World YMCA Annual report 2019

Resource Type: Reports

Topic: YMCA-General

Date: 10 July 2020

2019 Annual Report Welcome Image

Who we are

YMCA was founded in 1844 London, and now operates in 120 countries reaching nearly 65 million people. YMCA associations are strongly rooted in their communities and offer a variety of programmes and services based on local priorities and issues affecting young people and their communities.

These programme areas cover all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and unite us in our mission to empower young people so that they may transform the world for the better.

In 2019, we celebrated our 175th anniversary, paying homage to our inspired young founder, 22-year-old Sir George Williams, with an event attracting more than 3,000 young leaders around the world back to London, where it all began.

YMCA stands for young people

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr.

As young people take their rightful place across global platforms to face injustice, with a drive for change at all levels of society, we see a force for change arise – it’s a transformative power.

Young people are full of hope, energy, innovation, courage and authenticity, and they fearlessly bring all they have to the table. They have no tolerance for injustice and are not afraid to raise their voices of concern.

We are united globally in our mission to transform the world by the power of inspired young people, driving social innovation, amplifying their voices and creating local solutions to the challenges they are facing.

We continue to offer safe, inclusive spaces where we deliver impact on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and advance social justice and equity for all.

We are dedicated to young people and their communities with a focus on four key areas: health, employment, civic engagement and environment.

YMCA stands for young people – we always have and we always will.

Never underestimate the power of an empowered young person

Our Operational Framework: Youth empowerment for good

Our Operational Framework was developed as a tool to strengthen the Movement and improve its effectiveness, with a goal to make our Movement the “go-to” organisation and partner of choice for youth empowerment. The framework was derived from the strategy adopted by the Movement at the last World Council. It depicts our motivation to continue to listen to the aspirations of Member Movements and initiate ways to articulate the “North Star” that will guide us to create more value addition for our members and external stakeholders

Our intents therefore are to collectively ensure:

–      Increased YMCA’s external relevance and collaboration

–      Increased movement efficiency, agility effectiveness, relevance and enhanced internal collaboration

–      Increased movement financial sustainability based on a robust Economic Model

Working alongside the Global Staff Team, made up of the heads of each geographic region, we have worked to strengthen the capacity of our respective YMCA Areas/National Movements in initiating processes towards becoming the rallying point for youth empowerment matters globally.


New Administration 2018-2022

Message from our President and Secretary General

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery.

January 2019 marked the beginning of a new administration. Under the motto of radical collaboration, the new team spent the past 12 months listening to large parts of the Movement, learning about past and present challenges, and getting a deep understanding of the opportunities that lie ahead to further our collective impact.

Against the backdrop of the “4th industrial revolution”, and its expected impact on every industry, on every person in every country, we know that the ways in which we work and live will be challenged. For the YMCA, as it approaches its 200th anniversary in 2044, this means that we will be dealing with a fundamentally different global landscape and therefore need to reinvent our social as well as our business model.

While we still stand by our pledge to keep youth empowerment as our main priority we do see the need to bring the YMCAs around the world closer together.

Over the past many years the lives of millions of young people have been transformed through our cumulative efforts. However, we have often done so in isolation without advancing the Movement’s impact – collectively. As a consequence, we limited our collective visibility to our external stakeholders. This gives us, today, the opportunity to expand our collaboration and to fully tap into the potential of the movement and drive internal as well has external impact.

So in 2019, we started defining our true “North Star”, the aspirational purpose of our organisation – for today and for the future. In an intensive process that engaged our movement’s leaders, we built our action around the three main focus areas.

These are:

1. Drive Movement Relevance

2. Build a multi-stakeholder ecosystem

3. Strengthen the movement’s overall financial sustainability

We continue to commit to collaboration with our Movement across the globe, to optimise our impact, remain relevant to young people, and ensure financial sustainability.

We are positive that – over the course of this year, 2020 and beyond – real results in the above areas will be achieved.

We look forward to continuing to co-create solutions for our challenging and exciting future together.

2019 – AT A GLANCE

Enhanced Movement Collaboration

In 2019, we embarked collectively on a journey to consolidate our collective organisational purpose. We continued to listen to the Movement at deeper level to pave the way to be more connected. We dedicated time to engage more with National General Secretaries, and to create a more collaboratively built NGS Conference. We formed Communities of Impact, and started the journey to define our collective Vision 2044 “North Star”, and entered into the pilot phase of a data project that will give the entire Movement the chance to measure its impact more efficiently.

