Strengthening the Movement

Topic: Accenture

Date: 05 February 2024

YMCA leaders meet in Chicago to develop global strategic capacity-building plan

A group of 20 YMCA leaders worldwide gathered for three days of intense, inspiring and productive discussions around Strategic Alignment and Movement Strengthening (SAMS). 

Our first-ever joint strategy global meeting brought together Area Alliances and National Movements providing funding and capacity-building support to partner YMCAs. YMCA of the USA hosted the meeting on 30 January – 1 February 2024 at its Chicago, Illinois headquarters and arranged a visit to nearby Camp Duncan/Camp Independence to get a closer look at its Movement-strengthening work. 

“We are working to build a well-coordinated global Movement Strengthening system that enables all YMCAs to better empower young people and their communities”, said World YMCA Head of Strategy and Advocacy Razvan Victor-Sassu, noting the work is part of the SAMS Movement Support Functions. “We made tremendous progress in three days. I am thankful for all Y-USA did to host the meetings and to our delegates for their amazing commitment, passion and energy”.

Next steps: Finalise the meeting’s report and present it to stakeholders at the end of February.

Oriana Ortiz of the YMCA Latin American & Caribbean Alliance said, “This process is new for everyone. It has been great to have different voices, experiences and ages in one room and figure it out together. We may have different perspectives and ideas but share the same dream”.

Empowering the Movement

Along with developing capacity building, the team worked on developing strategies to ensure all YMCAs are resilient and thriving, driven by the needs of young people and their communities, an essential and recognised player in their communities, and actively and meaningfully contributing to YMCA Vision 2030.

“As a Movement, we have so much opportunity to reach young people all over the world”, said Kristin Bjorå of Y Global Norway. “By working together, sharing what we know, and supporting each other, we’ve started making progress towards our YMCA goals. This teamwork helps us move forward and fulfil our YMCA mission”.

The meeting employed co-creation techniques, featuring a shared space where some sessions were facilitated by members of the group. In crafting this strategic plan, the team dedicated efforts to:

  •       Developing a shared definition of Movement Strengthening (MS)
  •       Identifying barriers to MS and how to address them
  •       The future of MS and what success looks like
  •       Strategic priorities now through 2030

Niclas Sannerheim of YMCA/YWCA Sweden (KFUM Sverige) said, “Without Movement Strengthening, Vision 2030 will be very difficult to accomplish. We have seen YMCAs struggle capacity-wise, financially, and sustainability-wise, so it needs to be prioritised. “

Camp Duncan/Camp Independence

The meetings included visiting the campground of Camp Duncan/ Camp Independence, part of the YMCA of Metro Chicago.

Camp Duncan provides day and overnight camps for children and young people starting at age 5. The 300-plus-acre campus offers swimming, rock wall climbing, archery, games, and more. In addition, it welcomed YMCA Movements from the USA and Europe for the 2023 Campacity Europe and USA Camp Conference. Located on the campgrounds, Camp Independence provides the same camping experience for campers with spina bifida.

Camp director Bobby Thomas explained how the camps address Movement Strengthening.

“The United States has such a long and robust history of camping, and we tend to keep that all here”, he said. “The reality is that there are youth and children across the world that could benefit greatly from camping. Sharing that experience outside of our backyard globally and what we’ve been through over the last 100-plus years can be beneficial to places that don’t have such a long history with camping”.

Moving forward

At the conclusion of the meeting, a plan was drafted, and the team will give it a final review before it is presented to stakeholders as part of the National General Secretaries meeting beginning on 26 February in Prishtina, Kosovo.

The team felt hopeful and energised about the YMCA’s path forward.

“It has been a very successful three days working around Movement Strengthening”, said Christian Kamara of the African Alliance of YMCAs and National General Secretary of YMCA Sierra Leone. “Collectively, we’ve been able to put our ideas together to have a process that can be used at the global, Area and National Movement levels.

“Movement strengthening is critical and timely, and most importantly, tied to Vision 2030”, he said. “It’s about capacity building, sustainability, leadership development, youth, impact, actively participating and peer review. I go home very encouraged that we are on the right path for achieving a sustainable global Movement”.

How did the team feel after three days of intense, productive discussions?

See what they said!