National Youth Resilience Initiative – Be inspired
In a nutshell
The National Youth Resilience Initiative (NYRI) was conceptualized in 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim of promoting the psychosocial well-being and resilience of youth in South Africa. This pandemic has increased the psychological risk factors for violence such as anxiety, depression, or substance misuse, resulting in the reduction of the social functioning of young people. Additional vulnerabilities and stressful factors such as unemployment and access to income, opportunities for further education and training are demanding a societal response to strengthen the resilience of our youth.
What we do
Together with the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) and in partnership with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) as well as core implementors Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) & Activate! and The Centre for the Study of Resilience, the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) programme recognizes the serious and adverse socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people and the urgent need for interventions to support them in coping with these effects guided by the below:
Vision: South African youth are empowered to responsibly strengthen youth resilience, especially amongst the most vulnerable young people, to proactively contribute to building a capable South Africa during Covid-19 and beyond
Mission: To strengthen the social infrastructure (services and programmes) that supports young people to build resilience and achieve psychosocial well-being. By activating youth capacities and leadership to initiate youth-led activities within communities that improve young people’s access to quality, evidence-informed programmes and psychosocial support services. Therefore, amplifying the youth voice and nurture emerging and active youth citizens that build youth resilience and psychosocial wellbeing in their communities.
The NYRI is a multi -stakeholder programme stakeholder programme driven by various national actors from government, civil society, academic and development cooperation that coordinates and implements a holistic approach structured into the following 5 pathways:
- Pathway 1: Establishing and capacitating a NYRI network of ambassadors for resilience - The NYRI aims to equip youth ambassadors with the necessary foundational skills and agency to design and implement projects within their communities that will activate the youth agenda and promote psychosocial wellbeing and resilience of young people
- Pathway 2: Resourcing and supporting the NYRI youth network of ambassadors to offer opportunities to vulnerable youth - The NYRI aims to develop a strategy that ensures that NYRI alumni and young people as well as organisations that support initiatives/programmes that build or strengthen resilience in young people are supported and financed to ensure long-term impact.
- Pathway 3: Advocating for data support for resilience initiatives implemented by non-profit organisations - The NYRI aims to identify means and opportunities for young people to access online platforms and information in the field of youth resilience work in a low to no-cost manner, through meaningful engagement and consultation with key stakeholders.
- Pathway 4: Developing a framework for youth resilience work - The NYRI aims to develop a theoretical grounding of youth resilience that will help to coordinate and support youth-led resilience initiatives. This research will also inform the development of knowledge products, toolkits, and policy alignment products and will strengthen resilience work in a more intentional manner informed by academic grounding.
- Pathway 5: Advocating for the further inclusion of youth in decision-making processes - The NYRI aims to develop and implement a systemic participatory process for youth structures to strengthen their youth activism in platforms of social responsibility and active citizenship in order to advocate for increased support to young people on services and programmes that promote their psychosocial well-being and resilience.
How we do it
NYRI has prioritised maintaining an inclusive approach in order to ensure complete ownership of the initiative by all partners. There are various engagements which take place virtually on several levels throughout the implementation namely:
- The Political Steering Team comprised of the DWYPD, NYDA and the VCP programme meet quarterly with the aim of providing strategic direction and steer political processes. The priority here is to also ensure that there is complete ownership and buy in from government and alignment with government policies and agreements; this will strongly impact institutionalisation and the sustainability of the initiative. The frequency of the meetings ensures that the NYRI activities are always factored into the discussions and planning.
- The Technical Steering Team comprised of colleagues from the DWYPD, NYDA, WESSA, Activate!, Center for the Study of Resilience, Agape Youth Movement and GIZ meet monthly with the main aim of coordinating and ensuring that there are linkages between the various pathways. The bulk of the team is representative of the NYRI implementing partners – this team thrives because of the regular feedback, learnings and exchange shared.
- The Implementing team is comprised of our core implementors who are representative of civil society actors and academic institutions namely WESSA, Activate! & The Centre for the Study of Resilience and VCP programme. There is a strong focus put on capturing learnings in order to ensure that as the NYRI grows, it also improves implementation thus directly impact the sustainability of the initiative.
What we have achieved
To date the initiative has gained significant momentum particularly in the development of the Youth Ambassador Network and framework for resilience led by strong committed and engaged implementing organisations. Both processes have had the full ownership of all partners with the strong lead of the implementing organisations despite having fully worked in the virtual space since the inception. Simultaneously, the NYRI partners are developing a capacity building process targeted at the Youth Ambassadors; the implementing partners are integrating key insights into youth-led violence and crime prevention achieved during the past youth-centred work of the VCP programme. This way synergies between resilience and violence and crime prevention are strengthened. It is envisioned that by June 2021 there would have been significant momentum gained in ensuring that there is support in place for the outgoing 1st cohort of ambassadors. The NYRI partners also aim to mobilize government to strengthen internal processes to identify platforms for meaningful engagement by young people to exercise their social responsibility in order to advocate for increased support to young people on services and programmes that promote their psychosocial wellbeing and resilience.
Throughout this initiative the NYRI has prioritised and will continue to ensure the initiative to be youth-centred and relevant, thus, a strong social media presence will be nurtured.
What we have learned
One of the key learnings to date* has been navigating the complexities that multi- stakeholder partnerships come with – this has not only strengthened the initiative by ensuring more sustainability in the long run but it has also meant a dynamic and flexible approach is needed to ensure the best results. Recognising the importance of the various perspectives whilst ensuring alignment and synergy across various processes will ensure that the initiative has lasting impact and successful implementation. However, this needs to be nurtured throughout.
As the initiative also aims to not only be youth-centred but also youth-led, we have learnt (and will continue to learn) that our interventions need to be relevant and impactful. This means that the involvement of young people in the process must be prioritised. The strength of the NYRI is that young people have been involved since the inception of the initiative, thus playing a significant role in the conceptualisation of the NYRI. The learning here is to ensure this throughout the continued implementation of the initiative. As we shift from the immediate response to COVID-19, to ensuring long lasting impact, we will continue to prioritise learning and improving our interventions.
*Article updated May 2021