Increased External Visibility

We placed a great focus on external communications and working with partners to help grow YMCA’s reach. Our intent was to make the YMCA the partner of choice for Youth Mobilisation and Empowerment. Through engagement with the United Nations, we have continued collaboration with one of our longest standing partners. World YMCA also took opportunities to increase the Movement’s influence within the private sector through events at the World Economic Forum, Africa Future Summit, the Concordia Summit and Dreamforce.

Expanded Youth Empowerment Ecosystem

We recognise that collaboration with young people is key to the advancement of the Movement. Our Change Agents programme is continuing to go through optimisation processes utilising emerging technologies to better empower young people in each of YMCA’s key impact areas. As a complement to this programme, we also launched World YMCA’s first UN Advocacy Group, continued delivering an annual Youth Innovation Camp, and partnered with the UN Youth Envoy to deliver global “watch and do” parties at local YMCAs, where thousands of young people tuned in to the UN’s first Youth Climate Action Summit. Going forward, we’re creating a space for young people to build a series of Youth-Led Solutions Summits aimed at discussing issues important to them. An overarching concept on Youth Resiliency accelerator is also being developed.

Advanced Governance Practices

We made great strides in our governance practices throughout 2019. Through our newly-elected Executive Committee (ExCo), standing committees were formed to match key directives of our Strategic and Operational Plans. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were also introduced to each of the standing committees, World YMCA as a global secretariat and each individual staff member to help hold everyone involved in the organisation accountable for their work.

New policy frameworks were adopted, most notably in regards to governance, and the Governance Standing Committee is currently working to put practices in place ensuring future Executive Committees are fit for purpose. This has led to the adoption of a paperless, online governance system which allows the ExCo access to all important documents in real time without the need of printing. Furthermore, the system allows for a quicker, more efficient decision-making process thanks to the ability to hold important votes through the platform.

Key highlights

Agenda 2044:  Building our Collective Emerging Future

We have initiated a holistic process toward  the identification of our collective Organisation Purpose “ Our North Star” This engagement included:

  1. Empowered youth today: thriving communities tomorrow

A global digital conversation and series of polls to explore what sort of future young people want for their communities, and what they think needs to change

  1. 2044 Scenarios

A two-part workshop where 50 changemakers and 20 strategists developed seven possible scenarios for the world in 2044

  1. Journeys into 2044

A workshop in which over 250 YMCA stakeholders and partners at the YMCA175 World Café explored the seven 2044 scenarios, identified the challenges they present, and devised a set of activities in response, including specific roles for the YMCA.

As a result of these engagements, we have identified:

the trends which will shape the future, and potential focus areas for the YMCA, drawn from hundreds of activities suggested by participants.

We have also developed a Strategy Toolkit, comprising:

  • Seven scenarios for communities in the year 2044, highlighting recurring themes
  • Suggestions for how to facilitate conversations aiming building a shared vision and action plan for the YMCA’s journey to 2044.

Overview of the Findings

The three challenges most frequently mentioned relate to social cohesion: conflict and increasing societal divisions; over-population and migration; and job insecurity. Also frequently mentioned was concern for the mental health of young people in the future

Seven scenarios for  2044

1.‘Restorative advanced society’

Key trends: Biodiversity crisis meets Artificial Intelligence

  1. ‘Concentrated competition’

Key trends: Migration meets Artificial Intelligence

  1. ‘Climate breakdown’

Key trends: Climate breakdown meets Nationalism and Polarisation

  1. ‘Cross-cultural collaboration’

Key trends: Nationalism and Polarisation meet Migration

  1. ‘Crimson horizon’

Key trends: Climate breakdown meets Rise of Super powers

  1. ‘Migration to Perfection’

Key trends: Climate breakdown meets Biotechnology

 Suggested areas for action

Here are the top _five areas for action suggested by participants

  1. Education and skills for conservation and climate change
  2. Safe spaces for sharing and cultural exchange
  3. Skills development and socialisation support for new migrants
  4. Digital skills and STEM training
  5. Mental health and spiritual guidance

Top Five Areas for Action

  1. Education and skills development for conservation

and climate change

  1. Safe spaces for sharing and cultural exchange
  2. Skills and socialisation support for new migrants
  3. Digital skills and STEM training
  4. Mental health and spiritual guidance


Going Digital

To become more relevant we must not be afraid to adapt to the world around us. Data is the new standard of relevance and we must look toward new technologies to ensure YMCA is keeping up with this trend.

