YIP: Walking the Talk on Community Engagement

By: Ani Hanelius (USA), April 2008

There are not many places in this world where a young person can come and say, “I want to change the world!” and be told in response, “Ok, we want to help you reach that goal.” Yet this is exactly what the new Youth Initiative Program (YIP) set to begin this August in Järna, Sweden is striving to do. YIP, a new social entrepreneurial training, will encourage young people to not only think big, but to do big deeds in their communities and the world. By giving young people the theoretical and practical skills and initiative to move into the world and actualize their ideas, YIP is potentially sparking a global tidal wave of youth activity and positive change.

I recently visited Järna to see for myself where this year’s most exciting new social entrepreneurial training for young people, YIP is going to take place. In Järna I met up with Rose Nekvapil and Sussie Hansen of the YIP organizing team and spent the week meeting with various members of the community about the potential projects and practical endeavours that will be part of the YIP curriculum. Having supported YIP from afar, it was exciting to be in Järna to feel the enthusiasm and immense support that surrounds this project, and to witness how YIP continues to manifest.

Only nine months after its conception, YIP already is “walking its talk” in terms of community engagement. In visiting Järna and the initiatives and organizations that make up the surrounding community, it is clear that YIP is already bringing positive change to Järna through its energy and presence. And come its opening on August 25th, this presence will only grow stronger. Whether it is engaging local young people in festivals and gatherings, building a series of trails and pathways among the numerous Järna initiatives, restoring a riverbed that once teamed with fish, or building relationships and social bridges in a near by Iraqi immigrant community, the impact YIP participants will have on the local community is evident.

The fact that YIP is even happening is a tribute to the initiative and drive of the organizers themselves. Only a year ago, YIP was merely an idea tossed around by a group of international young people seeking to answer the question of how to create a training for young people that meets their questions, drives and concerns for the world by giving them the capacity to manifest their own initiative and therein find their own answers and solutions. This was the starting point of YIP, to engage young people in their own lives, communities and the world and give them the opportunity to find themselves through meaningful work.

Therefore, the role the participants themselves will play in making the year what it is is essential. It is these young people who will bring with them their questions and experiences and be met with the practical and theoretical training from a veritable “dream team” of speakers and international do-ers that will enable them to realise their initiatives. YIP is not just hype and idealism, for each young person that comes to YIP will be held accountable for his or her work and contribution to the program, therein having the opportunity to truly grow and meet himself and his peers. YIP participants will not leave YIP trained as a farmer or artist or social worker as they might in other trainings, but as a human being with the capacities to realize their own ideas through meaningful work with an awareness and appreciation of both the process and the outcome and also the social and interpersonal capacities to meet and engage the world.

As of now, the ground has been laid for something truly special to take place over the course of one year. A lot of work has been and continues to be poured into the project from people located around the world, but much still needs to be done. Most importantly, YIP relies on the support and generosity of a network of individuals, organizations and foundations for all its costs. Therefore all support and help in the form of finances, donations, publicity and creativity are crucial in order for this important endeavour to come into being. Without this support YIP will remain only an ideal, and the world will miss out on an amazing opportunity. Currently it is up to the international network of people who hold YIP and the support of those who contribute to its becoming a reality, but after August 25th, it will be up to the 60 international participants to see what YIP becomes for them and for the world.