Redundancy — major pet peeve! Silos? I can relate.
Warning: I’m experiencing a The-Greatest-Showman withdrawal. Take the hint.
I once dreamt of one big community festival experience for the youth. This would be led by friends I’ve met through the course of my now two-year volunteer journey with UNDP in the Philippines. Youth-led and youth-serving organizations would come together to create a holistic learning experience for young Filipinos. My peg really was the Philippine Startup Week, a startup community event that sprung in 2019. Think of my vision as slightly similar but targeting a different demographic — Filipino youth. The itch came from my frustration over the countless invitations I get, from July leading up to the International Youth Day (IYD) in August, for partnerships, speakerships, and other requests. Don’t get me wrong, I love to contribute but I also quickly realized on my first IYD with UNDP in the Philippines in 2019 that so many people and organizations are doing almost the same things. This is specifically true for IYD celebrations from dialogues to webinars to advocacy campaigns.
Redundancy is such a pet peeve to the point where I can say I almost hate it.
Really, when we dig deeper, what becomes clear is that this problem is not just that of the present day. It happens anywhere and everywhere and it’s systemic (ooooh big word lol). I realized it’s because people prefer to keep in silos a.k.a. their own boxes, cubby holes, whatchamacallit. I do not think that most of this is intentional. There are many nuances such as limitations in capacity, donor or funding guidelines, access to opportunities, and size and depth of networks, to name a few.
Even so, I think we owe the people we support our best efforts to explore what’s out there, fill the gaps, and work more harmoniously.
I may be looking at this too simplistically but to me, it is as simple as sitting down, gathering in one call, or looping everyone in one email thread to say “Okay, we’re doing this. Anyone doing similar things? Keen on working together?”
I may be wrong. Maybe people prefer to stay in their perfect plans. I do me, you do you. Or it could be that people just haven’t seen enough of what is up for grabs. In another piece I wrote almost two years ago, I wrote about how limited I felt because I was from, there weren’t a lot of opportunities. My wings were clipped, and I could have had more tools to become more resilient as an adult. Don’t get me wrong, my parents nurtured me well. My environment was just not as conducive. This I realized when I moved to Metro Manila three years ago and after seeing so many opportunities available for the youth here in the capital. The world is not as small as we think. But it is volatile and it seems like suffering is far from over.
In one of our consultations last August, my fellow youth described the world now as “chaotic,” “challenging,” and “unsustainable.” They are most worried about the climate emergency, conflict and disasters, access to primary healthcare, and COVID-19 recovery, asking questions like
“Can I still have a bright future?”
“Would there still be millions of Filipinos in pain?”
They were also divided when asked about how satisfied they are in their path to the world they want and whether they are in that path.
These results were just part and parcel of the series of conversations we had with our fellow youth in August. In celebration of IYD, our team at UNDP, made up of young Filipinos, led the World We Want Philippines. We asked our fellow youth about their hopes and worries, how they think they can help leave no one behind, and who their biggest supporters are in achieving the future they have envisioned. We tested this one-of-a-kind celebration with our Community Partners, 16 supportive groups who led their own sessions throughout the week-long World We Want event. A dream come true for me, really. In hindsight, it was refreshing to finally have friends from different organizations come together to offer young people a holistic learning experience from hearing them out through the consultations to facilitating reflection sessions to help them become the best versions of themselves. The participants they interacted with were “engaged and insightful,” and “participative and responsive” with one of our community partners observing that we “validated some assumptions that we made about ‘youth leaders.’”
Now what do we do with all that enthusiasm and eagerness to affect change?
Our consultations revealed that the biggest supporters in achieving the World We Want, according to young Filipinos, are the government, educators, academe, and their fellow youth. My fellow young Filipinos expect for supporters to listen, have compassion, promote equality, implement intelligently, and have concrete actions to help achieve a better future. All very generic, even basic, terms that some key decision makers overlook. I write this as an anecdote, of course, but reading the sentiments of young people and interacting with them during those five days echoed my thoughts — that many things must change TODAY.
I have always and still believe that for change to happen, I need to start with myself. But to scale that change, I need to work with others.
When I see an opportunity, I ask myself “Am I the right person to help or will it be better to work with others?” It is always humbling every time I arrive to the conclusion that I do not certain expertise or skills. It takes a certain level of braveness to admit that we cannot do it alone.
The challenge, for us “supporters” is if we could be this brave and honest.
The best changemakers I’ve seen so far are those who opened their arms to new ideas, worked with their communities, and found linkages with others in the most organic way. The Move as One Coalition for example, was an offshoot of smaller civic groups, who lobbies for “a safer, more humane, and more inclusive public transportation system in the Philippines.” They were formed during the COVID-19 crisis and is now able to influence decision-makers through evidence-based recommendations. The Child Rights Network, the “largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines,” has always lobbied for better solutions for children and has helped enact laws that we now know such as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act and the Early Childhood Care and Development Act.
See? The things we could do if we only worked together!
This is a cry of frustration but also me evoking a sense of wonder. When our subconscious tells us that we do not have time to sit and chat with a fellow changemaker, policymaker, neighbour, or leader; when our ego is too big; when we have become too comfortable in our own boxes; we are denying ourselves and the next generation the right to thrive. Here’s another great idea.
A world worth living is a world worth designing…together.
The World We Want Philippines is a week-long event in celebration of International Youth Day that took off from the previous success of youth dialogues through Youth Co:Lab.
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth, so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.
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This blog was originally posted on medium: https://medium.com/@johannaerroba/oh-the-things-we-could-do-if-we-only-work-together-617f11dcacb5