‘Reinventing’ Governance after COVID-19

Reflections by Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts, Chair, SALISES 50/50 Youth Cluster

A dynamic group of young social and digital innovators, aged 15 – 30 years from across the Commonwealth are preparing to “hack” COVID-19 by participating in a virtual #CoronaHackathon by Reinvent Hacks. Last week, they asked me: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Governance and the Rule of Law?

Corona Hacks
The Reinvent Hacks virtual hackathon was organised by Next Gen Creators in partnership with the Commonwealth Youth Council, ACP Young Professionals Network, Caribbean Regional Youth Council and the AU Diaspora Youth Initiative. It aims to design digital solutions for pandemic response.

So, what has changed about who holds power; over whom; for what purpose; and how? More importantly, who has gained or lost power in this situation? These are keys to understanding the impact on governance.

Governance is a process of regulating power, via a system of rules that control human activity at different levels of society – from the local to the global – and aims to produce positive societal outcomes. In democratic societies, governance is a delicate balancing act of coordination within a complex system of actors, processes, and institutions. It requires mediation among the varied interests of stakeholders (in government, civil society and private sector); coordination of levels of action (community, local, national, regional and international); and direction of intertwined structures –institutional norms, laws, policies and organisations of action.

THE CONTEXT

In periods of crisis, shifts in power create challenges to governance as well as opportunities to re-engineer the system. Shifts are necessary to address weaknesses in the way we work together (through participation, partnership and inclusion) and coordinate actions in an evolving environment (requiring adaptability and agility).

During the current pandemic, we must pivot away from the false dichotomy which presents social gains as threats to economic growth. Governance systems must engage stakeholders in joint decision-making that integrates, rather than separates, public health objectives (e.g. lockdowns, quarantines and increased investment in PPE) and economic objectives of continued trade and commerce. We need legislative, policy and programmatic shifts that reverse embedded inequalities. We are now, more than ever, confronted, on a global scale, by the inequalities in inter alia access to remote and online learning; in social security and protection; and in health outcomes for certain age, racial and income groups. We must also embrace the feminine face of effective global leadership, as countries led by women are lauded for the relative success of their policy responses to the virus (e.g. in New Zealand, Iceland, Germany and Taiwan).

TRENDS IN GOVERNANCE SINCE COVID-19

Let us consider four main power shifts across the globe.

  1. The Resurgence of State Power

The expansion of state interventionism, across varied political systems, is the most prominent change in the COVID-19 governance context. The state is re-emerging in different places as welfare state, authoritarian-military state and convenor. The state is busying itself with new legislation and policymaking on social security and health issues which is both promising and worrisome.

On the one hand, the speed of crisis response is astonishing – revealing untapped capacity to invest in social security, equip health sectors and regulate equitable access to services; as well as untapped innovation in delivering remote and e-services. The “for profit” sector’s embrace of the interventionist state presents a significant shift in the balance of power in the global political economy. Hitherto, private interests sought to limit the power of the state in favour of their own capitalist expansion. Today, the private sector is an enthusiastic beneficiary of and advocate for stimulus packages from the state, as trade and commerce have slowed.

On the other hand, the speed of decision-making and action may prove to be fertile ground for corrupt practices; and for strengthening authoritarian regimes which centralise their power and exclude opposition groups. This has been experienced in Brazil, the Philippines and Poland. In addition, the increased militarisation of state-society relationships, to enforce emergency rule of law, is a challenging new feature of some societies.

At the same time, the state – whether democratic or authoritarian – is more proactive about convening with other governments, intergovernmental organisations and non-state actors, in order to effectively respond to a pandemic requiring simultaneous action across sectors at all levels.

  1. Shifting Locales of Civic Power

The increased reliance on and partnership with non-governmental stakeholders is a welcome trend, providing opportunities for greater citizen engagement in governance, including for young people.

CYC LogoThe Commonwealth Youth Council launched a #CYCCARES COVID-19 Rapid Response Mini-Grant programme which makes small financial investments in impactful community-level and youth-led responses to managing the virus.

Young people are leading on collective service delivery through volunteerism, innovation and partnerships. They are designing and engineering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers; manufacturing items for and delivering care packages to the most vulnerable; and distributing small grants to support grassroots responses like #CYCCARES.

The establishment of inter-disciplinary task forces is also welcome but concerns remain about youth exclusion from these decision-making fora. There are exceptions. The African Union has accepted a leadership role for the newly-established African Youth Front on Coronavirus in the continent’s COVID-19 response.

