YMCA National General Secretaries Meeting 2023

Date: 05 April 2023

60 YMCA National General Secretaries met in Colorado, USA, on 27-29 March 2023.

“It was a great meeting”, said World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee. “I feel we have given each other energy and momentum in our shared journey to implement Vision 2030.”

Hosted by YMCA of USA and YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, the meeting was the first NGS Annual Conference since Bethlehem in February 2020, on the eve of Covid lockdown.

“My heart swells to see you all,” said Suzanne McCormick, President and CEO of YMCA of USA.

“Welcome to this beautiful place in the mountains: it’s literally breathtaking”, said Alina Pop, YMCA Romania, joking about how many were struggling to adapt to the high altitude, biting winds and sub-zero temperatures. For several, it was the first time they had ever seen snow.

See highlights from all three days on our YouTube channel.

Day 1, Monday 27 March 2023

The first day of the meeting began with a panel discussion between three new National General Secretaries: Tal Karp of Australia, Suzanne McCormick of USA and Marcus Van Wyk of South Africa. Each talked about their experiences as newcomers from outside the YMCA Movement.

The YMCA is in a category of one in its unique ability to meet children and families and older folks – it is an integral part of American society. People can find themselves and belong at the Y (Suzanne McCormick, USA).

The YMCA is more powerful than I expected, and yet it has more work to do than I expected. Vision 2030 is the golden thread which can unlock the Y’s power. (Tal Karp, Australia)

So many people have a story with the Y – but in fact the Y’s story is not being sufficiently told. The first YMCA document I read was Vision 2030, and I loved it. (Marcus Van Wyk, South Africa)

The group then discussed the role of National YMCA Movements in situations of conflict, hearing from Peter Nasir of YMCA East Jerusalem, Viktor Serbulov of YMCA Ukraine, Rocio Solis of YMCA Peru, Helen Tefera of YMCA Ethiopia and Nipun Sangma of YMCA Bangladesh.

 In East Jerusalem, the YMCA manages to empower women, support micro-enterprise and rebuild shattered lives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In Ethiopia, the YMCA has remained strictly neutral in providing humanitarian conflict to those affected by the Tigray conflict. In Peru, the people face a divide among race, ethnicity, class and status. In Ukraine, the Movement at large has facilitated help to 20 YMCAs in Ukraine and over 20 in Europe which have housed and helped more than 44,000 refugees.

No one belongs to the Red Cross or UNICEF, but they belong to the YMCA, because the YMCA belongs in the communities it serves. I may doubt the political process, but I will never give up hope in the people – especially the young people – I see every day. (Peter Nasir, East Jerusalem)

In the afternoon, the group headed for the mountains – some circling Sprague Lake, and others climbing 3000 metres to Bear Lake.

The second day of the meeting began with an extended coaching session led by John Baird, Y USA Board Member and author of Leading with Heart. The group discussed their gifts, their fears and their purpose. They shared plans to make more of their grouping of NGS, with more regular and accountable exchange and an agreed action plan. ‘How can we walk together?’, the group asked.

In the afternoon, they discussed Vision 2030, and especially the February 2023 mapping survey which found that 27 National Movements have activated Vision 2030, 30 are in the process of doing so, and 14 are planning to do so.

They also explored the intended roll-out of the four Movement Support functions whereby World YMCA and the four Area Alliances plus USA and Canada will support the National Movements to implement Vision 2030. These are first, Strategic Alignment and Coordination; second, Learning, Innovation and Impact; third, Advocacy and Influence; and fourth, Resource Development. The group also discussed Vision 2030-centred communications for a new era.

In Summer 2022, World YMCA had a contact with Accenture, who wanted to help Ukrainian refugees. They put them on to YMCA Europe, who were running brilliant programmes. But Accenture would only receive funds from a US 501c3 registered non-profit organisation, so Y USA stepped up to receive the funds and send them back to YMCA Europe. This was Movement cooperation in action, for a beautiful result. (Tom Valentine, USA)

Day 3, Wednesday 29 March 2023

The third day of the meeting began with the heart-breaking news of the sudden death of Dalibor Perasin, National General Secretary of YMCA Slovakia. “We are called to commit ourselves, as he did, to a world where young people can be and can lead the change they want to see”, said Carlos Sanvee.


The group then discussed the work of the Steering Committee on Exploring Christian identity, expression and narrative in the 21st Century global YMCA Movement – towards a unifying position. The Committee had met in February and is set to launch a Movement-wide Conversation later in the year. Its purpose is that ‘all may be one’ and all may feel that they belong in the diverse YMCA Movement of the 21st Century.

A proposal was set out by Kerry Reilly, YMCA Scotland, to run Vision 2030 Accelerator Leadership Summits over the period to 2030, and the group discussed outlines on financing the delivery of Vision 2030, with new posts to be created which are expected to yield three times as much in terms of programme and partnership income. One possible channel of generating income is a YMCA Social Impact Fund presented by consultant Caroline Chernov: banks to house it, investors to fund it and youth employment initiatives to benefit from it are under discussion.


How do we differ from an organisation like One Young World? Quite simply, we have the ground game, they don’t. (Kerry Reilly, Scotland)

The global YMCA Movement adopted Vision 2030, and so we must find the resources to make it happen. (A National General Secretary from the Americas)

YMCA of the Rockies then took the floor, led by CEO Julie Watkins and her team, which presented how its own five strategic priorities fit almost exactly with the four pillars of Vision 2030.

It’s encouraging and exciting to see local YMCA associations like YMCA of the Rockies, and not just the national ones, aligning with Vision 2030 in projects on the ground. This is the way of the future. (Carlos Sanvee, World YMCA)

An afternoon session on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion examined the role of women in leadership roles in the YMCA (presented by Rocio Solis, YMCA Peru), and then broke into groups to discuss the YMCA’s response to issues of racism (led by Nico Gourdet, YMCA USA), interfaith dialogue (Nam Boo Won, YMCA Asia Pacific), sexuality (Rocio Solis, YMCA Peru) and disability (Peter Nasir, YMCA East Jerusalem).

The four Area Alliances – Africa (Nirina Rakotomalala), Asia Pacific (Nam Boo Won), Europe (Juan Simoes) and Latin America & the Caribbean (Antonio Merino) – then shared news from their regions.

Devotions were presented by Nirina Rakotomalala (YMCA Africa), Robert Freith (YMCA Netherlands) and Tsutomo Taguchi (YMCA Japan).