yet, a network is about a constant flow of exchanges. This connection was nurtured through ongoing participation in the call for applications of the first Lab in 2020. To keep engaged with the Lab, all 9 co-design team members were invited to select the new 2021 cohort voluntarily, 4 said yes. Being it a time-consuming process, the fact that they have helped to shape the programme, motivated them to ensure that the best candidates are part of it.