As we stay at home during this time of crisis, technology offers an excellent outlet for engagement. Youth have increased their online activism and pursued avenues for digital innovation, like the #CoronaHackathon. However, many without online access lose influence as they are left out. They miss the power of physical assembly and protest. In addition, digital tracking of online activity creates opportunity for the swift and relatively invisible silencing of public dissent. Governments can now bypass highly visible clashes between security forces and the citizenry, as they legislate to contract online and offline civic spaces.

  1. The Retrenchment of Global Power

Notwithstanding the need for coordinated global action, states and citizens are pushing back against globalisation, globalism and multilateralism. Impending recession prompts some governments to reduce their contributions to and participation in international organisations. On average global economic growth is expected to contract by 3%; with contractions as high as 7% in individual economies. So, focus is being placed on protecting national interests, including repatriating manufacturing instead of trading internationally. While streams of development financing have become more flexible, as existing funds have been shifted to immediate public health needs, the dominance of multilateral institutions in development and political dialogue may begin to wane.

Perhaps, a renewed focus on regional cooperation may become a new feature of governance. Regional governance among states in the same geographic area, provides a meso-level space for technical cooperation – for example on vaccine development, modelling of public health, legal and economic policy responses. The region appreciates national imperatives while drawing on international expertise.

However, reduced leisure and business travel, coupled with new and tightening immigration controls which were initially adopted as temporary public health measures, may become permanent and negative features of de-globalisation. In the context of reinforced xenophobia, racism and populism, the retrenchment of these ‘people’ aspects of globalisation is problematic.

  1. The Democratisation of Information and Data

Most of us have been inundated with resources to help us understand the present circumstances. Technical and policy data and analysis has, in some ways, become more transparent and accessible.

For example, online COVID-19 trackers, like those developed by Johns Hopkins, the WHO and the Caribbean Development Bank, are positive innovations which democratise data and level the balance of knowledge power between citizens and governments. Information sharing, via traditional and new media, allows all of us to understand the influences on pandemic decision-making. Increased dissemination and analysis of data is a promising trend in which regional and international organisations appear to be finding new relevance.

Careful oversight, especially of unverified information shared speedily on social media, is a significant challenge. ‘Infodemics’ of misinformation (based on ignorance and scepticism of evidence) and of disinformation (deliberate falsification of information by governments and other stakeholders) are also opportunities for innovation.

REINVENTING GOVERNANCE

These four trends in governance, among others, provide the context in which innovation will evolve. The young innovators I spoke with are ambivalent about this context – sometimes hopeful about the opportunities for positive change and, at other times, fearful of increasing exclusion and marginalisation of young people from decision-making processes.

The challenge these young innovators have accepted is demanding. Over the next few weeks, they will examine the technical dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the practical tools of digital innovation. As they explore issues related to inter alia health, business and commerce, food and water and cultural industries, I hope they also consider ways to ‘reinvent’ governance.

Points of EntryThere are many entry points. Increased capacity of all actors, processes and structures to adapt quickly and take informed action in an evolving environment is critical. Strengthening the relationships within the system is also important.

Digital solutions could help sustain positive changes in power relations. I hope we can find answers to some critical questions:

  • Digital InnovationsHow can these solutions strengthen state intervention?
  • How can they expand and protect civic activism?
  • How can technology be used not only for surveillance and control but also to support activism, inclusion and equity?
  • How can online interaction be made more secure and effective?
  • How can high tech solutions complement low tech and offline solutions?
  • How can we verify democratised information and make it more user-friendly for various interest groups including children and youth, older persons, the blind, the deaf and the hard of hearing?
  • How can governance stakeholders be trained in adaptability and simulation of crisis management?
  • How can digital innovation reverse trends of global separation and fragmentation?

We desperately need to change the way in which we regulate power in our societies, and I am a firm believer that our younger citizens will help us achieve more equitable, inclusive and effective systems, at all levels. I look forward to seeing the young innovators discover ways to ‘reinvent’ governance. Let’s follow their lead.

#reinventinggovernance #governanceaftercovid #CoronaHackathon 

Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts is currently Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) where she conducts research on the Politics of Development and teaches graduate students in Development Studies. She chairs the 50/50 Youth Research Cluster which supports evidence-based youth work and policy-making in the Caribbean.

 

Honai Beez Apiary: The Path to Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

Reflections by Adrian Watson, Honai Beez Apiary

Picture 1

The inspiration and start
As a young child growing up in the community of Seaview Gardens in lower St. Andrew, I was always fascinated by animals and particularly insects like honeybees that visited the garden at home and green spaces in the community. This fascination inspired me to pursue my first degree in Geography and Zoology at the University of the West Indies, especially because I would be able to go on field trips. This also allowed me do a specialization in entomology. As faith would have it, I met Mrs. Suzette Bernard Miller at the 2012 UWI Mona Research Day. She began to tell me of her work as Beekeeper and Apiculture Extension Officer from the Apiculture Unit, Bodles Research Station and how fascinating the industry was and that I could earn a living doing something productive with an insect that I loved. She mentioned that very few beekeepers in the Jamaican apiculture industry had the skills sets, scientific appreciation and understanding that I had – which is needed to grow the industry.  It was at that moment that I decided to take a course in beekeeping offered by the Apiculture Unit, using finances earned from a summer internship.

