Last year was obviously hard and so when my annual calendar for 2021 arrived featuring 12 stunning pictures of people, places and landscapes from around the world I was immediately drawn in. The associated words asked the viewer about the kind of post COVID 19 world that could be re-imagined if the legal and political arrangements were in place to protect the most vulnerable. After all, it could be you in that boat.
On the back cover was a small question box encouraging me to think about what I wanted to do in the year ahead. To give more to worthy causes was one such prompt. But to whom? And another chastened me with the statement - from doing good to doing change. Changing what? Why? And, if possible, how in this current COVID world of lockdowns and stay at home regimes that have shaped the past 12 months plus.
The pandemic has changed the way we eat, drink, socialise, exercise, travel, learn and work in a profound way. It has meant change everywhere, and YouthBank International is no different as we navigate the world of current times. Utilising the valuable time of 2020 saw us picture board and reimagine the YouthBank model and its associated processes with a shift to a more blended set of learning opportunities, utilising activities and formats that blend e-learning and live virtual learning to complement traditional face-to-face approaches. At times it felt like being trapped in an art gallery escape room with blank canvases and not too many clues. And yet the freedom to create was inspiring.
The most significant advancement has been the remodelling of the 16 steps approach into a more comprehensive framework which helps to explain the YouthBank process as five distinctive parts of the YouthBank cycle and 18 key steps. Accompanying that is a myriad of challenges for young people to undertake that will support them as they move through the YouthBank journey.
To date we have produced over 75 hours of learning materials for YouthBank practitioners to select from and use in each phase of the cycle. Whilst still in the early development stage we have been grateful to have worked with young people from Bosnia, Georgia and South Africa to test out the new digital formats. A series of online webinars will be available in the next few months on how to use the new digital tools.
Other changes see a new logo, an adaptation of the old one, which now has five outer circles to reflect the five phases of the new YouthBank model. A refreshed website and social media channels are populated on a regular basis by Katja Palaic, who has joined us on a part time basis, to enhance our marketing and storytelling output. And scanning the landscape of where new shoots of growth are emerging in Croatia, England, India, Indonesia, Palestine and Sicily, with organisations not presently involved in participatory grant-making with young people, will soon be pencilled into the calendar as well. ‘A new starters’ club’ with a chance to connect, minimising isolation and with the opportunity to benefit from peer support is a distinct possibility. And this eagerly awaited development can bring about greater numbers of young people and practitioners who can tell their YouthBank story in a way that inspires others to believe that they too can make positive differences in their own communities.
Plenty of new steps to learn for those new shoes today.
Vernon Ringland, March 2021