“What is governance?” “Is that not the boring stuff to do with constitutions and statutes?” “Why do you care?”
These are some of the responses that I’ve had when I tell people that I’m interested in organisational governance. But I’m proud to be a young woman who has not only been in decision-making positions which are key parts of the governance structures of organisations, but one who strives to learn from each organisation and type of governance.
For me, governance is exciting, because it underpins the very way in which an organisation works; it defines the culture of working and has the potential to influence the impact on the ground. For example, the way that you structure your teams of staff and volunteers can change the way in which you share responsibility, and therefore increase or decrease your overall capacity to make things happen as an organisation. How inclusive and accessible your internal structures are will have an impact on the success of your gender and diversity advocacy externally. So something often seen as boring can actually be transformational.
Strategy as a process
Next year the European Youth Forum will be creating a new strategy for the next five years from 2020-2025. A strategy goes far beyond the words in a document - it’s like a map for the organisation for the next half decade. The opportunity to create a new strategy doesn’t come up very often, so it’s a really exciting time to be running as a candidate for the board of an organisation about to embark upon this process.
For me, the way that you create a strategy is a good indicator of how successful it will be. If you take time to involve key stakeholders in the development of the organisational vision and objectives, you’re much more likely to find them taking ownership of the challenges and steps needed to get there. If you involve young people in considering the biggest issues and ways to address them, then you’re much more likely to end up with an organisation addressing their needs two years later. And if you take time to understand and prioritise internal and external challenges and trends, then you are much more likely to have a strategy which is focused on achieving what really matters in the years ahead.
Once we have the overall priorities, then we can set out our work plan to make sure all of our resources are put towards achieving those goals and making those changes in the lives of young people across Europe.
Rosalyn’s ideas for creating the next YFJ strategy and workplan:
Get to the heart of the organisation - revisit why the YFJ exists and what our primary purpose is.
Make every part of the process collaborative. That means that a wide range of ideas should be considered, input to consultation should be meaningful and decisions should be made together.
A strategy by young people for young people - the strategy should reflect the wants and needs of the beneficiaries of the YFJ’s work, young people across Europe. As well as young people being involved in/leading the process, the strategy should be based on evidence of the needs of young people. There are so many resources, statistics and tools out there - let’s use them to get a strong base for our goals.
Stick to the plan - there’s no point in creating a beautiful strategy and then realising that actually most of the things we have to do day-to-day aren’t related to it. To have the best impact, the strategy should reflect the core work of the organisation, the work plan should give clear steps to achieving those objectives and the whole organisation should be working together towards the vision.
Communicate it - a clear strategy can be a useful tool in making change happen, because if people know about your ultimate aims, they can understand why you’re advocating for specific changes at any given point. Communicating the strategy in a targeted and clear manner allows us to get more people on board in helping to make the changes and means that our beneficiaries can feel empowered to do their part locally in line with that collective vision.
Strategic plans give an organisation the opportunity to take a step back, work out what really matters, and make big changes that might seen impossible week to week. I’d love to have the opportunity to contribute my experience in this type of process towards creating a truly impactful next strategy and workplan for the European Youth Forum.