Picture 2Honai Beez Apiary’s  Solution
So in 2012, after completing my course, I decided to start Honai Beez Apiary which is a social enterprise that seeks to transform open space and vacant lots into bee farms for the conservation of honeybees in Jamaica; to help spread bee awareness; and to educate our communities and local schools about bees and their contribution to our environment.

Initial challenges
The first challenge I faced was that I had never believed that starting and managing a business was in the cards for me as this was uncharted territory for anyone in my family. Most of my friends and family at the time were skeptical that starting up a beekeeping business would work; this made acquiring their assistance difficult.  Being a new university graduate in 2012, I was unemployed with high student loan debt and I was not qualified for any new loans. After completing the beekeeping course, I searched for grants, sponsors, supporters and investors since taking out a loan was not an option and most of my savings went into my student loan repayment. The search for grants was difficult because many are usually accessible to only to community groups and NGOs. I had to find creative ways of funding a start-up – through bartering and leveraging my social capital.

In 2018, I got my first big break through becoming an UNLEASH Fellow and attending an event in Singapore. UNLEASH is a one-week residential programme for innovators trying to push for progress on the SDGs through either the creation of a sustainable social enterprise or non-profit programme. That programme helped me to develop my business model.

Whilst I was heading to Singapore, I received an email from Shane Owen advising me that I had made the finals of the DIA Youth Innovations Lab Pitch Tank Competition. Shanae and Dwayne Gutzmer (50/50 Youth Member) of the Institute of Law and Economics had been very supportive in encouraging me to apply for the lab.

My Pitch was at midnight Singaporean time on the last night of the UNLEASH innovations Lab and I had to pitch remotely which was harder for me than doing it in person. Shanae made sure I had an online portal available to deliver my pitch and facilitated the changing of my slides for the presentation. I won the 2018 Grant Competition!

Piloting Honai Beez
The 2018 DIA grant advanced my capacity to execute my pilots and prototypes. Through the grant support, Honai Beez Apiary has been able to:

  1. Expand the testing of an urban apiary I had established in 2013. The apiary was in an area which I had originally created with my grandfather in 2007 as an urban food green space for planting fruit trees. With the DIA grant I learned how to properly manage a full urban apiary through trial and error.
  2. Pilot a beekeeping training programme for young people who are in transition from state care, are from low income families, or may have been diverted from the Jamaican criminal justice system. The training was conducted in partnership with The Village Academy School of Agriculture on the request of Dr. Khadijah Williams (Principal and 50/50 Youth Member) and Mr. Sydney Henry (Chairman). Through the partnership, 22 students were trained in beekeeping under the pilot. One of the major successes is that one of my 18 year old students has been inspired to start-up his own apiary. He too was looking for funding and I shared the information about the DIA PitchTank Competition for start-ups – and he was able to win his own grant.

 

Making More Progress
The 2018 grant did not allow for exploration of using computer number router technology (CNC-Router) to build a Colorado Top Bar Hive out of Bamboo Ply as a climate smart solution.  Mature Bamboo forests sequester 200-400 tonnes of carbon each year. Because of how fast bamboo grows and sequesters carbon it can be used as a renewable resource whilst capturing the same amount of carbon as our natural forests in Jamaica. Therefore, using bamboo can allow us to combat climate change through carbon sequestration while maintaining our local forests and preserving the sources of nectar from forest, timber and fruit trees which bees use to make honey.

Having made considerable strides in building out my first two products and services within a short period of time, Shanae and Dwayne decided to invite me to the 2019 DIA Pitchtank to give me a chance to expand and scale up my activities. I won the competition again and used the grant to sponsor my attendance at a CNC-Router Training Workshop organized by Bureau of Standards in Jamaica; and also to purchase construction material to build the Colorado Top Bar Hive using the CNC Router at Supechard Singh and Sons and Furniture Co. Ltd – free of cost, thanks to Mr. Superchard Singh.

Next Steps
I was recently selected to participate in the 2020 Young Leaders of Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellowship Programme. YLAI is a residential programme that will allow me to learn from persons who are already running their own start-up in the United States and be able to map how they started up, scales-up and transitioned to where they are now. The mentors assigned will create a tailored experience for each fellow to help us advance our businesses and apply lessons when we return to our home countries. The 2020 fellowship has been postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I will have to wait a little longer to benefit from new knowledge and networks.

