Y USA’s call to ‘Capture and communicate our impact’

“One of the things that I think is really important is that we have greater unity of purpose, and that we do a better job of capturing and communicating our impact, because we have an incredible story to tell … of the incredible work that we do each day in over 12,000 communities around the world. There are few organisations with greater diversity and a greater grass roots ground game than the YMCA.”

Watch Tom Valentine, Vice President, International at the YMCA of the USA, talk about how the World Alliance’s biggest single Movement works with and learns from other Movements all over the world.  He makes the case for greater unity for greater impact.

The full transcript

Hello, my name is Tom Valentine, and I’m the Vice-President of International at the YMCA of the USA. YMCA of the USA is the largest YMCA in our global federation. We have presence in over 2000 communities in the United States and collectively we reach over 20 million young people and families throughout our country. Our core work centres around three themes: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. And we see ourselves as part of the foundation to strengthen community in our country and around the world. We also have a deep global engagement in our Movement. Over 250 of our local YMCA associations have Y to Y partnerships with YMCAs around the world. We work very closely with the World Alliance of YMCAs to strengthen the leadership, the youth programme impact, and the sustainability strategies of our global YMCA Movement.

Our YMCA is deeply committed to advancing Vision 2030 in order to have a greater impact in empowering young people to lead global transformation. So we’re very committed to the four pillars of Vision 2030: a just world, a sustainable planet, meaningful work, and community wellbeing. And  we do that through a variety of mechanisms. We help to raise financial and technical support to strengthen the leadership of programmes around the world. That includes our World Service campaign, which raises several million dollars a year to strengthen YMCAs. We also have partnerships with foundations and corporations…. In addition to that we work very closely with YMCAs on helping to strengthen their governance, and to strengthen their local income-generating strategies so they are more sustainable and durable over the long term.

I’m really excited about this World Council for a few reasons. Number 1, we’ve never had a larger overarching strategy that actually links all that we do in the YMCA to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We’re starting to think bigger than just ourselves, and if we can harness the talent and the energy of our global YMCA Movement, we can make an incredible impact in multiple communities around the world. One of the things that I think is really important is that we have greater unity of purpose and that we do a better job of capturing and communicating our impact, because we have an incredible story to tell, but we’re not always good at sharing that story with the broader public. So this represents our opportunity to influence future policies and programmes and funding strategies around the world and to show the incredible work that we do each day in over 12,000 communities around the world. There are few organisations with greater diversity and a greater grass roots ground game than the YMCA and this represents an opportunity to work collectively through Vision 2030 to make a bigger and more sustainable impact on reducing poverty around the world.

In the US YMCA Movement, we have a lot to learn from our global YMCA partners around effective strategies for climate action. In an ad hoc way, many of our YMCAs are doing very strong environmental programmes, but we haven’t come up with a broader collective vision, a Green strategy for our YMCA, so we’re learning from other YMCA Movements around the world, and from Vision 2030, that it’s very important for us to set, number one, bolder goals, number two, real targets and metrics so that we can measure our progress, and number three, to inspire more young people to lead the change themselves. We are not any more just about providing services to young people: we have to service a platform so that young people can define their own solutions, and lead the change themselves, and that’s an important philosophic transition that we will be making as a result of this World Council.

I think it’s extraordinarily important that we mobilise and invest more resources for YMCAs with great potential. There are many incredible YMCAs that have very impactful programmes and strong leaders, but we haven’t put in the right investment of time and resources in helping them get to the next level. That’s partly financial resources, but it’s also about leadership development and capacity building. We have an enormous ability if we can create stronger and more vibrant learning networks – including leaders from the Global South – so that we have a better impact in developing the leaders and also the good governance systems to really make a difference. Another thing we can really work on together is continuing to strengthen and improve our programme strategies so that they have a deeper impact on young people, and being able once again – through data – to capture the impact of what we do, so that we can better tell our stories to others around the world.