10 Lessons That I Have Learnt

Youth leaders go through various cycles of progression in their lives as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. This progression is not homogeneous but there are questions and lessons that are built through the mutual lived experiences.

In the past 5 years I have  gone  through changes  in my  professional  life  moving  from the edges  to the front  lines  of policy advocacy  for  action, health systems  strengthening and last  mile in service  delivery  for reproductive health  and youth  development  programs.

I wanted  to share  some of  the  lessons  I have  learnt, still  re-learning  everyday with youth leaders and  hope you find this useful with your journey  (all the best):

It is okay to focus on one thing

This  was  very  hard  for  me  to  do  in  the beginning  as  I was  used  to  juggling  and  trying to drive  multiple interventions  at the same time.  At the end  of  each  year  the outcomes were never  as  great as  I had  anticipated, I hadn’t  stimulated  change and  sustainable  linkages  for  youth  development at the level  I desired. When I started  focusing on  one  thing, I was able to  facilitate  key stakeholder collaborations and be part of  the team  to design and implement  the Youth  Friendly Health  Services  Program Evaluation. Being  about  one  thing  especially when my former  colleagues  were  still  doing  the multiple  juggle  made me feel like  I was not doing enough. However if  I  had  not  been able  to  focus  on one  thing  I wouldn’t have  been  able  to do the important things  first.

Learn to say no

Just because you can doesn’t mean you must. Social causes  are  great  and  volunteering in your  free time  to pass on skills  is  something  we  should  all do but  we  must not  take  on more  than  we  can deliver.  This in the end affects the quality of what you are able to deliver and reliability. Learning how to say no has been liberating and has allowed me to do things on my own terms.

Be selfish, self-development should never be compromised

For  young  people who are advocates thinking  of oneself instead of people  you can support  through your  zeal for  change  almost  seems  wrong  and  used  to make me  feel  guilty, it  still does at times. With each year I grow in the belief  that  the  only way I can best  serve others  is when I can better facilitate change this will  only happen  if  I  invest in my personal  development.  No one will invest in your self-development but yourself, guard it jealously. The only way to progress is to continuous move forward on the self-development spectrum.

Allies can be found in the most unlikely places

Don’t be blinded by  past  experiences  and  what  others  say,  at  times  the  people  who you  need  to collaborate  with are  often in places  you  are  not  familiar  with  but  need to be  sought out.  This  is  especially  true  in  public  policy advocacy  and youth agenda implementation the  stakeholders  that  wield  the  most  power  might  not  be  the most  vocal in the  room  and  past  efforts  might  have  secluded  them  contributing  to  a  cycle  of  seeming  in-progress. Always  be  open, practice  being  non-judgmental  and  find  common ground  through  mutual  respect  and  understanding of  each partner’s  roles.

Be knowledgeable, a little knowledge does more harm than good

A  little  knowledge might  provide  you a  step  in the  door  however  to be  able  to influence  others, processes and  structures you need to know  all the players and the context  you  are  operating  in. Never  assume  people  know  what  you know  and  that you   understand  what they do  without  fully  comprehending  the  parameter’s  that govern  their  life  and how other factors  come to play.

Understand existing  evidence,  generate  evidence, explore perceptions of  people and communities  you  work with, this  prevents  wasting limited  resources  while facilitating successful intervention that are adaptable.

Take risks

Jump with both feet, what do you have to lose you are young and the world around you is rapidly changing.  Taking  risks challenges our perceptions and just  because  it  hasn’t  been  done  doesn’t  mean  it  can’t  be done. The risks I  have  taken  in the last 4  years  have  enabled  me to  advance my  professional  life  and  networks.  Was it uncomfortable and at times draining?  yes,  but  I  always had to  remind  myself  why I  took the risks in the first place. If  I never  took any risks  I  would still be  where  I was 4 years  ago and  that would  have made  me  bitter,  highly  unmotivated and unproductive

Make time for you

Make  time  to  appreciate  the little  things  in life and  things  that make  you happy  outside  of  your  causes  and  work. Burnout sneaks in when you need to be efficient and present.  Blocking  time  for  self-care  and  work  responsibilities  is  important  for  morale  and  efficiency. It  is important  to take  care  of  yourself. Self-care  provides  time  for  self-reflection and  self-development enabling us  to ask  ourselves  the  difficult  questions and  also  to  enjoy the moment as  it is.

Networking is the golden pin

You  never  know  who is in the room  with  you and  they might  be  the  person you need  to  recommend  you  a job  or  collaborate  with. Know  where  you want to  end  up but  be flexible  to change this  will assist  you to  use  every  networking  opportunity productivity. Learn how to stay visible in your area of practice.  Learn and  relearn how  to market your  skills, how to give an elevator  speech and  always  be  open to new  opportunities  when they are  presented.

Stay passionate it helps when all seems bleak

You are  going  to want to  quit,  feel  disillusioned,  feel  like  all your  investments  and  input  have  not  contributed  to any tangible  impact. At  times  like  that being passionate  about  what  you  do  will  enable  you  to persevere  and  push  forward. Passion will fuel your creativity to explore realistic attainable alternatives to resolve a short or long-term inherent bottleneck.

Always respect  others and  practice  humility, practice  active  listening you  don’t  know  everything  and you will  always  need   to  work with other  people.

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