In the meantime, the work continues. I am undertaking a costing analysis of my production and operations line; and also exploring the feasibility alternative funding opportunities, including a crowdfunding campaign to help with scaling and expansion of my social enterprise.

Adrian Watson is an Urban Apiculturist and Young Entrepreneur. Look out for future updates as he pursues his fellowship through the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative (YLAI)

#youthinagriculture #urbanapiculture

Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic: The future of Children and Young People

REFLECTIONS by Khadijah Williams, PhD, Village Academy (School of Agriculture), Jamaica

Picture 1With the COVID-19 pandemic triggering the closure of schools and workplaces, communities being quarantined and the increase in online engagements, my focus on the young people I work with has intensified. Many of these young people have experienced trauma, neglect and abandonment and they may have a more difficult time dealing with the uncertainty, threats to life, detachment and isolation that are affiliated to our recent crisis. Messages of hope can appear to be useless with all the negativity surrounding us, which only adds to their existing narratives of loss and despair, abuse and neglect. This makes the work of caregivers, youth workers and social care providers more challenging. How do we help these young people to navigate in this new space and prepare for a future post COVID-19 pandemic?

Firstly, I would think that the adults around them need to be positive, demonstrate faith, be honest about their concerns and challenges, be patient and willing to engage the young people so that their interpretation of reality is understood and contextualised. Secondly, the spaces in which we come into contact with children and young people must be supportive of their development and more inclusive of adults who are willing to share their power with them. That is, recognise their contributions, their resilience, their concerns and their realities. Furthermore, schools, churches, business places, communities, etc. should have the infrastructure to support the staff, materials and resources and technologies that are required for mutually beneficial exchanges with children and young people.   Therefore, when communicating with children and young people our language should include messages of:

Faith and being fearless: Many biblical stories exist where Jesus taught us about the importance of having faith. For the less religiously inclined, there are personal testimonies that can be shared about having faith and the outcomes of such faith. It is a critical time to tell stories of faith – to help young people understand beyond their virtual worlds and movies as well as their own tragic episodes that stories with bad beginnings can have happy endings and result in more progressive and empowered persons.

Resilience and agency: Messages about overcoming struggles and being resilient are even more relevant for young people throughout these times. There are many stories of civilisations that have survived massacres, slavery, world wars, famines, and other natural and man-made disasters. What are some success stories coming out of these stories? What are the stories of resilience? I have no doubt that the young people who will survive this tragedy will be stronger and more spiritually enlightened, having had the privilege of living through this period that will certainly alter how we live. Helping young people to see that they have the capacity to influence positive changes in small things is necessary so it becomes second nature for them to contribute positively in the bigger things such as when there is a crisis.

Picture 2 - Visioning

Visioning

Creativity and Innovation: The future will require more thought about how to survive with limited resources and greater demands from people. Young people will be required to think more critically and to be practical with a high degree of technical competence. This crisis has tested our ability to be self-sufficient, creative and resourceful. Having technical competence in various skill areas, or at least some DIY (Do It Yourself) skills will surely be important in the future whether for self –sufficiency or for earning an income.   Important to this feature is also the ability to empathise and be emotionally intelligent so that they can think ahead about other people’s needs thereby being insightful, proactive and productive.

Being selfless: Developing a deep sense of community spirit, volunteerism and social skills cannot be emphasised enough. Despite technological advancements which facilitate physical distancing of people, social skills, organisation skills and other skills which bring people together (virtually or otherwise) will continue to be fundamental skills for survival. Redefining what it means to be sociable and how to act collectively will certainly be an outcome of this new pandemic experience. Understanding how to provide assistance to others whether physically, emotionally, psychologically will be a critical skill to be acquired by our young people. Now more than ever we are learning that ‘no man is an island’ – that we are interdependent beings, eager to make connections and desirous of fulfilling our purpose. With overwhelming attractions to be more self-centred, young people would require increased stimulation that encourage them to think about others before thinking about themselves – more collectivism, less individualism.

