Greetings from Farnham, United Kingdom! This is Sara, a member of Plan International USA Youth Advisory Board. I am here attending a two-day workshop with international Plan staff and leaders to discuss youth’s role in governing Plan. Before I jump into the goings on here, I will give you a quick overview of how we got here. Bear with me…
The Youth Advisory Board is an arm of Plan’s domestic youth engagement. We are made up of young people from across the United States and work to provide guidance, knowledge and expertise to US Plan staff and the Board of Directors. The most senior advising group at Plan’s international level is called the Member’s Assembly. The Member’s Assembly meets twice a year and is responsible for the approval of international decisions. I am mentioning them here because the Member’s Assembly (always referenced as the MA) called upon Plan to explore avenues for youth engagement in decision-making. In response, youth already involved with upper level governance (more on this later) petitioned the formation of a Youth Steering Committee (YSC).
In the June 2012, the YSC was formed and by the end of the year had representation from every Plan region. Plan’s program countries are divided into four regions – the Region of the Americas (ROA), West Africa Regional Office (WARO), Region of Eastern and Southern Africa (RESA) and Asia Regional Office (ARO). In Plan lingo, program countries are called country offices, also sometimes called “the field.” National Offices are responsible for raising funds for the programs in the country offices. Representation to the YSC came from national offices delegates from the United Kingdom and the United States (me). We spoke several times a month over conference call and realized that we needed to again speak with the Member’s Assembly and get a discussion going with both youth and adults about the future of Plan. The purpose of these workshops is to formulate a concept for moving Plan forward in a way that includes young people in governance.
Along with the YSC, here’s a picture of who is at these meetings. Delegates to the Member’s Assembly, from Canada, India, United States, Finland, Canada, UK, and Denmark. Youth trustees from national office boards (keep reading for more on this), the CEO of Plan International and staff members from International headquarters also joined the meeting. These are the leaders who ultimately decide if and how young people should be integrated into Plan governance. Determining the best model for an international organization responsible for over fifty developing countries is a challenge to say the least.
Today we all met in a conference room and were presented with this task. We first identified where Plan stands now with youth governance. Twelve national offices and three country offices have youth advisory boards (including the US). Five out of these youth advisory boards appointed youth trustees to serve as members of their respective Board of Directors. A Board of Directors is the senior most governing body of each national office and consists of leaders from the community that volunteer to offer advice and guidance to Plan staff and CEO. While the Board does not always brainstorm how things should operate, they do have the authority to grant funding to projects designed up by Plan staff. (Board members from each national office serve as delegates to the Member’s Assembly.) While the present participation is great, there is much more to be done to incorporate young people from all Plan countries from both country and national offices. So that is what we are working towards here.
Stay tuned for more about how the days unravel…
Also, please comment with questions or ideas you have. I’d love to hear them!