Enhanced female and male youth volunteerism and civic engagement to address targeted communities’ needs.
Over the years, EPF’s Youth Integration Program has greatly contributed to increased civic engagement of young people residing in 33 communities of Georgia. Currently, the YB Program covers the following towns and communities: Adjara, Akhalkalaki, Akhmeta, Aspindza, Bolnisi, Chokhatauri, Dedophlistskaro, Gagra, Gali, Gardabani, Gori, Gudauta, Gulripshi, Khobi, Khoni, Lanchkhuti, Marneuli, Martvili, Ochamchire, Poti, Racha, Svaneti, Sokhumi, Tkibuli, Tserovani, Tsalka and Zemo Barghebi.
To achieve the desired outcomes, EPF has been following the Youth Bank (YB) methodology, an innovative way of increasing youth participation through creating groups of young people (aged 16-21) in a given community (the Youth Banks) and empowering them with training and resources to find, fund, and oversee small youth-led initiatives that address salient for local communities issues. The YB concept is founded on the premise that involving young people in projects they design and manage is the most potent way to develop civic participation among youth. Thus, grantmaking serves as a mechanism with which young grantmakers improve their self-esteem and learn about leadership, team-work, fair decision-making, problem-solving, communications, financial and narrative report-writing, and event management. The uniqueness of the YB model is that young people are given the opportunity to independently undertake all the activities involved in the YB grantmaking cycle without constant supervision from adults. Each year, the YBs fund roughly 110 local youth-led initiatives in their communities, which range from 500-800 GEL in value and could address needs as diverse as cleaning a community park through promoting gender equality to preparing first-time voters for elections. See the information on the initiatives supported by Youth Banks below.
During 2008-2018, the Program trained and empowered more than 1050 young grantmakers, who, in turn, mobilized more than 9,500 volunteers (both youth and adults) and engaged them in identifying and resolving local problems. The YB members have engaged in 309 community initiatives outside the EPF-funded projects, contributing to sustainability of results. In addition, the Program also succeeded in mobilizing local governments in more than 49 cases and local businesses in more than 19 cases to support youth initiatives either with in-kind or financial contributions. Moreover, the Youth Banks have reported more than 220 cases, when public schools or local NGOs made in-kind or financial contributions to the YB-funded projects.
Confidence-Building across Georgia and the Region
The Youth Bank model is not only a potent civic engagement method, but also provides young people opportunities to engage in a dialogue in a safe environment, learn about each other first-hand, participate in community development, and demonstrate models of tolerance, respect for diversity, and understanding of common values. As a result, youth engagement in the YBs contributes to empowering young leaders from various sides of the conflict divide to act as agents of change within their communities and contribute to initiating the development of mechanisms for managing grievances perpetuating the conflict. Over the years of supporting youth civic engagement initiatives, EPF solidified its belief that young people, if provided with appropriate skills and supported to engage in community decision-making, have a unique potential to bring fresh perspectives, energy, and solutions to these entrenched problems. It is due to these reasons that, in 2010, the Foundation started to work toward contributing to tolerance and confidence-building among ethnic Abkhaz and Georgian youth, through several regional efforts that involved six partner organizations from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. While confidence-building is a long and arduous process, EPF believes that it has been able to contribute to improving the perception of the “other” among the country’s youth.
EPF will continue to promote youth volunteerism and civic engagement by building their capacity as female and male civic leaders and community philanthropists, providing opportunities to engage as active citizens in identifying and addressing local needs. To this end, EPF will build the capacity of local youth in grantmaking, gender equality and equity, environmental protection and other issue areas that will be identified during the implementation of the Program. The young grantmakers will also complete social entrepreneurship trainings, so as to give them the tools necessary to become entrepreneurs working toward social good.
EPF will foster network building among the YBs from different parts of Georgia by supporting cross-community initiatives that are designed to enhance youth civic engagement. To foster the spirit of volunteerism and tap into the resources of former YB committee members, EPF will continue to engage with “graduated” YB members. Networking on the international level will be fostered through the newly established YB International, led by EPF long-time partner, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI).
In addition, EPF will take steps to become more engaged in national youth policy formulation, so that the work that it has done with Youth Banks is recognized by external stakeholders and possibly replicated in other communities. Once the strategy and action plan are developed, EPF will also monitor the GoG efforts directed toward their implementation.