Involvement in YouthBank is an exciting way to work with young people and a compelling story to tell, whether learning non-traditional skills in South Africa, constructing children's community playgrounds in Bosnia, or practicing the art of decision making in the highest inhabited villages of Svaneti in Georgia, there is a heart beat, a rhythm to each funded YouthBank project.
Whatever the cultural setting the purpose is to support young people`s decision-making in the allocation of money to youth-led projects. The grant-makers are well prepared and experience challenging, motivating tasks that are real, have meaning and are significant.
In 2016, 40 young people from nine regions of Armenia, eager to learn how to participate in community development, were selected through a competitive process to become YouthBank committee members and cooperate with the Civic Engagement in Local Governance (CELoG) program funded by USAID.
Participating in three workshops, the young people involved learnt about how the YouthBank model works for community participation, this included how to conduct local surveys and think critically, design, evaluate and implement small scale development projects, how to engage the community in their projects, and how to make transparent decisions. This included how local governance works and opportunities for youth involvement in community life.
When asked “Why is volunteering important? Hakob Hakobyan, from the Martuni YouthBank, replied ‘I personally protected the rights of 1600 people – by not allowing the falsification of voting at the Constitutional Referendum; as a result, in my polling station we had 333 ‘yes’ and 333 ‘non’ votes, to the surprise of the ruling party representatives…’
As part of the process, the YouthBank committee members conducted local surveys to understand the problems and possible motivations of youth participation. They announced competitions and received applications from young people for youth-led community initiatives which they funded and cooperated with local governments to find out cross-cutting opportunities that allowed young people to contribute to the local governments’ longer-term strategies. By the end of 2016, the YouthBank committee members had motivated at least 150 young people to implement 27 specific initiatives in their communities – small in scale but significant in impact.