Working together with 10 National Movements, we entered into the pilot phase of a new digital data gathering platform using industry leaders Vera Solutions and Salesforce. Using data from the latest Blue Book report as a baseline, YMCAs beta tested and fed back their findings to World YMCA and Vera Solutions. In year two, we will look to narrow down those data fields and bring 50 more YMCAs into the project to ensure the system is optimised for all National Movements.


Communities of Impact

At the NGS meeting in Brisbane, we announced our intention to build Communities of Impact (COI), led by National Movements, in each of the our key impact areas. In year one we launched three COIs – Refugees and Migration led by YMCA Canada, Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship led by Y Care International, and Mental Health led by YMCA Australia. This global multi-stakeholder approach gives YMCAs already working in these areas the opportunity to share best practices with each other, test and refine innovative programmes and solutions, and drive impact by inviting external experts and partners to contribute to community goals. Two more COIs on Climate Action and Policy and Advocacy will be launched in 2020. These will be led by YMCA Asia-Pacific and YMCA England & Wales respectively.


Strengthen Movement Economic Sustainability

Our collective vision

Underpinning and connecting each of these pillars is our work to define the Movement’s North Star. Our priority is youth empowerment, but the question we keep running into is, youth empowerment for what?

To answer this question, we must look beyond the next four to eight years, and instead seek to ascertain what our Movement will like when it reaches its 200th anniversary. In 2019, at our YMCA175 celebration we invited Forum for the Future to host several workshops for young people in attendance which involved scenario building and design thinking exercises to help craft and set the agenda for the next 25 years. In 2020, we will share their findings with National General Secretaries and invite them to give their feedback and begin the early stages of crafting our North Star vision together.

NGS Conference

In February, 48 National General Secretaries came together in Brisbane, Australia for their annual conference to learn from one another, develop their skills as YMCA leaders and look into opportunities to work better together. They also looked at better ways to enhance opportunities to work together in an effort to increase trust, and leverage the potential of YMCAs individually as well as collectively.

The conference concluded with a wave of renewed optimism about the potential of the wider YMCA family to achieve the organisation’s goals through its key impact areas – youth employment, civic engagement, health and environment.

UN Advocacy Group

In April we launched World YMCAs first UN Advocacy Group consisting of 12 young people from 11 countries. The group serves as our Movement’s voice with our partners at the United Nations. These young people began their journey together by representing YMCA at the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York. The UN Advocacy Group followed up by delivering a high-level position statement on social inclusion to the UN, bringing the voice of young people and the issues they care about most to the forefront. Learn more

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is at the heart of the United Nations system to advance the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. It is the central platform for fostering debate and innovative thinking, forging consensus on ways forward, and coordinating efforts to achieve internationally agreed goals. It is also responsible for the follow-up to major UN conferences and summits. ECOSOC brings people and issues together to promote collective action for a sustainable world.

World Challenge 2019

To celebrate YMCA’s 175th anniversary, World YMCA challenged people across the globe to volunteer 175 minutes of their time on 8 June to better their community.

YMCAs all over the world prepared events for people in their community to volunteer their time as we paid homage to the millions of volunteers who have supported our Movement over the last 175 years.

YMCAs in roughly 40 countries participated in World Challenge, the majority of which focused their efforts on environmental causes cleaning up beaches and neighbourhoods. Others participated in community outreach such as feeding the homeless and visiting homes of senior adults. YMCA of the USA also took part for the first time with 35 of 50 states and more than 120 local YMCAs participating.


In August, YMCA celebrated its 175th anniversary by bringing together more than 3,000 young leaders for a unique four-day event. The festivities took place in London, the city where the Movement began in 1844

This global youth event was a springboard for global change, unity and celebration. Objectives for the event centred around connecting young leaders like never before, celebrating 175 years of YMCA, and creating positive change and new ideas to shape the future.

