YMCA Ethiopia: A “GOP pioneer” is back on track
From 13th to 15th May, YMCA Ethiopia’s leaders met with international YMCA partners to discuss progress made to strengthen the Ethiopian Movement. YMCA Ethiopia was shut down for almost 20 years by the late military regime, and re-opened again in 1992. Since then, the YMCA has been growing gradually, both in terms of its local branches and membership.
YMCA Ethiopia was one of the first YMCAs to use the World Alliance’s Global Operating Plan (GOP) as a tool to build its institutional capacity and sustainability. In 2004, YMCA Ethiopia was selected by the Africa Alliance of YMCAs as the first pilot country to undergo an institutional diagnosis. This exercise provided relevant information on the level of YMCA Ethiopia’s mission focus, programme relevance and institutional viability.
Since then partners from YMCAs in the USA, Canada, YMCA-YWCA of Sweden and YMCA Germany have been accompanying YMCA Ethiopia and providing expertise. Thanks to this co-ordinated approach, YMCA Ethiopia has achieved several concrete successes. These include:
1) The return of property confiscated by the previous government
2) The development of new and/or renovated YMCA facilities in Bahir Dar, Wolaita, Debre Marqos and Addis Ababa
3) Increased membership
4) The development and scaling-up of innovative youth programmes
Not only were local capacities in governance, financial sustainability and project management strengthened, but YMCA international partners were able to raise funds from major international donors. This support allowed the YMCA to initiate a wide range of highly relevant programmes for young people in Ethiopia such as Vocational Training Centres, character building, music and drama, HIV/ AIDS awareness, leadership development, youth volunteerism, and community engagement.
Nevertheless, the last few years have been very challenging for the YMCA. Claims made by the YMCA to take back valuable land and properties that were seized under the previous regime have only been partially met by the present government. Furthermore, the Ethiopian authorities have imposed significant retroactive taxes on the YMCA. “We have been going through a difficult period,” said Berhanu Tadesse, the newly elected President of Board of Ethiopia YMCA, “and we pray that our negotiations with the government will finally lead to a total tax exemption.”
Evaluation and Reflection
During the meetings held in May, YMCA Ethiopia’s leaders undertook a critical analysis of the progress achieved, and challenges faced since the last international partner meeting in 2007. The group noted the critical importance and impact of recent training seminars, such as the training for volunteers and staff as well as the one on HIV/AIDS programmes. Another important achievement is that the duties and responsibilities of staff and volunteers have been clearly defined in policy manuals and communicated to the branches. Equally, though still in early stages, several branches have shown good results in generating local resources, either through service provision or from local donors.
“In doing this reflective exercise, we realised how important it was to know your baseline data and indicators, in order to get an objective sense of progress. Once this data is collected, it enables you to report and communicate your achievements not only towards your community and members but also to the wider public and the donors” said Atoro Amanuel, new National General Secretary of YMCA Ethiopia.
An evaluation of the GOP process to date showed that YMCA Ethiopia still needs to strengthen communications on three levels: a) within YMCA Ethiopia itself, b) with key partners and stakeholder and c) with the general public. Insufficient communication within the YMCA and externally was identified as major obstacle to the YMCA’s growth, not only financially, but also in terms of its reputation and membership. To respond to this gap, the group decided on a consolidated annual activity and financial reporting template for 2009, to which each branch and the national office would contribute.
It is important to note that YMCA Ethiopia has a very distinct and prestigious history. The association was founded in 1947, and in 1949, the late Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie (I) requested membership of the World Alliance of YMCAs. While the Emperor consented to be the patron of the YMCA, most of his senior Cabinet Ministers served as board members of the Association and the Movement united around 3 million members. In 1976, the YMCA was dissolved by the defunct Dergue military regime and its properties and assets were confiscated. The YMCA’s re-opening in 1992 is proof of how deeply the YMCA had been anchored into Ethiopian society. Today, the YMCA of Ethiopia has a national office and 9 regional branches and has an estimated membership of 12’000.
Madagascar YMCA joins the “GOP” train
Story by Lantonirina RAKOTOMALALA/, National General Secretary of Madagascar YMCA
From November 29 to December 4, international YMCA partners including Y Care International, Y Global Norway, YMCA Kenya and Zambia, as well as the African Alliance of YMCAs met together with the Madagascar YMCA board of officers and representatives of every local branch to officially launch a movement strengthening process in YMCA Madagascar (also known as the Global Operating Plan (GOP).
