Young, Empowered and Leading the WAY

Date: 20 February 2013

Young YMCA delegates to the 2012 UN conference on climate change in Doha, Qatar and their friends.

Meet Marcus, George, Sunniva, Håvard, Sofia and Andreas.  These six young adults are part of a global YMCA network advocating for a sustainable society  They were the YMCA’s delegates to the UN climate conference in Qatar last November, building on the groundwork done at conferences in Denmark, Mexico, South Africa and Brasil in recent years. 

Their posts, videos, photos and tweets reveal the inner workings of international negotiations on climate change, helping us understand the implications of complex global issues and processes.  Through their eyes, we see the unique role of civil society in holding public officials and private interests accountable to the values, aspirations and expectations of their generation.

Youth Empowerment in Action
This global advocacy work, backed by the YMCA-YWCA of Sweden and other national movements, is an exciting example of youth empowerment in action.  It involves creating and protecting the kind of open and welcoming space in which young people can discover and live out their values in the world.  In this space, they find support for their leadership journeys.  Along the way, they have learning experiences and opportunities for personal development that they describe as transformational.  They are profoundly changed from the inside out.  The impact is personal and political.  Equipped with new knowledge, skills and awareness, they are now global citizens fully empowered to affect positive change in the lives of others.

Space.  Transformation.  Impact. 
Space.  Transformation.  Impact.  These three words entered our global discussions about the YMCA a little over a year ago.  They have taken on an important role in communicating what is distinctive about who we are, what we do and why we do it.  They also help us think about how we affect lasting, positive change as a global movement dedicated to the holistic development of young people.  If we think of these words as the components of a change model, they become a tool for working collaboratively across diverse contexts.

The YMCA Youth Empowerment Change Model
Looking back, we can see that the very process of creating and using this change model has changed us as a global organization.  In Nairobi last year, it helped 80 YMCA leaders from all continents find their collective voice.  It guided us in mounting the highly successful YMCA World Challenge in October.  It is also animating our strategic conversations about the YMCA Change Agents program, the One Million Voices research initiative, and World Council 2014.  It is keeping us grounded in our shared mission.

A Personal Perspective
This process has also changed me as a person and as a YMCA professional.  In my role as the Executive Secretary for Youth Empowerment, I have received the gift of the kind of space that transforms and has a profound impact.  In this space, I’ve come to know what it feels like to be trusted and to trust others to make decisions and determine a course of action.  Nothing is possible without trust and everything is possible with it.

Is this your experience too?  Who was your first YMCA mentor?  How did you become empowered and ready to lead?

We would love to know your thoughts! Write us at !

Deepening Commitment and Building Trust

Looking forward, we imagine this process continuing.  Our renewed commitment to youth empowerment will deepen as we reach out, first to 200 YMCA Change Agents and then to one million young people.  By working faithfully with the YMCA Youth Empowerment Change Model, our stores of trust will grow – within ourselves, across generations, and among YMCA colleagues and partners.  I have no doubt that everyone involved in this challenging work will too.

Romulo Dantas
Executive Secretary for Youth Empowerment
January 2013

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