At YMCA, we know that young people have a passion and commitment to social justice and positive cultural change through promoting global equity and diversity. Therefore, this global youth event had the elements of a conference, summit and celebration, that was a living embodiment of YMCA. The event welcomed partners from the United Nations, globally renowned keynote speakers and young activists to share their stories and pay homage to the Movement’s history and heritage. Learn more



Young people from 93 YMCAs in nearly 50 countries took #ClimateAction on 21 September, as they gathered to watch the UN’s first Youth Climate Summit in New York.

Before and after their respective watch parties they ventured into their communities to clean up litter from the streets and beaches, took part in group learning sessions about how they could help stop climate change, and created artwork declaring their commitment for climate action.

During the lunch break in New York, YMCAs from Wales, Zimbabwe, the Philippines and the USA entered into a Facebook Live discussion with our Secretary General Carlos Madjri Sanvee, who was attending the Summit in New York.

Our Secretary General also took part in a live interview as part of the Science Matters SDG Live Media Zonewhere he spoke about YMCA’s commitment to achieving the SDGs and the importance of young people being solution providers in their communities.

With the number of people on the move now at a record total of 70 million – more than half of which are children – YMCA is stepping up its efforts to help refugees and migrants.YMCA’s Global Summit on Migration and Immigration took place, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA at the beginning of October. Led by practitioners, the international YMCA family came together to focus our efforts on more impactful outcomes and to stand up for a dedicated humanitarian approach in this critical time.

While YMCA already runs some programmes to help displaced people, we believe we can do more. In fact, we believe that it is our responsibility as our brothers and sisters’ keeper to do all we can to help, as they are some of the world’s most vulnerable. This is an essential part of our commitment to supporting young people and their families around the world.


From November to December our partners Africa Future Summit embarked on a tour across the continent hosting tech summits at five local YMCAs. Through this collaboration, young people, were given the opportunity to learn from industry leaders and entrepreneurs.

These events were a prime example of how YMCA is using its spaces all over the world as a vehicle to give young people access to tools and knowledge so they can succeed in life and transform this world for the better. Throughout the tour participants learnt from tech entrepreneurs. Young people were then given the opportunity to practice their pitch skills to co-founders of Forbes 8. The tour involved the YMCA in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria culminating in its premier Ghana Tech Summit hosted at YMCA Ghana.



Cohort 4 started in April 2019 and will run until April 2020. More than 150 Change Agents were originally registered with those from Africa, Latin America & Caribbean, Canada and USA also being part of their Area/National leadership programme.

The year started with the global Task Force meeting at YMCA Fairthorne Group in Southampton, England. The group was comprised of members representing every continent and spent time together working on their recommendations, plans for the latest cohort and checking the venue ahead of the Global Gathering later in the year.

After the Global Gathering, the Change Agents headed north to London to participate at YMCA175 where they took part in workshops and panels while providing valuable guidance to World YMCA’s three-day North Star workshop.

As we head towards the end of this Change Agents cohort, participants are involved in delivering their projects back home and completing their e-learning content on time to earn their diplomas.

SDG Impact Report

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

The involvement of young people is crucial to the achievement of the Goals, as their main aim is to create and foster a better future for the generations to come. Therefore, at the request of YMCA National General Secretaries, World YMCA developed, tested and initiated a survey to map the work being done across the Movement to achieve the 2030 agenda. This report will serve as the baseline for our Movement’s collective global impact, delivered in a language NGO’s and corporations alike are using to measure their own positive impact on the world.

In total, 59 National Movements participated in the study, with 25 completing the project in its entirety. The results indicated that globally, YMCA is working in all 17 SDGs. The Movement’s greatest impact can be found in SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, and SDG 4 – Quality Education.


This first year has certainly been an eventful one with new partnerships, new avenues for greater collaboration and of course a wonderful anniversary event. We have achieved or are on schedule to achieve each of the goals we set out to deliver at the beginning of the year and this wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support from our Executive Committee and our friends from all around the Movement.

We continue to be humbled by your dedication and indeed the dedication of thousands of young people at local YMCAs around the world. Next year is set up to be another exciting and important time for YMCA and we look forward to sharing in that excitement with the entire YMCA family.