As one of the newest recruits to Plan International’s Global Youth Advisory Panel (GYAP), I couldn’t wait to meet my fellow GYAP-ers from across the world in Bangkok. After working for nearly five months over Skype calls without having met anyone, it was exciting to put faces to names, get a sense of everyone’s personalities, and bond over icebreakers. Over the course of our three-day face-to-face meeting, we updated each other on our YAPs back home, reviewed the findings of the Midterm Review on Plan’s Youth Engagement Strategy, created our work plan for the next year, and had meetings with staff from across the Plan Federation, including Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the new Plan International CEO, and Josh Liswood, the chair of the Members’ Assembly.
Going into the GYAP meeting, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A huge part of trying to transition into the GYAP work was catching up on all of the previous work that had been done.
For the first few sessions, new members like myself were simply trying to discover the dynamic of the group. We explored how it operates and learned how the GYAP’s way of working is different from my YAB’s work methods. And, of course, we learned many new Plan acronyms. Although there was definitely a knowledge gap between the new and old members, everyone was willing to answer all of my questions, was open to hearing suggestions some of the new members had, , and they all did their very best to help us transition into the group.
After the three-day meeting,, we had to prepare for the Global Leadership Conference. Many of us, myself included, were given special roles throughout the course of the GLC, including welcoming GLC delegates, sitting on panels, providing our experiences as young people who have taken part in Plan programming, and discussing the work we do in our respective national Youth Advisory Panels.
I was surprised at how welcoming and accepting everyone was towards the young people who attended. I have been to many youth events and conferences before, but often times the youth participation is quite tokenistic, and the adults in the room do not really value the young people, or treat them as equals. This was not the case at the GLC. I found that everyone I met from across the Plan Federation treated me as an equal participant and saw my position as a young person as an advantage rather than a drawback. This attitude is what separates Plan from other organizations in terms of youth participation: staff members are willing to use the perspectives of young people in their daily work. And, while I knew this before coming to the GLC, this approach was really solidified at the conference. While the organization still has a ways to go in terms of engaging youth, I think that it has made great strides over the past few years.
For me, the highlights of the trip were getting the opportunity to meet my colleagues in person, and getting the chance to learn more about Plan on an international scale. Although I have been working with Plan for almost five years now, having the chance to participate in the GLC and the GYAP provided much more knowledge about how Plan works as an organization, and I have learned more about the Federation as a whole.
I can’t wait to continue my term on the GYAP over the next few years, and I look forward to working more with Plan in the future. After the meeting and conference, I now feel even more confident to continue my work on the panel, and to engage with Plan at various levels to remind them why they work for – and with – young people.