The Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) works to engage and empower young people to enhance their contribution to development linking volunteerism with employability, active citizenship and cultural exchange.
Our mission is grounded within a rights-based approach, guided by the realities facing young people in the Commonwealth, and anchored in the belief that young people are:
• A force for peace, democracy, equality and good governance
• A catalyst for global consensus building; and
• An essential resource for sustainable development and poverty eradication
The Commonwealth Youth Volunteering Programme (CYVP) will be the CYP platform that uses volunteerism as a tool for participation, active citizenship, cultural exchange and the improvement of livelihoods through increased employability and skills development.
The vision of the programme is one that will integrate young people as agents of change for development and transformation through volunteerism. With a strong mandate to use volunteerism as a tool for young people to realise their potential, activate their citizenship and improve their employability.
The Key Objectives of the CYVP as set out in the CYP Strategic Plan 2008-2012 is to:
• Build and promote a culture of volunteerism in the Commonwealth
• Mobilise young people as volunteers in their communities
• Advocate for youth volunteerism in the Commonwealth
• Work in collaboration with UN Volunteers and other strategic partners
It is envisioned that under CYVP volunteers can directly benefit from:
• Developing key skills that equip young people for life and work
• Improving job prospects and employability
• Being open to new and exciting challenges and opportunities
• Experiencing diversity, culture and community integration
• Meeting new people, make friends and have fun
• Making a difference to the lives of others
For organisations that will be partners for the CYVP, it is envisioned that they will:
• Receive practical help, contacts, access to networks and information on how to add the Commonwealth dimension to their work
• Share expertise and good practice with other organisations
• Be accorded with the Commonwealth ‘seal of approval’ that could help fundraising efforts
• Develop an internationally acceptable framework of quality assurance in fields such as rick assessment and accreditation learning.
The CYVP is set with a strong mandate to use volunteerism as a tool for young people to realise their potential, activate their citizenship, and improve their employability while building a culture of volunteerism and a promoting of the Commonwealth.
• Adopting an asset based approach: The CYVP recognises young people as assets to their family and wider communities and values the contribution and positive impact that young people can make to their societies through volunteering their skills, knowledge and time.
• Employability: Developing core competencies and experience relevant to becoming more upwardly mobile within the labour market and obtaining employment. The CYVP recognises volunteerism as an apt capacity building environment for young people to glean the relevant knowledge, skills and abilities to progress in acquiring a sustainable livelihood.
• Active Citizenship: Taking on roles of responsibility within the community in pursuit of social development is strongly linked with volunteerism as an avenue to active one’s citizenship. Promoting this amongst young people allows for young people to be recognised as leaders and relevant stakeholders in the development process.
• Cultural Exchange: Creating a network of young people that adopt the values of respect and understanding through intercultural dialogue and exchange allows for greater social inclusion and participation of different groups of young people from different countries, socio-economic backgrounds, cultures and belief systems.
• Culture of Volunteerism: Building and promoting a culture of volunteerism empowers young people and enables them to ‘give back’ to society. In turn this allows volunteers to be part of the development process helping to achieve global issues like the Millennium Development Goals.
• Commonwealth Learning and Renewal: Raising awareness and understanding of the values, key principles and traditions of the Commonwealth. CYVP will allow young people to reflect on their volunteer experience and feedback their learning and ideas into both formal consultative mechanisms and informal networks.
2. Making the case for young people and volunteerism
Volunteerism can be defined by the common thread of giving up of one’s time, energy, talent or other resources for the benefit of the wider community usually in a charitable or educational capacity as an act of social responsibility rather than financial reward.
We recognise that approximately 50% of the world’s population is under the age of 25 and when we look at regions like Sub-Saharan Africa this statistic rises to 60%, creating what some have termed a ‘youth bulge’. In turn, countries with high proportions of young people show a higher level of unemployment and disaffection amongst the young. This observation becomes more potent when we look at the opportunity it presents. As key stakeholders young people have the energy, creativity and dynamism to activate their citizenship and place in society by contributing to its development. Engaging young people in volunteerism is one way to extend this platform.
It’s important that young people can join a volunteer programme that offers the balance of being organised while allowing them the fluidity to shape the experience with their own innovative flare. It’s important that processes are not too bureaucratic and allow for clear lines of communication and structure.
There is a need to ensure that young people are not only recognised as beneficiaries of voluntary action but also as drivers of social change and development. Young people should play an active role in the design, delivery and evaluation of volunteer initiatives and programmes to ensure that they cater to young people as service users. Furthermore recognizing young people as leaders, allows for a greater sense of civic responsibility and self-development. It’s important to note that it’s not simply about active youth participation in the planning and implementation of volunteer programmes but also ensuring that appropriate support is provided, rather than a complete hands off approach.