THE LAND AND ITS PEOPLE: Agriculture an important venture

Picture 3 - Problem Solving

Problem-Solving

Given my current position, located in rural Jamaica in the midst of the beautiful mountains and streams and managing an agriculture school with young people, I am inspired to think about the important role of agriculture in safeguarding humanity and preserving health and well-being.  Its role in the lives of young people is still to be explored fully. Social-agriculture as we call it, acknowledges the important relationship between the land and the psychosocial and socio-emotional aspects of people. Agriculture provides a space for self-reflection, self-discovery, building confidence and instilling hope. In its most natural form, the field exposes us to the elements of wind, earth, sun, water, animals, vegetation and even fire. The connection with the earth has been therapeutic in itself for many young people at my school who have testified and as I have experienced myself.  Agronomy has taught us the importance of nurturing roots in order to thrive, the importance of removing parasites which stagnate growth. The bees at our school’s apiary unit have taught us the importance of interdependence, working together as a team to get more accomplished and that there is more strength in numbers.

Picture 4 Competence and Adequate Preparation

Competence and Adequate Preparation

Nurturing the earth demands silence, meditation and undivided attention, which is also good for the soul. Through this practice, we learn to quiet our minds, focus and discover self. Through the action of planting a seed, tilling the soil, feeding animals, caring for them, we can benefit from seeing the results. These results speak a language of hope – that there is life – that there is truth- that with actions of faith, we can reap and survive.

For those who follow the argument that animals are a key source of many bacteria and viruses that transmit to humans and what this can mean for the future of agriculture, I must admit that although this may be true, learning the biosecurity measures that should be adhered to in this business should be taken more seriously. In fact, based on my prior knowledge, having participated in several training sessions conducted by experts in this area, my preparation for the current pandemic was facilitated. Sanitisation, personal hygiene, boosting the immune system and using personal protective equipment (PPE) as the everyday common language at my school has indeed been useful. Strengthening these practices and making them part of our daily practice, no matter what our profession, is certainly a positive habit to adopt. Additionally, we need to apply best practices when it comes to agriculture in order that we can eat healthy food. So, encouraging young people to apply the various technologies that support food production and preserving the land is another very positive step.

We should continue to seek answers that will advance our thinking about the meaning of the present crisis as it relates to our children and young people and their future. The future as we see it today, demands a new way of thinking about many things we are accustom to. Although the answers may be unclear, I am certain that we must inspire hope for young minds to be nurtured and our future to be secure.

Dr. Khadijah Williams is currently working on a UK supported project in Jamaica (Village Academy) which focuses on the development of children and young people in rural settings.

#youthinagriculture #COVID19andyoungpeople

 

 

Time is Precious…

A letter from Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader… 

vctt

Hard at work for others – Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader and 2017 Volunteer of the Year

Time is precious. It sounds cliché but there is one fundamental thing I’ve learnt while volunteering. Time spent doing something for a cause that you believe in, for no expected reward or gain, just…..feels more precious. Let me expound a little more on what I mean.  At present I don’t have too many long term goals and that can be an extremely unsettling feeling. Of course I know I want to live comfortably and have a family one day, but charting the actual way forward is often challenging. Chasing my original dream of travelling the world and experiencing cultures is a nice ideal but often feels significantly out of reach.  Outside of my professional life, I try to keep active and have my fair share of hobbies; but, where I’m truly at peace is when I can see myself interacting with people and making a positive contribution to someone. Whether that entails assisting an NGO with a specific project or directly aiding someone in distress, I truly love volunteering and wish I did it more often. In fact, sometimes I wish I could do it full time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every time you volunteer you will feel as if you are making a difference. I’m also not saying that you have to volunteer purely out of selflessness. Volunteering can open avenues for a wide variety of meaningful experiences and connections for furthering one’s development (social/professional/health, etc.) and forming relationships with fellow volunteers. Feeling a rush of satisfaction and happiness is a reward in itself. Of course, working with people of different personalities and organizations with different structures can be challenging, especially when you’re dealing with someone else’s passion project. Participating in some projects may seem like you aren’t really making a difference or doing much at all, when in actuality, your service means the world to that organization/person to which you are dedicating your time. So, make sure that when you do decide to volunteer, you choose something that you are passionate about or which falls under your scope of interest (or not – stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes work wonders). That way, if things don’t go according to plan or you feel a bit jaded, you can refocus on the general goal, or even turn your sights onto other opportunities.

At times when people contact me to volunteer with VCTT they express to me that ‘they don’t have any experience’. There will always be a bit of apprehension as to whether you are suited for the particular assignment, and after volunteering for quite a number of years, I still feel the same apprehension sometimes. However, at VCTT we believe that there is a volunteer in everyone. We may not see the things we do as ‘volunteering’ but, if you operate under my personal definition (that anything you do for someone, without expecting anything in return, which utilizes your own resources, is volunteering), then we have all been or are volunteers in some capacity.

The Volunteer Center of Trinidad and Tobago (VCTT) operates under the mission of connecting people, fueling hope and collaborating for change.  We provide a service which makes volunteering an enjoyable and engaging experience for both our partner organizations and most importantly, our volunteers. 

