We hear the axiom all the time:
Be the change you want to see in the world.
It’s a lofty goal, oft-seen on coffee mugs, and a misquote of Gandhi to boot.
Much less frequently do we hear about a bigger and more difficult challenge: creating the change we wish to see.
One such organization has decided not to shy away from this greater mission, but instead challenge those in its community to take up the cause.
Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI, is a program of the U.S. State Department, and empowers its community to take the matter of creating a better world into their own hands.
Cameo Cheung, a program analyst with YLAI, took some time to give me the scoop about what YLAI is all about, and how their free resources can support community changemakers all throughout the Americas and beyond.
What is YLAI and its mission?
YLAI is the Young Leaders of the America’s Initiative, which aims to build linkages between younger leaders across the hemisphere. YLAI addresses the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering entrepreneurs and civil society leaders with the training, tools, networks, and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights, and good governance in the hemisphere.
There are two pillars of YLAI: the professional fellowship program and the Network.
What is #YLAIEmpowers Communities Action Week, and what are a couple of your favorite examples of projects that came from that week?
#YLAIEmpowers Communities Action Week was an initiative we launched as part of an effort to increase awareness about social responsibility and ways that individuals across the YLAI Network could improve their communities.
We asked people to join or host events during the week that were focused on making their communities better and taking action for a brighter future with their friends and neighbors.
We had a great response from YLAI Network members across Latin America and the Caribbean. A few of the projects that really stood out were a planting project in Bolivia, a “beauty masterclass” in Venezuela by makeup artists and a home for the elderly, and an awareness hike in Barbados for endometriosis.
Tell me about the Community Organizing for Action Course. Who is it for, and what can you learn?
Our Community Organizing for Action course is an online course for YLAI Network members, young leaders, who want to mobilize their friends and neighbors around a particular cause. In taking the course, leaders can learn strategies for finding volunteers, motivating them around a cause, and engaging your entire community.
There are four lessons in total, and we encourage YLAI Network members to take the course as they have time or with friends and colleagues. Each lesson includes a discussion guide that can be used to spark conversations about the material and help generate ideas for how to put the lesson into action. People who take the course can also test their understanding with an assessment at the end; those who successfully complete the assessment will then receive a certificate recognizing their mastery of the information.
What are some ways to get involved with YLAI / other resources that might be helpful for community changemakers?
We hope all young leaders interested in working toward a brighter future across Latin America and the Caribbean will join the YLAI Network by registering here.
For young entrepreneurs, there is also an opportunity to apply for a professional fellowship through YLAI.
Finally, we also hope that all members of the YLAI Network will fully explore the online courses and other tools & resources on the YLAI website, which offer advice and strategies for young leaders to have a greater impact as they work to making their communities and our world a better place.
If you liked this, you might also like: What is the Peace Corps Really Like?
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.