Welcome 2013!

Date: 31 January 2013


Secretary-General Johan Vilhelm Eltvik speaks to youth empowerment as our global focus at the 2012 Nairobi Stakeholders Meeting.

This month, we’ve arrived at a significant milestone – the halfway mark in our 2011 – 2014 strategic plan for greater global relevance, visibility and sustainability.  Behind us is the decision to focus on youth empowerment.  An invitation to take concrete action is in front of us.  Beside us are new partners who are ready to join us in this work.

The Giant is Waking

In this moment, the Giant is no longer asleep but he is not fully awake.  We’ve all experienced that feeling on the edge of wakefulness.  The grogginess.  The initial discomfort and disorientation caused by the light.  The hesitation in the split second before readiness to welcome the day.

As the Giant continues to wake up, we are poised to have an unforgettable year:

•    200 young YMCA Change Agents and their mentors will be on the move.  They are preparing to participate in local, national and international meetings and events, including the six-day YMCA Europe Youth Festival in Prague this August.

•    One million young people will be raising their voices.  We’re getting organized to listen closely to the hopes and concerns of this generation.  What we learn from this initiative will be shared at the World Council of YMCAs in 2014.    

•    National, Area and World YMCA leaders will continue working on our global strategy.  In preparation for the next World Council, National General Secretaries will meet outside of London in February.  The World Council’s Executive Committee will meet in Jericho in April.  The Global Staff Team will meet in February, April and October.

•    Global communication will be easier, faster and more collaborative.  We’ll make online communication—including our website and social media—our primary channel for distributing information, sharing resources and raising the YMCA’s profile globally.

•    Employment, health, civic engagement and environmental concerns will be on our global advocacy agenda.  We’ll continue to raise the YMCA flag at the United Nations and at other multilateral tables where global development goals are debated.  We’ll make sure that young people are there – at the podium, in the corridors, and wherever decisions that affect them are being made.

•    YMCAs worldwide will be getting stronger.  Along with our colleagues in the Area Alliances, we’ll continue to work through country focus groups, partner groups, and field groups.  We’re sharpening our tools for movement strengthening too, including organisational assessments, workplans and impact measurement tools.

•    The call to action will be heard around the globe.  We’ll raise $3 million in new financial resources and leverage an estimated value of $2 million through collaborations, in addition to providing ongoing technical assistance, coaching and mentoring through Area Alliances.

•    YMCA leaders everywhere will be engaged in preparing for World Council 2014.
We’re planning and promoting the next World Council in a highly participatory way.  We’re picturing unprecedented numbers of delegates coming together to experience, once again, what it means to be a movement.

Action Precedes Passion

A couple of years ago, a young American gave a TED talk about how to start a movement.  You can see it here.  He got me thinking about how the YMCA started in different countries and how it has been restarted at different moments over the past 170 years.  I’m struck by the bold moves made by these young leaders in response to the music, and I’m reminded that action precedes passion.  We have to experience something before we can know if we feel passionate about it.

Do you remember the feelings that followed your first YMCA experience?  How about your first global encounter? 


Tell us your story at
comment@ymca.int !

I look forward to hearing your stories, and hope you’ll join me in welcoming this new year with the kind of global action that renews our collective passion.

Johan Vilhelm Eltvik
Secretary-General
January 2013

World YMCA E-News – January 2013 – Full Pdf Version