‘The new online element is going to provide a whole new dynamic to World Council’
Mike, what’s your background within the YMCA?
I started with YMCA Southend, in the UK, as a volunteer in my late teenage years, where I trained as a youth worker and supported local social action projects. From there I joined YMCA England & Wales in its communication team, working with local YMCAs on national awareness and policy campaigns. In 2017 I joined the Steering Group for the design and implementation of YMCA175, YMCA Europe’s global 175th anniversary celebration which was held in London 2019. For the last three years I have been a YMCA volunteer again, now as Chair of the Board of Trustees for YMCA Essex. Three of our staff will be coming to YMCA World Council in Aarhus.
How did you feel about being at the 19th YMCA World Council in Chiang Mai in 2018? How did it change your perception of the YMCA movement?
I attended YMCA World Council in Chiang Mai 2018 as a Change Agent (third cohort), and it built on global gatherings I had attended as part of that programme in Avignon (France), Setubal (Portugal), as well as YMCA Europe General Assemblies in Edinburgh (UK, Scotland) and Hintersee (Germany).
It was at these events that my eyes were opened to the international YMCA movement in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. The sheer scale, impact, and shared mission. Despite differences in our cultures and contexts, and the potential for barriers in communication, there was an overwhelming amount of understanding and respect that unified us. For every project worker, CEO, youth worker, finance manager, communications lead, trustee or volunteer at YMCAs around the world – you have hundreds, if not thousands of counterparts around the world.
I’ve made friends, found professional and personal support networks, mentors and colleagues that support my development, learning and growth in ways that are difficult to quantify.
What are your expectations as you prepare for the 20th YMCA World Council, in July 2022? Do you have any thoughts and particular workshops you are interested in?
Whether this is your first international event or you’ve been to many, there have been significant changes in the four years since the last World Council, and even the three years since YMCA 175. We’ve come out the pandemic – many of us organisationally and personally changed, we’ve taken strides towards greater inclusion and equity, meaningful youth engagement, and a greater propensity for collaboration.
I am excited for our delegates from YMCA Essex to jump in to meeting with colleagues, experiencing the agenda and broadening their perspectives on the global YMCA Movement.
This will also be our first hybrid event – with as many people joining us from around the world remotely as there will be in-person. There will be a huge amount of learning and opportunity as we build the most inclusive World Council in our history.
Personally, I think the online programme will provide a whole new dynamic to the event, while I can’t wait to see the engagement panels conversation that will take place.