Key Reflections from the CHOICE-EngenderHealth Partnership and our MYP Journey So Far
By: Pragya Singh, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and Ana Aguilera, EngenderHealth
Too often, young people themselves are still seen as the main responsible stakeholders in achieving Meaningful Youth Participation (MYP). However, we, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality and EngenderHealth, strongly believe it’s the responsibility of each and every one of us. As in any positive youth-adult partnership (YAP)1, we believe in an equitable partnerships, where both adults and young people benefit and partake in shared decision-making, which ultimately results in program outcomes that meet the needs and wishes of all young people involved. And we speak from our own experience!
Following our last blog on institutionalizing MYP, from June 2021, we shared initial reflections and learnings of our unique organizational YAP model, with CHOICE supporting EngenderHealth in enhancing its internal capacity to meaningfully work with adolescents and youth across operations and programming. Today, we share further learnings, including initial results that we’ve achieved over the past 10 months of our journey, in an effort to be transparent and hold ourselves accountable to what we said we would do.
Building Capacity on Meaningful Youth Participation
In the months of April and May, CHOICE conducted an MYP digital training to build EngenderHealth staff’s knowledge and capacity on MYP. The training included EngenderHealth’s Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Community of Practice; program staff based in all regions where EngenderHealth works; as well as operational staff, including those from EngenderHealth’s Impact Research and Evaluation, Human Resources, Business Development and Finance teams. We conducted a separate short training session with EngenderHealth’s Directors and Managers Forum and the Executive Team. The trainings included value clarification sessions, an introduction to MYP, its benefits and importance, and in-depth sessions on the Flower of Participation (the core elements, different forms and the preconditions of MYP).
The MYP Action Plans: Intentionally and Inclusively Integrating MYP within EngenderHealth
The trainings and baseline assessment resulted in the co-creation of five draft MYP Action Plans with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, measurable and time-bound) objectives, clear deliverables, and recommendations for integrating and scaling up MYP. We share some key recommendations that came out of this process below:
- There is a clear need for an organizational MYP policy and strategy to clarify when and how MYP is important to EngenderHealth’s organizational goals.
- More young people need to participate in different levels of decision-making.
- EngenderHealth needs to continue strengthening its organizational culture so that it enables younger staff to grow and create enabling conditions that foster equitable youth-adult relationships.
We compiled the ideas shared during the process and upon reflection, we realized that this process was flawed. It didn’t include an intentional and inclusive process for all young people who work at EngenderHealth to participate. Yes, some young people participated in the training process, but this was not representative of the diverse and unique roles young people play across the organization. From that process, we learned and are now planning for more inclusive consultations that will be open to all young people across the organization. We expect specific actions from the plans will increase young staff’s participation in decision-making bodies and create a coaching and/or mentorship program to support young people at the organization to grow up in and not out of positions. Finally, to ensure EngenderHealth scales up MYP further in the organization, CHOICE is currently developing an online introductory course on MYP for all EngenderHealth staff.
Key Lessons We’ve Learned So Far
- Through this process, we were acutely aware that writing about MYP and piloting MYP in specific projects or initiatives is NOT good enough and we can and must do better. As such, we are in the process of finalizing organization-wide indicators for EngenderHealth to systematically track progress. Such indicators include the number and percentage of young people in decision-making positions who feel their participation is meaningful and the number and the percentage of youth-led organizations with which EngenderHealth collaborates with and engages for joint decision-making. Are these indicators perfect? No, but they are a starting place for moving us toward accountability.
- Sometimes we need to act, rather than trying to perfect measurements, processes, and tools. This introspective process has shed light on the pesky problem we sometimes have in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) field of overanalyzing and trying to perfect an indicator or a process. When we do this, we can create more barriers and delays.
- During the baseline assessment as well as the MYP trainings, ensuring the inclusion of diverse staff was challenging, since the trainings were conducted in English and were held online. Inclusive processes require additional time, resources, and preparations in advance, and are important to ensuring the participation of all young people and adults involved in the process.
- Working with an organization like EngenderHealth with immense gender expertise has been a great opportunity for CHOICE, both in terms of learning from a global, adult-led organization as well as understanding what it takes to scale up MYP efforts targeting key stakeholders in the SRHR sector. During this partnership, our understanding of how adult-led civil society organizations perceive MYP has increased exponentially.
Joint Learning: Investing appropriate time and resources in MYP is key if we want to see results. MYP can be enhanced through policy reform and by pushing for a change in organizational culture, both of which require time, resources, and commitment from all parties involved. To further scale up the process and ensure sustainability, following up and tracking continued progress is key.
We are excited, impatient, and sometimes overwhelmed at the long road ahead to systematically integrate adolescents and youth. We plan to share more insights into this process as we look for resources to continue funding this unique partnership. We invite you to come learn and reflect with us about institutionalizing MYP on August 11th at 8:00am EST. Register here to join us.
In the meantime, we invite colleagues and organizations across our sector to share their experiences integrating MYP into their organizations and programs. What has worked for you? What have you learned along the way? Share your thoughts on Twitter and tag @CHOICEforYouth and @EngenderHealth!