Our focus has been on intimately supporting partner projects that are in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals; we believe that volunteerism is a key cornerstone of sustainable societies and in bridging societal gaps that can divide us as a people.  In addition to our work linking volunteers to partner NGOs/CBOs, we also have numerous projects of our own all geared towards the upliftment of the spirit of volunteering within Trinidad and Tobago as well as the wider Caribbean.

VCTT aims to ignite the spirit of volunteering in every home.

We believe that volunteering is inherent in humanity and maybe we can help persons realize that in the work we do. It is likely that most homes already have volunteers who simply don’t associate their good deeds with the term. We Trinbagonians saw that recently after the flooding events! And that gives me a warm feeling of hope and assurance that as a global people, we can take care of one another and try to enable each other’s positive ideals for the betterment of a global community.

Maybe volunteering still seems a daunting prospect for a variety of reasons. Everyone has their own challenges and situations and may not be able to give of their time as much as they’d truly like to and that’s okay. I do warmly encourage you to register on our web platform www.vctt.org (and kindly spread the word for others to do so) so that you can be notified of our current and upcoming projects, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll see something that grabs your attention. If you belong to an NGO/CBO and believe that you support a cause that can effect positive change, and require volunteers, register with us also!

Warm Regards,

Kevin

We launched U-Report Jamaica because the youth told us to!

U-Report Youth Council Horizontal_Horizontal

U-Report Youth Team Council members: Dominic Mcintyre, Hakeem Bryan, Danielle Mullings, Rasheem Martin, Loteshea Hutchinson and Brithney Black (not pictured).

Post by Ross Sheil, UNICEF Digital Media Consultant

U-Report is a social messaging tool, pioneered by UNICEF, that is designed to give Jamaican youth a greater voice on issues of national importance. The tagline for U-Report is actually Voice Matters! In May, Jamaica became the first country in the Caribbean to launch U-Report, joining a movement of over 5 million U-Reporters.

How it works:

U-Reporters sign up voluntarily. There are currently two ways for anyone aged 13-29 to become a U-Reporter:

  • SMS: Thanks to support from FLOW, their customers can sign up free via SMS, no data plan needed. Just message the word “JOIN” to 876-838-4897.
  • Facebook Messenger: simply open the app and search for @ureportmessenger and begin the conversation.

On signing up, only three questions are asked: gender, age and parish. We do not ask for names because the data we collect is anonymous. Once signed up, the new U-Reporter starts receiving polls, which are sent twice a month. Each poll is delivered as a message conversation, i.e. we send a question and the replies prompt auto-generated responses from us until the poll is complete. A U-Report poll sent in the morning currently gains at least 500 replies by the end of the first day.

A team of young people help to run U-Report. This includes sharing their ideas on topics and questions for polls. Organisations are welcome to suggest polls on relevant issues affecting children and youth.

The data from U-Report polls is made available to the public in real-time on our website. We share results with colleagues, the media and partners, including government and NGOs.

Why it matters:

At the heart of U-Report is an acknowledgement that youth need to have a say in decisions about their own lives, and that, typically, decision-makers don’t ask for their perspectives.

Since our launch, more than 3,800 U-Reporters have opted-in. They’ve shared their voices on a range of issues. So far, the poll on Youth Mental Health and Suicide had the biggest response – with 1,090 U-Reporters weighing in – and kicked off a national discussion on the issue.

What’s next?

We are experimenting and learning! We know for a fact that the more we engage youth and stakeholders, the more effective U-Report can become. We’ve run hands-on sessions with youth to do custom/private polling, and done polls on behalf of partner organisations – requests are welcome! We are adding a new channel soon that we hope will significantly expand our pool of U-Reporters. And we are looking at how we can ensure that poll results lead to strong advocacy and tangible results.

Child Rights and Child Protection in Low Resourced Settings: Case studies from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica

Khadijah PresentationDr. Khadijah Williams, 50/50 Youth Cluster member, presented at the 2018 Caribbean Child Research Conference (CCRC) at UWI, St. Augustine as part of her Village Academy Jamaica Team. Her focus was on child protection in low resourced settings, stemming from an ethnographic study and participatory action research completed in residential child care in Trinidad and Tobago and a social agricultural intervention in rural Jamaica with children and young people (CYP). Key messages to educators, practitioners and policymakers from her presentation included:

