Insights from RiseUp! Young women leadership initiative inception period
“The Co-creation phase has captured and championed the idea of intergenerational leadership in a beautiful manner, where there is an equal space of discussion for everyone on the team “AGE NO BAR”. This has surely boosted my confidence to be bold and vocal and have that belief that you will be heard. There is always space for constructive criticism providing great levels of transparency.”
To co-create is to do things together. Co-creation is a design approach that brings people together to collectively work and plan for a shared specific outcome by sharing diverse knowledge and experiences. As an approach it aims to disperse power and is instrumental in co-ownership for the success of initiatives. For Phase IV Rise Up! Leadership Initiative Asia Pacific, a co-creation approach is central to a new era of Rise Up!, a legacy leadership initiative being run by World YWCA, now in its Phase IV. Committed to building on previous phases successes and lessons, Phase IV is broadening the scope of work not just in program delivery but in our way of working together and operations, improving on the feminist practices of program management, rooted in very core of movements.
During the Generation Equality process, the Young Feminist Manifesto highlighted that unequal power dynamics, lack of role clarity for youth, top down methodologies and timelines, unclear decision-making processes, lack of an intersectional approach and lack of resources dedicated to supporting youth activists are some of the many challenges young people face in initiatives that are run around the world. World YWCA’s Goal 2035, which places young women at the very center of change seems to be building on the feminist principles of co-creation, transformative design and accountability, intersectional approach to everyday practices, thereby challenging and transforming power dynamics at multiple levels. With RiseUp! In its multiple phases and now in its new and refined Phase IV, the “challenging the power dynamics” is a key underlining factor in implementation and design at every level.
The design of the Phase IV included an “inception” year for RiseUp! Leadership initiative before beginning of program in 9 countries in Asia-Pacific region.
Throughout this year, World YWCA worked explicitly with National Member Associations (National YWCAs) to strengthen capacities to deliver on their critical role in promoting genuine intergenerational leadership so that young women have spaces and support to lead for Rise Up! a part of this work was to co-develop implementation plans for program delivery. Restricted by travel and the severe impact of COVID-19 on everyday functioning on lives of women and young women in the region, co-creation development of implementation plans was undertaken via a series of virtual workshops with each association taking part from December 2021 to February 2022. An intergenerational team inclusive of Rise Up! team at World YWCA and women and young women leaders from each MA representing a whole range of knowledge and experience worked together to co-develop the design for individual country implementations based on the local realities and needs of young women around leadership and advocacy building.
Based on principles of safe space, focusing on inclusion and everyone’s opinion included and respected, workshops were planned to act as markers along the co-creation journey, centering discussions around key implementation questions such as participants, delivery plans, alignment with program theory of change, budgets as well as roles and responsibilities- within the larger frame of “building young women leaders” within their realities. Between each workshop, teams worked to progress plans with informal meetings and feedback sessions with RiseUp! World YWCA team providing insights and support and testing assumptions and thinking along the way. Standard planning processes and templates were developed with the key intention of enabling each MA to work through activity plans, budgets, resourcing, monitoring and evaluation, and risk management on their own within the frames developed by the World YWCA Rise Up! team that aligned with program and funder needs. All this was supplemented with “do no harm” principles, providing everyone space to share their concerns, voice challenges, find solutions and remain transparent, at every stage.
“The inception and the co-creation year has been a phase of new learnings and a period of unlearning for YWCA of India. The inception year has introduced us to this idea, and we believe that it has helped us in laying a firm foundation for planning for the implementation phase, setting the outcomes, planning the activities to achieve this goal and deciding on the evaluation measures and tools to be undertaken. We feel that there was enough creative space at the same time there has been a proper guidance system in place as well.”
By working together to co-design, creative solutions were found, and the unique knowledge and expertise of MAs was utilised, and plans were better contextualised building a stronger delivery plan for each country context. The process of co-creation not only lends to greater impact but through the process itself embodies the goal of Rise Up! creating safe, judgement-free spaces that foster shared learning and mutual exchange between leaders of all ages and backgrounds. At the end of the co-creation phase, each country YWCA had a solid implementation plan, designed by them for their context and informed by their experience and skills and reflective of the needs of the communities being engaged.
What started off as a challenge to established ways of working and a frustrating new way of doing things ended up becoming one of the most innovative processes for most of the participants. Disrupting old ways of doing program design and looking at human-centered approach was a time consuming yet rewarding investment in process, people and smarter actions towards the intended program goal. Through every workshop focus was on process being intersectional, with high focus on listening and learning from young women and intergenerational leaders- every voice mattered. Following on World YWCA’s Theory of Change Goal 2035, leadership of young women and girls is required to build a world of peace, justice, health, freedom and care for the environment, and RiseUp! is core to making that happen.
“This Co-creation period helped us better understand what we are going to do in the implementation of the project. I want to thank especially the WYWCA team for their effort. They were always there to help us to work through the co-creation period. We respect their commitment to work in challenges like global time differences and during the COVID situation.”
To know more about the initiative, write to email@example.com.
 Young Feminist Manifesto: https://e303bb68-0f86-4625-b0df-382bc663b63a.filesusr.com/ugd/13b9c9_9205e426df3a4a849fcbe0166e74548f.pdf