After three years of development in concert with partners across the Movement, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has produced a skills-based toolkit designed to help youth become agents of behavioural change. The toolkit was launched at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva at an event called ‘Promoting gender equality and a culture of non-violence and peace’.
The Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change (YABC) initiative was established in 2008 through the IFRC’s Principles and Values department and was officially recognized by the youth commission as an innovative way to empower young people to take a leadership role within the Movement. The first milestone was a call to National Societies to help create and share ‘innovative, interactive and playful materials’ that would focus on the seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent, and also promote non-discrimination, violence prevention, gender equality, social inclusion and intercultural dialogue. 30 National Societies joined the initiative, making over 300 contributions, from which the final toolkit was constructed.
Moshe Ohayon Danenberg, from Magen David Adom in Israel, said that an early meeting of the group set the tone of the project as a whole. “To start developing the toolkit, 15 National Societies from around the world gathered with the Principles and Values department in Switzerland,” he said. “From dawn to dusk we worked together, crafting the games, role plays and visualisation exercises, using the National Societies’ materials for inspiration. We also cooked and cleaned together. It gave me the opportunity to become friends with a National Society sister from the Egyptian Red Crescent.”
The toolkit was piloted at the 150th anniversary of the Red Cross Red Crescent in Solferino, Italy in June 2009. 20 National Society youth leaders worked with it across five workshops as peer educators and the impact was so great, that the Solferino Declaration – which underlies the commitment of youth from all parts of the Movement – officially recognised YABC as a flagship initiative to be supported by all National Societies.
Since then peer educators have been field testing the toolkit around the world, focusing on the development of interpersonal skills such as empathy, active listening, critical thinking, non-violent communication and mediation with the aim of fostering an environment where people are able to live peacefully together. YABC has so far been experienced at 20 national youth camps and gatherings, as well as five regional and five international meetings. Over 2,000 people have taken part in these events.
One participant said the initiative had the power to inspire, regardless of the experience and education of those taking part: “Art moves and inspires. It has the power to transform communities, to provoke thought and lead to insight, to change hearts and minds, and to inspire action. Using creative platforms enables us to arouse emotions and convey messages in a symbolic way.”
The latest version of the toolkit consists of 78 interactive activities, six presentations on social mobilization and creative platforms, a peer educator manual and guidelines on community engagement and project design.
The initiative is now being adopted by a growing number of organisations beyond the Red Cross Red Crescent, and has become a recurring theme at recent UN General Assemblies. Abu Bakar Jalloh, from the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society said the toolkit was making an enormous difference to the organization’s work with former child soldiers, sex workers and others. “This is a challenge, as everyone would realize. These are traumatized youth and children,” he said. “Our focus is on tolerance, and to tolerate means that we still embrace them. For YABC it is inclusiveness that makes it unique.”
Download the Change Yourself and Act brochure (PDF)