  • The importance of focusing on CYP participation, such that they develop skills for self-protection, especially in settings where specialist skills are lacking. Providing opportunities for CYP to take responsibility in their spaces provides great opportunities for developing agency, developing confidence and learning by trial and error in a managed space.
  • The importance of focusing on the quality of training for practitioners working in low resourced settings with emphasis on critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, advocacy, care ethics, innovative thinking, negotiation and networking skills. Practitioners should be equipped to successfully navigate the challenges associated with marginalised groups, thereby reducing the inequity that exists using their skills. The intellectual and caring qualities of practitioners are therefore vital to child protection. Colleges, universities and other training centres need to address the challenges of graduates not being adequately prepared to work in child welfare/protection due to curriculum deficiencies. By this, there needs to be psychological testing of potential candidates as well as training programmes which include critical self-reflection through human skills labs for the duration of training, an enhanced presentation of social work/child protection to candidates who are less inclined to become disillusioned upon beginning practice/training (requires adequate orientation to the profession), specialist training and post qualification training, regulation of practitioners as students and professionals. Students in this field should also be accountable to standards of practice by a local body through registration and licensure.
  • Creative and strategic ways of “indigenizing” practices of child welfare and child protection by interpreting and applying to the culture what are relevant practices. In training, managing practice requires a good understanding of how to interpret the realities of child welfare and protection and how policies and practices can be adapted to ensure that the best interests of children are paramount.
  • A problem exists in how the concept of ‘child rights’ and ‘child protection’ are interpreted. Child rights has not been received well in the Caribbean and is seen as a threat to adult authority. At the same time, people are concerned about the welfare of children but child protection services are not receiving the support they need from the wider public. Similar experiences are seen in other countries such as Canada, the USA and the UK, particularly among minority groups who hold on to their indigenous child care practices. Child protection has been problematised and if not managed well, excludes the majority of children who are out of state care and also require protection and nurturing so that they can enjoy successful lives. While a child rights approach is welcomed, it should be applied with caution, taking into account adults’ perception of it, children’s agency and their everyday experiences. A more positive, balanced and consistent approach to promoting child rights and child protection by policy makers, educators and practitioners is therefore required.

Khadijah Presentation 2In general, an argument for a less paternalistic approach to child rights/child protection/child welfare is being proposed in order for innovation and adaptability to take place in low resourced settings. However, this must be supported by robust safeguarding policies and practices, which are monitored by both practitioners, managers and CYP themselves.

Khadijah Williams is an educator, sociologist and social work practitioner, specialising in the welfare and protection of children and young people.

What’s in a Celebration?

How important do you think it is to dedicate specific days, weeks or months to commemorating an event or celebrating a person, idea or goal? Throughout the year we are all encouraged to participate in activities to mark various national or international days of awareness, commemoration or celebration for various causes. Among them, are several times to celebrate the contribution of young people and pay attention to the diversity of concerns they have.

In August, we celebrated International Youth Day and in September, we celebrated Caribbean Youth Day, and each Caribbean country has organised, throughout the year, special events for youth during their own dedicated national youth month observations.

Do these celebrations make a difference? At 50/50 Youth we believe that everyday is a day to acknowledge and share good practice; to create spaces for people to speak up for their causes; and to speak up for those who need help sharing their ideas.

This November – celebrated as Youth Month in several Caribbean countries like Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis – SALISES will pay tribute to youth-led organisations and youth-serving organisations doing great things to improve lives. They are examples of groups which #LevelUp for young people everyday.

Level Up Jamaica Youth Month 2018

We hope you will join in the celebration and post your own tributes to people and groups who #LevelUp in Youth Development.

Happy International Youth Day 2018!

Happy International Youth Day from all members of SALISES 50/50 Youth!

Today we celebrate the positive energies and contributions of young people and thank all who create #SafeSpaces4Youth – whether physical, virtual, spiritual, emotional – so that they can continue to transform our world for the better.

Special blessings to young people across the Caribbean working for positive political, social, economic and environmental development.

The Caribbean Forum on Population, Youth and Development, 24-26 July, 2018

 

A technical forum is now underway in Georgetown, Guyana to discuss strategic directions for youth development issues in the Caribbean region. Follow the details HERE.

20180724_094018The Forum of youth leaders and youth development practitioners in government and civil society from 14 countries has been convened by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Guyana.

Sessions include discussions on effective implementation of youth policies; progress on key population and development issues; mobilizing youth to advance the 2030 Agenda; and exchanges of best practices in youth development.

The opening discussion on “The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes +20: A Progress Report on the Caribbean” provided an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on a very useful synthesis report on the state of youth policies in the region. The report was prepared by Catarina Camarinhas of ECLAC and Dwynette Eversley, International Youth Development Specialist and member of 50/50 Youth!!

Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts offered the following remarks on the report and suggestions for discussion during the Forum:

Remarks on “The Lisbon Declaration on Youth Policies and Programmes +20: A Progress Report on the Caribbean”

I come to this discussion from the perspective of a politician – that is, of a political scientist. 🙂 So my interest is in the elements of the report which relate to the governance and institutional framework for implementation and monitoring of youth policies.