To encourage greater retention of youth volunteers, programme opportunities need to offer variety and flexibility on a number of different levels, whether in terms of commitment, duration and types of volunteering experiences on offer. Volunteering should not be a privilege for the few and as a result more efforts should be made to reach out and encourage a wider more diverse pool of youth by reducing the barriers presented by rigid structures.
The aim of this concept note is to facilitate further discussion between relevant stakeholders and partners and further the implementation of the CYVP.
3. The CYVP in practice
Building on the Youth across the Commonwealth legacy
Many Commonwealth initiatives that focused on youth volunteering have been considered throughout the years. Bringing together governments and inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, youth voluntary organisations and young people came together acknowledging the values and benefits of volunteerism.
• CYP carried out research into setting up a scheme known as Commonwealth Youth Action
• High Commissioners based in the UK from the East African region proposed a vision for a Commonwealth Youth Visa Scheme.
• A proposal was put forward for a Commonwealth Youth Peace Corp, an idea that emerged from discussions of the High Level Review Group.
By facilitating an environment for sharing experience and expertise, looking at existing initiatives and generating new ideas and strategies the YAC was born. The purpose of the YAC was to promote youth development, empowerment and community service whiles raising awareness and understanding of the values, key principles and traditions of the Commonwealth.
It is hoped that the Commonwealth Youth Volunteering Programme will build on the potential captured in from the Youth Across the Commonwealth and take youth volunteerism to the next level.
Consultation and Partnership
Through consultation with young people, staff and other relevant stakeholders, the CYVP will represent a balance and ideas of input to shape it into credible youth programme. 12 August 2010 marked the start of the International Year of Youth, an excellent opportunity to celebrate young people and promote the youth agenda in development, participation and governance. Teamed with 2011 as the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Youth is an excellent opportunity to leverage youth volunteerism and social development within the Commonwealth and beyond. The CYVP will aim to partner with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), Innovations in Civic Participation (ICICP) and with the European Union for their European Year of Volunteering 2011. In addition to creating a CYVP coalition with organisations, there is also a need to have a CYVP Youth Advisory Board to ensure that there is a regular group of young people feeding into the CYVP and its processes.
Lobbying and Advocacy
By writing a Commonwealth Policy Paper on volunteering at a regional and country level the CYVP should be used to advocate for government support in creating youth volunteer programmes by linking it to the national development agenda. Volunteerism should be integrated into national youth policies and implemented to provide the best support for young people and their contribution to the improvement of society.
By having a formal exchange programme especially targeted at young people that would not usually be afforded the opportunity to participate in such a project, will increase greater diversity and inclusion. Partnering with the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council and similar agencies to increase the number of reciprocal (North-South, South-North) exchanges, will allow volunteers to work together on similar issues and interests, as well as encourage a sharing of ideas.
Toolkits and Online Resources
To increase capacity building CYVP will work with partners to create tools and resources to aid in the implementation of volunteer strategies, programmes and the like. The CYVP will have an interactive online platform that will the hub for all volunteer opportunities, news and events, and case studies of young people. The website will provided accessible resources and toolkits pertaining to volunteer management and policy. The online platform will promote different kinds of volunteering opportunities from online virtual volunteering to local community projects. Organisations will be able to promote their volunteering opportunities on the site and other sites such as UNV will be linked to the CYVP.
Awards and Accreditation
While volunteerism can namely be identified as being non-monetary in reward so it is critical that volunteers are recognized for their invested time, energy and talents. Examples could include receiving a certificate, a reference, training opportunities all of which can be used to demonstrate achievement and transferable skills to future employers. -aside from applying for the volunteer category of the annual Commonwealth Youth Development Award. Volunteers should be able to work towards a CYVP award according to the number of hours they have committed to volunteering in their community. Another area that CYVP will recognise volunteerism is by creating a standards framework that allows for organisations and specific volunteering opportunities have the Commonwealth Seal of approval.
Pilot and Action Learning Sets
It is envisioned a series of pilots will be rolled out across the regions related to some of the proposed outputs. Further, Action Learning Sets (ALSs) will be encouraged to create greater joint working with organisations and initiatives at country and regional level. ALSs can be described as regular meetings with relevant stakeholders to share ideas, learnings and to take purposeful action on work issues.
The CYVP will have to reactivate the Commonwealth Secretariat’s CSAP voluntary assignment opportunities by providing vacancies suitable for young people across the different divisions. Relevant work experience will aid in making young people, who are will to give their time and commit, more competitive and upwardly mobile in the labour market. To show CYP’s commitment to volunteerism international fora such as the Commonwealth Education Ministers Meeting and the Commonwealth Youth Forum should include a volunteering opportunity in the host community as part of the timetabled of activities.