Building the ‘Backbone’ function to support Vision 2030

Date: 01 March 2023

World YMCA, Area Alliance leaders co-design YMCA Vision 2030 support functions

From 20-22 February 2023, a group of 27 people from around the global YMCA Movement met at the World YMCA headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to co-design the Vision 2030 ‘backbone function’.

Through this backbone function, the World YMCA, the four YMCA Area Alliances (Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean), YMCA USA and YMCA Canada will provide support to YMCA National Movements worldwide as they implement YMCA Vision 2030, the shared strategic framework adopted at World Council in July 2022.

They will do so in four key areas: strategic alignment, learning and innovation, advocacy and representation, and resource development.

“All four of those functions are designed to help National Movements”, said World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee.

“First, they will help to linking local strategies with global strategies (it’s two-way traffic).

Second, they will give National Movements access to a global platform for learning and sharing for collective impact, and pooling ways of supporting young people to design their own solutions to their own challenges.

Third, they will help us all to amplify the voices of young people.

And fourth, they will allow us to target investment at scale.”


The key outputs of the meeting were summary 12-month action plans under all four areas. These plans will now be finalized. Thereafter, they will be delivered through two main channels: through National Movements themselves, and specifically through the four ‘Pillar Teams’ (one for each Pillar of Vision 2030: Community Wellbeing, Meaningful Work, Sustainable Planet, Just World) which will coordinate Movement-wide work.

“That’s a huge step forward” said Sanvee. “Now that we have these plans, we will populate the Backbone teams from World YMCA and the Area Alliances, and link them to the four Pillar Teams.”



The following people attended the meeting, in a global first in bringing together staff from all four Area Alliances, the National Movements of USA and Canada, and Y Care International.


  • Nirina Rakotomalala, YMCA Africa Alliance, General Secretary
  • Lloyd Wamai, YMCA Africa Alliance, Programme Innovation & Management Executive
  • Elizabeth Nanala, YMCA Africa Alliance, Finance and HR Director
  • Lavine Imali, YMCA Africa Alliance, Digital, Communications Manager


  • Nam Boo Won, YMCA Asia Pacific, General Secretary
  • Beng Seng Chan, YMCA Asia Pacific, Global Alternative Tourism Network Coordinator
  • Sunita Suna, YMCA Asia Pacific, Executive Secretary for Programmes


  • Juan Simoes Iglesias, YMCA Europe, General Secretary
  • Olga Lukina, YMCA Europe, Executive Secretary for Strategy and Movement Strengthening
  • Jessica Woitalla, YMCA Europe, Project Manager and Proposal Writer


  • Antonio Merino, YMCA Latin America & Caribbean, General Secretary
  • Daniel Galan, YMCA Latin America & Caribbean, Programs, Services, and Innovation Manager
  • Maria Fernanda Giraldo, YMCA Latin America & Caribbean, Marketing & Communications Lead
  • Oriana Ortiz, YMCA Latin America & Caribbean, Programs Assistant


  • Jessica Nkongolo, YMCA Canada, Manager, Youth & Global Initiatives
  • Kelly Hardy, YMCA Canada, Marketing & Communications Vice President
  • Tom Valentine, YMCA of the USA, Vice President, International Group
  • Renata Ferrari, YMCA of the USA, Senior Director, Global Advancement


  • Angela Zamaere Smith, Y Care International, Director of Programmes & Partnerships
  • Graeme Hodge, All We Can, Chief Executive Officer


  • Jan Owen, AdaptabilityQ, Australia
  • Carlos Sanvee, World YMCA, Secretary General
  • Razvan Victor-Sassu, World YMCA, Head of Strategy & Policy
  • Suzanne Watson, World YMCA, Finance Director
  • John Phillips, World YMCA, Communications Director
  • Kathleen Elsig, World YMCA, Director of Global Partnerships
  • Gloria Anyika,World YMCA, Programmes Manager

The meeting was jointly facilitated by Jan Owen from Adaptability Q and Razvan Victor-Sassu, Head of Strategy for the World YMCA.

Jan wrote afterwards: ‘It was an incredible and daunting privilege to co-design & co-create with these extremely clever Y people, an intergenerational group, from something like 28 different countries. As the largest and oldest social enterprise in the world, the Y are the experts in how to do business for purpose and good. And now with Vision 2030, its first shared global strategy in 180 years, the worldwide YMCA is levelling up to accelerate positive societal change in partnership with, and led by, young people and their communities’.

Razvan wrote afterwards: ‘… an amazing and inspiring week, where we went through a co-design process with our colleagues from all around the world, laying the foundations for the implementation of Vision 2030 as our new global YMCA strategy. It’s always a great learning challenge to design such processes from scratch, and to learn on the go.’

The meeting also heard from one external speaker, Patricia Bowie, the Managing Director for Learning and Design at the Population Change Institute in Massachusetts, USA. She guided the group through the specifics of building backbone functions, especially encouraging the use of data to underpin the approach to Vision 2030 outcomes at all levels.