Finding a better way to deliver training in a youth empowerment program
Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 14:33

By Riesa Eka Putri
Program Officer

Finding a better way to deliver training in a youth empowerment program

One of my main tasks at Kopernik is supporting the Youth Change Agent (YCA) project — a youth empowerment project that we are implementing in partnership with Plan International in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara. This project aims to provide young men and women, or Youth Change Agents (YCAs) with a range of business skills and knowledge to equip them with the skills to launch their own small-scale enterprises.

Lembata consists of nine sub-districts with population of 123,141. Around 12.5% of the population are young people aged between 15–29 years old. However, due to a weak economic situation and lack of employment opportunities in the district, young people tend to migrate to cities and overseas for work. This project aims to limit this from occurring and stimulate greater economic activity in Lembata. Through training and coaching, the YCAs are trained to identify the current needs and challenges facing their communities, and to inspire fellow young people to explore local employment opportunities.

My main task in this project is conducting private training and mentoring sessions to the participants in order to share leadership, confidence-building, communication, networking and other business-related skills.

Back in November 2016, more than a hundred young people applied to take part in this project, with 60 applicants being selected to attend the initial training. After three months, 39 YCAs stuck it out to compete in the ‘80-day Challenge’, where they exercise the entrepreneurship skills they acquired by selling and distributing simple clean technologies within their communities.

However, supporting 39 YCAs is a big challenge. So, with the assistance of my colleague, Program Assistant Tarsis, we developed the idea to split them into groups of four to nine agents from the same area. The grouping helped us offer better support to the YCAs, saving a lot of time and energy in the process.

For example, one-on-one meetings were difficult to conduct due to poor quality roads across the Lembata regency and the time taken to reach each of the YCAs. Moreover, the YCAs come from different educational backgrounds and have very different daily activities. Many of them are high school graduates, some of them are young mothers and others work as maids, shopkeepers and farmers. So, conducting group-based coaching and mentoring sessions at a convenient time in a central location was a must.

We planned to train them initially about determining basic business targets mapping market potential, and developing appropriate strategies, because we believe this foundation is most important thing to manage an effective business. However, here was another big challenge. How can we best deliver this training to the YCAs?
I had almost zero experience in mentorship before embarking on this project. However, since most of the participants were a similar age to me, I reflected on how I would want to be trained if I were in their position. Flipchart paper and sticky notes pop into my mind everytime I try to learn something so we conducted the sessions using these tools. And we were pleased to see that this helped to provide them with a clear message that encouraged open and active discussion. Sometimes we talked and joked — which I myself lacked the confidence to do — but surprisingly it worked! The YCAs seemed to be immersed in the discussion and so many great ideas came through.

Before the program started, the YCAs acknowledged that they lacked communications skills and the confidence to speak in front of people. So, the first coaching and mentoring session we held in January shared tips, tricks and knowledge about how to effectively communicate. And by mid February, we observed significant improvement in their communication skills as we saw the YCAs expertly promoting their wares in markets.

The first time I met these young people, they didn’t know what to do to be a technology sales agent, let alone an entrepreneur. But now, most of them have already started to imagine and plan to build their own business. One of the YCAs explained to me that the key reason she wanted to join the program initially was to find ways to produce an income from Lembata, in place of needing to travel abroad to find work. “I don’t want to work overseas anymore. I don’t want my mother, my sister or even my own daughter to go there for work.

I was worried at first about my ability to deliver clear messages and training to the YCAs. It was a big challenge. However, seeing their continued progress and eagerness to learn and grow after each meeting gives me a powerful sense of satisfaction.