The meeting took place in the new YMCA Youth Centre in Ankazomanga, Antananarivo. The so-called ‘institutional diagnosis’ where all aspects of the organisational life of Madagascar YMCA were analysed and discussed, proved to be very participative, despite some difficulties due to language barriers (Malagasy, French and English). Sharing of experiences was very important, and there was a lot of mutual learning.
The analysis showed that the movement has some clear strengths, particularly with regard to the clarity of the vision and the mission at the national level, despite some challenges to communicate this with young members and local associations.
Also, the positive impact of activities and projects in the communities emerged very clearly in the discussion.
However, the activities of the YMCA are still very heterogeneous and lack co-ordination. The group felt that it would be necessary to concentrate more on young people in order to build the YMCA’s niche.
Also, significant efforts need to be invested in building a solid and viable basis for the YMCA, such as:
– developing a solid membership base through a membership recruitment policy
– planning of leadership training
– Development of good governance tools and practices. A manual of procedures for operations and finance will be developed between now and June 2009, to provide local YMCA members with common standards.
– Also, a set of manuals on socially relevant activities will be published to help local YMCAs to focus more on young people’s interests.
Finally, the improvement of the YMCA’s communication practices will be key to positioning the YMCA as a relevant actor among the public, donors and partners.
This first partner meeting provoked a deep reflection on the very nature of the YMCA movement and its practices. All participants were deeply moved by the experience. It reinforced our feelings of belonging to the YMCA. Everybody committed to wanting to do more, so that more young people can be empowered for the African renaissance. ‘That they all may be one!’
Read more on Madgascar YMCA
Success for Sierra Leone Country Focus Group
The Sierra Leone YMCA Country Focus Group met in Freetown from 17th to 20th January 2008. This was part of the YMCA’s Global Operating Plan for movement strengthening.
Partners from YMCA Germany, YMCA Canada (Simceo/Muskoka), the International Group of the YMCA of the USA and the Africa Alliance took part in the meeting, together with the National Board, senior management and representatives of all regions of the Sierra Leone YMCA. The National General Secretary of the Ghana YMCA, Mr Samuel Anim, also attended the meeting.
Growth of the Sierra Leone YMCA
The Sierra Leone YMCA is registering significant progress in various aspects of institutional and programme implementation. This is having a positive impact on young people in the country. Specific areas of growth include:
> clearer vision and mission which are owned by all constituencies
> more quality and competent staff and volunteers
> more systematic leadership training
> strategic plans developed at national and regional levels
> more focus on youth-related programmes in communities
> improved governance systems and procedures
> reviewed policies and constitution
> increased budget
Management of the growth
The meeting agreed specific measures to be put in place to manage the growth of Sierra Leone YMCA. These are:
> identifying the risks in the current development phase of the YMCA
> developing early warning signs and indicators
> developing some preventive measures
> enhancing the monitoring system
Sierra Leone YMCA will launch an internal reflection on these measures with the support of the Africa Alliance.
The meeting agreed to review the 2008 Road Map to incorporate growth management as well as another Institutional Diagnosis. The Africa Alliance was invited to provide the necessary support to consolidate Sierra Leone YMCA activities and to ensure that growth is adequately managed.
“Graduating” from the Country Focus Group
There was considerable discussion on what it means to “graduate” from the Country Focus Group and how to know when this has been achieved. For some, “graduating” means getting out of the “intensive care unit” and a decrease in frequent interventions. For others, it means becoming “healthy or almost sustainable”.
It was agreed that the country focus mechanism is a very good tool for movement strengthening and the Group wanted to maintain this momentum and framework even after the country focus process had been completed. One way to do this is to see the work in the context of the 5 categories in the movement strengthening process. The country focus group is category number 4, whilst category 5 means that the national movement is sustainable in regard to all 3 pillars of movement strengthening – that is mission clarity, social relevance and institutional viability.
In the case of the Sierra Leone YMCA, the main area of concern at the beginning of the process was in relation to institutional viability. In order to assess the progress made it was suggested to perform another Institutional Diagnosis and to compare the current situation with the one at the beginning of the process.
Another way to assess whether Sierra Leone is ready to “graduate” is to assess the transfer of the experience gained at national level to both the region and to the branches.
Keys to success
The role of the Sierra Leone YMCA Board, their competence, motivation and willingness to go through the process, which was painful and highly demanding at the start, were acknowledged as the key pivotal factors for the success of movement strengthening in Sierra Leone to date. Sierra Leone is willing to become a resource movement for other YMCAs starting the country focus process.