6.3.8 Outreach and Community Organizing with Rural Youth: 3 Key Strategies

Community organizing is a critical component to many agricultural and enterprise development strategies, and many such programs as well as workforce development initiatives rely on community organizations to get the word out to their target population.  The challenge is that young people are often not part of community organizations. A key constraint on including women and youth in value chain development, for example is that most value chain development program conduct outreach through existing structures of farmer organizations. Normally, the oldest active adult male in a family is the official member of farmer organizations, leaving women and youth out. The lack of community organizations in which youth are members and leaders is a key barrier for young people having a voice in programs, or event hearing about programs at all.

Practitioners need to amplify proven strategies for engaging rural young people, and innovate new strategies.

  1. Mainstream: Include young people in existing organizations. Strategies in play to include women can be applied simultaneously to include young people. Normally, programs carry out awareness training with community organizations which helps these organizations consider and select inclusion strategies such as opening membership to individuals, including all active family members as members, facilitating committees for women and for youth, and offering services specific to their needs.
  2. Separate Organizations: In many countries at different times youth movements have been stronger or weaker. Sometimes, they are launched or co-opted by political parties or regimes. However, when young people can be mobilized into independent movements, these organizations can be strong channels for constructive engagement and leadership. In the context of rural YEO, a youth movement that includes rural youth could be leveraged to get input into good program design, to recruit participants, and/or to lead and manage programs.
  3. Innovations: With technology advancing rapidly, and young people becoming increasingly mobile physically and across cultures and classes, innovative organizing tactics are emerging. Funders and programs could support innovations in youth organizing.
Yes Youth Can in Kenya – Separate Organization

After the 2008 post election violence in Kenya, CLUSO’s[1] initiative Yes Youth Can! organized young people into a youth movement that contributed to a more peaceful 2012 election. Yes Youth Can! helped to channel youth frustration with unemployment by providing a constructive venue to express views and advocate for solutions. On a practical level, Yes Youth Can! spread awareness about how young people were used as tools of political violence in the 2008 elections and encouraged young people to pledge not to be used again. In addition, members monitored the 2012 election. In terms of YEO, CLUSO helps Yes Youth Can! members to form and manage group-run businesses and CLUSO is helping members to form Savings and Credit Cooperatives. In Coast Province, some 84,000 young people are engaged through Yes Youth Can! in small-scale agriculture and business projects to increase their income. 



Spring Break Kenya- Innovation

Spring Break Kenya was also founded in the post-election-violence era. Simeon Ogando established Spring Break Kenya to facilitate community integration by building trans-formative networks and partnerships between students in institutions of higher learning with rural communities in Kenya. Through branches run by students at universities, colleges and technical institutes, Spring Break organizes projects in which a diverse ethnic group of students volunteer in a rural community. The projects provide people of different ethnicities and economic levels an opportunity to interact positively through a constructive community development activity, in which community members and students work together for a common outcome. In addition, students are exposed to a development career path and gain useful work experience. As originally envisioned by Simeon, student volunteers emerge with ideas for social enterprises that leverage their talent to address community challenges and could – if funded and viable – provide a viable career path for young graduates of higher learning. MShama, an IT application providing agricultural information to farmers, (profiled in Section 6.4.3) is one such enterprise, but there are more in the pipeline seeking finance and mentorship.

[1] Yes Youth Can! is a USAID funded initiative to empower youth to participate effectively in leadership and governance and build their entrepreneurial skills.  It is implemented by CLUSA International (National Cooperative Business Association), a U.S.-based not-for-profit organization, and a Kenyan NGO, Participatory Approaches to Integrated Development.