I am incredibly proud and satisfied by what we have achieved at YPARD in the last seven and a half years. When I first began in 2010 youth was rarely mentioned and we were lucky if we managed to secure an ill-attended side event. Youth organizations were limited in scope and rarely seen. But now youth is central to the agenda. I like to think that we played a small part in achieving that.
We have an incredible group of people who have worked on developing a thriving network. Some of my fondest memories of my time in YPARD are when I’ve been interacting with the community. These include the launch of the mentoring program in Kenya, GCARD2 and 3, YAW, the amazing 10-year celebrations from around the world, the first and the second strategic planning meeting. The latter is where I received my farewell and a truly touching book of messages from some members of the YPARD community.
I have learned many things in my time with YPARD and I am grateful to the vibrant community from which I am continually learning. I do not yet know where I’m headed but I will bring with me the lessons that I’ve learned, some of which include:
- Youth leadership can be a powerful tool for local youth transformation but the experiences between members and representatives in different countries are different and YPARD must be flexible enough to adapt for local contexts while consistent enough to provide enough structure and support to them as part of the network.
- Mentoring is an incredibly powerful tool for enabling young people to make a positive difference in their lives and their communities. We should all try to mentor more in our own work.
- Working in a nonhierarchical organization is not easy nor straightforward. But when it does work, it builds the strongest of communities.
- People are, in the development space, at the moment, willing to listen to what young people have to say. Now that people are listening we must seize the opportunity and be clear on the message.
- Representation is incredibly tricky. As a youth network, we need to be careful how we claim to ‘represent’ youth in agriculture since being young does not make you a ‘youth representative’. We need much more clarity, understanding and realism in what our expectations of representation means and how we can do this much better.
The success we achieved has been the result of an amazing and committed group of people. There are so many people I would like to recognize. From the founders of YPARD: Bala, Oliver, Alessandra, Markus, Mariana, Kristina). In the early days to our hosting and support by GFAR when I began in 2010, I joined a fledgling organization, full of good intentions with a keen desire to make a difference. When Marina Cherbonnier joined me in February 2011 the two of us set a large goal and worked passionately and relentlessly together for the next six years. We grew and grew. With more members, funds, visibility, and recognition also came the challenges of organization and structure, effective governance, system development and responsibility.
While things did not always go according to plan and we had some setbacks on the way, the committed group of amazing individuals working together have pushed it forward. The achievements and impact compared to the resources received by the network are truly impressive.
We are working with some amazing regional coordinators who are bringing the best out of the regional activities. We have had so many impressive national representatives who have done some amazing work. I don’t want to list names here in fear of missing some out, but you continue to do the most valuable and most relevant work and whenever I am feeling swamped in politics and bureaucracy I always think about the contributions that you have made. We have had different steering committee members over the years who have provided valuable guidance and support.
The current team (Emmie, Michelle, and Myriam), are all strong and committed champions of better youth in agricultural engagement. I have every confidence that YPARD will continue to grow and play an ever more important role supporting young people with strong roles in shaping future food systems. Thank you for your support and the valuable lessons you have taught me and all the best in the next phase and way forward.
See you soon…on the other side!
This blog post by Courtney Paisley is cross-posted from the YPARD blog.