Walking the Talk – Women Deliver

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Walking the Talk

Women Deliver as a Youth-Friendly Organization

Women Deliver champions young people’s inclusion in the creation and implementation of development policies and programs that affect their lives – from start to finish – including within our own organization.

Young people not only deserve to be involved, the world needs them to be involved. Their insights, their creativity, their experiences, their skills, and their commitment are integral to finding the solutions to the entrenched and emerging development challenges of today.

Since 2010, Women Deliver has taken a leading role in amplifying the youth voice on the international development stage, especially through our award-winning Young Leaders Program. We have provided training, grant funding, and advocacy opportunities to hundreds of young people from across the globe. Women Deliver has advocated for youth engagement at all levels of decision-making and encourages other organizations to adopt a similar business model.

If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk!

How does an organization become youth-friendly? For Women Deliver, it began by looking inward to determine if we were leading by example. Staff members from the youth engagement team and senior management did a deep dive into the organization’s systems to assess how to make Women Deliver more youth-friendly. A plan was presented in December 2016 to the Board of Directors for discussion. It covered five broad goals:

  • Ensure that young people have a substantive voice in the organization’s governance;
  • Support young people to fully participate and meaningfully engage in processes related to their role and responsibilities;
  • Increase and formalize meaningful opportunities for professional development;
  • Increase participatory processes that enable young staff's contribution to the organization’s overall work; and
  • Develop and implement a youth-friendly human resources system.

Women Deliver also consulted with 600 young people to determine what needs to be done to improve the engagement of young people in advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights. It was presented in  A Discussion Paper on Meaningful Youth Engagement, highlighting that when young people are asked to articulate the barriers they face to meaningful youth engagement, to identify the tools and resources that would help them in their advocacy efforts, and to imagine what their ideal world looks like when it comes to meaningful youth engagement, they have clear answers. This tool has provided Women Deliver and other organizations initial suggestions on how to overcome the longstanding challenges preventing meaningful youth engagement. 

In May 2017, the Women Deliver Board adopted a youth engagement strategy, which includes the below recommendations. Other organizations may use it as a template for their own internal governance.

Recommendations for a Youth-Friendly Organization:

Young Board of Directors Members

  • Designate 20% of the seats on the Board of Directors to young people under 30 years of age, with a mix of gender and geographic representation, and budget to cover costs associated with their board participation;
  • Develop a comprehensive orientation for Board Members, with a specific focus on young members, to promote a smooth transition and enable their full participation and engagement from the start; and
  • Provide training to young Board Members as needed in core elements of board work.

Participatory Processes

  • Create formal opportunities for young staff members to contribute to strategic planning and decision-making processes in the organization;
  • Hold regular meetings so young staff members have the opportunity to learn and understand programmatic funding and budget management skills and make the program planning process more inclusive and consultative of young staff members; and
  • Institute a performance assessment process that includes bi-annual check-in discussions with young staff to gauge engagement in their work and professional development.

Professional Development

  • Formalize a clear policy of the organization’s support for staff professional development and including regular in-office skills-building sessions for staff; and
  • Budget for and develop specific plans for young staff to travel and represent the organization in meaningful ways.

Human Resources

  • Review and revise the personnel handbook on a scheduled basis to ensure policies reflect the feedback gathered from young people as the organization and the context in which it operates changes over time;
  • Formalize the organization’s internship program to include opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and exposure to the field as part of Women Deliver’s commitment to fostering and developing new talent;
  • Employ a more diverse group of young people as staff, interns, and consultants, including young people from the global south and people of color, hiring consultants from the global south when possible, and recruiting at diverse academic institutions; and
  • Consider new ways to ensure young staff members are striking a healthy work-life balance to promote health, rights, and wellbeing of all staff.

As Women Deliver continues to learn and challenge ourselves, we encourage other organizations to do the same by taking a fresh look at current policies and procedures and thinking of new and creative ways to make them more youth-friendly.

If you have suggestions and feedback, Women Deliver welcomes an open dialogue as we continue to improve as a youth-friendly organization that truly walks the talk.

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