Many donors and NGOs have the intention of working more collaboratively with young people. These intentions have been demonstrated through consensus statementschallengesresearchtools, and pooled funding mechanisms. As young people running youth-led organizations and as ‘aged-out’ (over 30) youth partnership advisors, we’ve helped develop and promote these efforts. However, we know this isn’t the real work. At best, these are signs of change to come. At worst, they are performative actions that could stall real progress.

On bad days, we’re convinced it’s the latter. Maybe we should give up trying to shift typical ways of working and only uplift the work of those that already have their priorities straight. Organizations like FRIDA FundWe Are PurposefulChildren Rights Innovation Fund, and more. This is tempting and maybe even easier, at least emotionally! However, we’re not giving up. We’re choosing to trust in our collective ability to change.

This isn’t a ‘young and foolish’ decision. It’s out of necessity and in the name of decency:

  • Necessity because young people literally and figuratively can’t afford to give up. The majority of power and resources are not being shared with a significant proportion of the world, especially with young people in LAC, Asia, and Africa.
  • And decency because not only can it be frustrating to try to collaborate with typical donors and NGOs, too often it also makes young people feel bad – about themselves, their potential to do good, and certainly about the way the world works.

This is just not ok. We trust (and hope!) you agree. For those who do, let’s get into what can be done about it…

First, know that it is possible to genuinely collaborate with young people. When young people work with more participatory donors and NGOs it feels better – more transparent, human, hopeful – and even more effective! Yes, many of these organizations were founded to work this way. However, this doesn’t mean all is lost for others who have to unlearn/relearn. Remember, we’re not giving up, so you can’t either.

What this does mean is that you’ll have to overcompensate and try even harder in multiple areas from values to internal decision-making to external facing work (grants, programs, ‘capacity building’ – yours too, not just young people!). Here are our practical recommendations and inspiration for why and how to dig in across all these key areas.

Read the full article about working more collaboratively with young people by Emily Sullivan at Alliance Magazine.