From the valuable review presented – it appears that we have made some commendable progress in the region, in respect of the types of youth policies developed. There is at least an understanding of the importance of participatory, evidence-informed, results-oriented policy formulation processes. There has also been an increase in the profile of youth policies – though not sufficient – with evidence of effective national championing of youth policy. The 50/50 Youth Cluster at the University of the West Indies – which I represent is pleased by these developments and congratulates all governments and citizens.

However, the report has highlighted some challenges reported by member countries in relation to implementation and monitoring and evaluation – which I would like to suggest are priorities for discussion at the Forum.

Before I propose the priorities for discussion, permit me to just make a brief comment on the matter of conceptualisation of youth policies. I believe that the foundational ideas that inform our understanding of the nature and purpose of policy, ultimately affect implementation processes. Therefore, we must ask, what is a youth policy? The report notes that (p.66) “A national youth policy may be defined in simplest terms as the sum of all the initiatives aimed at young citizens….” (p.66). The report then goes on to give a more sophisticated qualification of that definition pointing to the essential features of an effective youth policy. However, many of us are still stuck on that first definition – youth policy as merely the collation of a list of activities targeting youth. But, if that were true, it would include some of the negative activities targeted at youth – gang recruitment etc 🙂

If we really wish to change the way we work towards positive development outcomes for young people, we need to view youth policy as more than a sum of activities. Youth policy must be seen as a political statement of the national consensus around the desired role of young people in society; a commitment to investment in their development as an imperative for sustainability; and as technical guidance to all government entities (as well as other stakeholders) on how to maximise that role. It is not a preventative measure, but rather, a catalyst for national development. When viewed in this way, youth policy directs us to look at Implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation differently. My broad priorities for discussion in this forum are:

1. Implementation

a. What is the status of the “Partnership Commitments” required by the WPAY for youth mainstreaming? Who are the partners and how are these partnerships being coordinated? How would the Caribbean Youth Platform play a role in coordinating inter-agency partnerships for development involving youth?

a. How are youth policies seeking to give direction to national development more broadly?We must now focus on building the professional and technical capacity of Departments of Youth Affairs to play that role of guiding development policy in a wide range of sectors and contributing to operational plans of other Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Youth Officer may not necessarily engage as a sector specialist but as a youth worker with an understanding of the heterogeneity of young people; the best practices in engaging them; and the intersectional approaches required for positive youth development. In the areas of Environment and Climate Change, Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Legislation – which the review report highlights are not adequately covered in national youth policies –  how are youth Departments influencing policy-making in those areas? Do they have the capacity?

b. Coordinated and Sustainable Financing of Youth Development – Should we speak more about the Regional Youth Development Fund? Should we ask that national allocations from each line Ministry, Department or Agency be earmarked for young people, since everything is a youth issue?

2. Monitoring and Evaluation

a. Public Accountability Measures – how do we (and young people) access information about youth policy frameworks? And how accessible is that information to youth from a variety of linguistic, cultural and intellectual backgrounds? Public monitoring of policy implementation is as important as technical monitoring conducted by governments and other stakeholders in implementation. What role can various youth networks play in translating policy contents and progress updates for youth in a variety of contexts? What development communication tools should be used?

b. What role do the regional universities play in supporting M&E of youth policies and providing public information on the status of implementation? Is it time for a formal partnership on this?

Closing: As our populations age, as projected in the next two to three decades, we risk losing commitment to youth policy, if we do not establish its relevance through properly coordinated and integrated implementation.

NEW RESOURCE: The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth and peace and security

The highly anticipated official Report of the Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security, called for under UN Security Resolution 2250 has been released. The report is entitled “The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth and Peace and Security”

Drawing on a wide range of consultations around the word, including in the Caribbean, the study outlines the variety of ways in which young people contribute to peace and violence prevention and makes recommendations for sustaining peace through partnerships among citizens, governments and international and regional organisations.

Please read it here; share it widely; discuss and debate the findings and recommendations. Then, let’s advocate for the changes we want to make to the ways we work on “security” and “safety” in our communities, countries and regions. We can contribute the report’s recommended “seismic shift” in thinking and practice so as to recognise young people as the “missing peace” – an imperative to reaping a global peace dividend.

A longer version of the study will be released later this year which will offer more detailed findings and outline strategies for all stakeholders to engage with the agenda on youth peace and security (#Youth4Peace).

50/50 Youth is particularly pleased to share this report since our cluster Chair, Dr. Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts contributed to the research process as a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the Study.