This year BBS is proud to undergo a new partnership with JUMP!’s J! Development team, who in the past six years has co-organised and brought Youth Leadership Conferences to life in communities throughout Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Senegal. This year, with our participation, their conference schedules will also be extended to Thailand and China. These conferences give participants, in solidarity and partnership with youth from inner-city neighbourhoods in Paris, Boston, and New York City, the opportunity to work together and empower one other. Students learn to build their confidence and become more connected to their local and global community by voicing their ideas on how to tackle problems facing their villages and neighbourhoods, and the world at large.
The programs use an established methodology known as Open Space – an approach that allows for increased collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas by allowing the content of each conference to be determined and negotiated by the participants themselves. Participates are young men and women aged 15-25 who have been recruited from surrounding villages and urban slum areas due to their demonstrated attitudes of leadership and commitment to improving their communities.
Upon arrival at a Youth Leadership Conference, these young people spend time getting to know each other with fun icebreakers and begin learning about the Open Space framework. Once familiar with one another and the conference goals, participants contribute topics relating to themselves and their communities that they would like to discuss, or change-making projects they would like to propose, and those ideas are then collected, organised, and allocated among “breakout spaces” in the form of workshops and discussion groups.
Each attendee then chooses which breakout space they would like to participate in and begins sharing experiences, ideas, opinions and solutions with their peers. In addition to participation in these interactive spaces, conference organisers also divide up daily roles amongst the youth, including: waste management, icebreakers/ dynamics, role coordinator, water, management of small children, food, notebooks/ pens, schedule, registration, first aid, organising of themes, cleaning, ‘mezclador’/ ‘mixmaster’, translation coordinator, and notes collector.
All participators are free to join or leave any breakout space at any time, with the exception of one designated note-taker charged with recording the group’s on-going discussion. The goal of these breakout spaces is not only to strengthen the characters of participants themselves, but also to eventually guide them through the process of developing Social Entrepreneurship Projects proposed to address and solve real problems currently existing within their own communities. Projects are proposed and cultivated through collaborative discussions and, when breakout space sessions conclude, each group chooses which projects to present to the wider assembly. Under the guidance of conference facilitators, final projects are chosen based upon what could most benefit their communities and could potentially be initiated with minimal resources. After all projects have been proposed to all participants and moderators, everyone votes to determine which two they believe are the most viable and needed projects for their community.
While this is where the conference concludes for most participants, the leaders of the winning projects are then awarded grants and supported by conference organisers to meet with local government officials, NGOs, advocates and advisors who are committed to helping these youth successfully execute their entrepreneurial projects. By pairing these young leaders with their own local support systems, Youth Leaderships Conferences thus effectively work to equip disadvantaged communities to create self-sustaining solutions to their own societal challenges, decreasing the need for future foreign/outside intervention. As strong advocates of self-sustaining initiatives, we at BBS are excited to be supporting these innovative programs and look forward to sharing their many inspiring success stories to come. Stay tuned!