YMCA global meetings #1 – leaders unite

Date: 01 November 2021

“The deeper the roots, the stronger our Movement. Working for the YMCA is a calling”, said Juan Iglesias Simoes, Secretary General of YMCA Europe, at the start of a two-day online meeting of YMCA National General Secretaries on 28-29 October 2021.

The meeting went on to reaffirm the bonds not just of shared roots but of growing branches, as the global YMCA Movement moves towards the intended adoption of YMCA Vision 2030 at the 20th YMCA World Council in July 2022.

Over 70 YMCA National General Secretaries took part in the online meeting which was originally planned to take place face-to-face at the new YMCA Vernier headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.  World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee reminded the meeting that the COVID-19 pandemic has not allowed the Movement to meet together physically since 2019.

He welcomed Graeme Hodge, new CEO of Y Care International, an associate member of World YMCA which merged in September 2020 with All We Can, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund. He also bade farewell to Melinda Crole, former Chief Executive of Y Australia, who has served the YMCA for 17 years. “It has been the greatest privilege working with everyone,” she said, “and I am so excited that your inspiration continues to change the world for good. I look forward to seeing Vision 2030 brought to life by everyone in this room.”

Wadia Ait Hamza, Head of the Global Shapers Community at the World Economic Forum, presented the WEF Davos Lab Youth Recovery Plan. The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change. Created in 2011 to inspire young people, it spans 14,000 members in 455 cities in 150 countries, and stresses the importance of ‘young people at the local, national, regional and global level having the possibility to speak with stakeholders and have their voices heard’.  The Recovery Plan features a Millennial Manifesto and a set of 40 policy recommendations to help policymakers integrate the voices of the next generation into recovery efforts. The meeting revealed strong alignment between the WEF and YMCA, and a commitment to support each other in promoting a joint agenda.

On the specific YMCA agenda, the meeting then discussed progress on the first consultation phase of YMCA Vision 2030. Tom Valentine, Vice President, International, at Y USA, spoke of the need to ground YMCA worldwide work within the larger vision of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the priority of focussing on young people’s needs as identified and expressed by them.


Razvan Sassu, Head of Policy and Advocacy at World YMCA, described the three-month consultation phase in which over 450 people attended information webinars and then 40 YMCAs submitted their formal feedback. They discussed how they were aligning their own local plans with the global strategy.




“This is a revolutionary change”, said one leader. “Never before could we in the global YMCA Movement all align around one Vision, one Mission, and four key action areas.”  “Listening gives us inspiration”, said another. “We feed from each other.”

The meeting then heard from Kerry Reilly, Chief Executive of YMCA Scotland and Chair of the Concept Design Team for YMCA World Council 2022.  She presented plans for the hybrid event – “one single and unique event in two equal parts – an in-person and an online” – which will run from 3-9 July 2022, and for which online ‘early bird’ registration will begin within 10 days. Leaders discussed COVID considerations, fees and subsidies.

Claude Alain Danthe, head of digital strategy at World YMCA, then presented the YMCA Data Community Initiative which will provide the institutional dataset to allow the Movement to measure the number and type of people that its programmes reach. “This information is absolutely critical to who we are. So far, only 56 National Movements have accessed the platform and used the licences provided by the global cloud-based software company Salesforce.  It can only work if each National Movement submits and shares its own data.”

Nam Boo Won, General Secretary of the Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCAs, then presented the YMCA’s plans for the ‘COP 26’ climate conference in Glasgow, 1-12 November, involving a team of youth ambassadors from around the world, the showcasing of six YMCA climate action projects at a global film premiere, a new YMCA position statement on climate change, and a series of YMCA events from within the Green Zone in Glasgow.

On Day 2 of the meeting, the YMCA global leaders were joined by Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (IFRC). IFRC, a fellow member of the ‘Big Six’ (the largest global youth organisations) and a co-partner in the Global Youth Mobilization initiative, is the largest humanitarian network in the world.



Jagan Chapagain discussed a USD 2.4 billion IFRC response to COVID which began as a Health initiative and soon encompassed social and economic responses.  “It’s not so much about money, as about us all having the resources and the will to make a difference”, he said.  “There are huge expectations of us in the Big 6. We should be ambitious not for ourselves, but for the people who look to us.”