Creative Associates is implementing the USAID-funded Community, Family and Youth Resilience Program (CYFR) in three countries and fifteen communities in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. The program strengthens youth, family, and community support systems; improves the skills of youth to resist involvement in violence; expands access to education and employment opportunities; and provides specialized services to youth at the highest risk of engaging in violence.
Using an evidence-based, public-health approach, the program provides targeted interventions to youth at three varying degrees of risk. The overall goal is to empower youth to become productive citizens and make positive contributions to society.
In late 2018, the CFYR Project and CARICOM convened the “Caribbean LYNCS” to lead the development of a series of interactive, virtual learning sessions on regional innovations and promising practices in youth-centered violence and crime prevention.
Common Ground was contracted to design and facilitate those sessions and engage with young people from across the region to develop The Caribbean Youth Advocacy and Action Agenda on Violence Prevention (The AAA), which we drafted and designed. The AAA was released at the Caribbean Summit on Youth Violence Prevention, which brought together approximately 250 participants from 21 countries in Georgetown, Guyana in 2019.
We have also turned The AAA into a complete Advocacy Toolkit (print and web-based) for use by youth organizations, community-level youth-serving groups, individual youth activists, and government officials. Moreover, Common Ground has designed and delivered three cohorts of our 12-week Online Advocacy Course designed to prepare dozens of young people to create and implement a wide range of youth violence prevention (YVP) activities across the Caribbean. We have also delivered three, 9-hour, “quick-impact” versions of the course—designed specifically to meet the needs of youth-service professionals—to leaders in 8 Caribbean countries.
Additionally, CFYR has been implementing a Basic Life and Employability Skills (BLES) Training Program in its three focus countries. The program uses BLES Life Coaches to ensure that program graduates find jobs. Common Ground was contracted by CFYR to deliver a week-long Advanced Life Coaches Academy to strengthen the ability of the coaches to support program graduates, particularly when it comes to mentoring and psycho-social support.
Finally, as the program drew to a close in 2020, CFYR wished to leave behind an activity that could continue on its own and generate a growing impetus for youth and community activism to promote dialogue, inclusion, and mediation of social conflict in Guyana. Common Ground was contracted to design and deliver a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop focused on Active Coexistence. The week-long session included a panel of young people from Kosovo, who have a great deal of experience in dealing with ethnic tension and violence; and occurred just days before several horrific, racially-motivated murders in Guyana. We are hopeful that the well-trained community activists will step up in this period of unrest.
Photo Credit: Waqas Mahmood
This course has been nothing short of transformative and informative. I have been able to gain an entirely different perception on the real issues facing our youth and their communities. The sessions, activities and discussions have helped to exercise my mind on how we can identify and actually deal with these real life issues by equipping us with the necessary tools. I have recently been approached by an organisation to assist in a community research project regarding alternative punishments for youth who are facing jail time for minor crimes and I am looking forward to using my knowledge gained from this course and applying it there. Sunaika Adolphus, Online Advocacy Course Participant
As a youth worker, i am faced with different challenges every day and with the growing crime rate In the Caribbean, i want to be knowledgeable as to the causes of increased violent crimes . I also want to be aware of how my counterparts deal with those challenges and the various techniques that are used to resolve or curb violence among youth. With the knowledge I will acquire in this program, I believe It will serve me well in becoming a better youth leader, as I will be able to use that knowledge in clubs, schools, and different groups in my country. Makeva Anthony, Online Advocacy Course Participant
Common Ground’s work with CFYR in the Caribbean remains ongoing and a full impact evaluation won’t occur for sometime. Nevertheless, there are a number of important accomplishments upon which we can reflect.
This engagement began with a focus on understanding the impacts of youth crime and violence on young people from the Caribbean. It was essential, therefore, that we designed a positive youth development (PYD) approach to uncover and discover the underlying issues at work in communities in the project’s focus countries.
Responding to the project’s commitment to USAID to launch a series of interactive, virtual learning sessions on regional innovations and good practices in youth-centered violence and crime prevention, it was our job to design and facilitate these sessions.
Working closely with the Caribbean LYNCS Network over many months, we hosted the webinar series, convened youth dialogues, and engaged young people on social media and through surveys. We held conversations with youth-serving professionals, educators, clinicians, policymakers, experts, and advocates—all to create the Advocacy and Action Agenda (above left). Hundreds of people were directly involved in these efforts.
When implemented, the priorities outlined in The AAA will reduce crime and violence. They will engage marginalized communities. And they will help ensure that young people who have gotten into trouble can find positive ways to rebuild their lives and contribute to society.
The AAA development process serves as a model way for youth and adults to better communicate and work together to define and develop innovative, youth-centric approaches that effectively reduce youth involvement in crime and violence in communities throughout the region.
In fact, the advocacy agenda was so well-received, a decision was made at a CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting to adopt The AAA and the youth violence prevention priorities it puts forth. CARICOM is continuing to incorporate the AAA into its youth violence prevention work.
In Guyana, we designed the Coaching Academy to: 1) Develop the skills and methodologies that Life Coaches require to help BLES graduates find and keep jobs; 2) Train the coaches in basic mentoring and psychological support skills; and 3) Build Life Coach skills for engaging employers and managing issues that may arise. This includes mediating between the BLES graduates and their employers in situations where there are disagreements or conflicts.
Over the coming months, we are continuing to work with USAID’s CFYR to create targeted resources aimed at operationalizing The AAA, including the development of a comprehensive Advocacy Toolkit and the delivery of our web-based Online Advocacy Training Course.
The people who were trying to make this world worse
are not taking the day off. Why should I?