Here at The Y, we strengthen communities by connecting people to their potential, purpose and each other. In communities across the motu, and across the world, we have the presence and partnerships not only to promise but to deliver positive change. The Y is part of the global Y whanau (in over 120 countries), with global reach, and global learnings.

Sharing this basket of knowledge, our kete o te wānanga, and our global resources help us to create the best world for our young people to inherit, including youth mental health, the environment, and equal access to health and wellbeing support. Our Ys work together — each providing their unique experience and perspective — to help people everywhere reach their full potential with dignity.

As a part of the YMCA Asia Pacific Urban Network (YAPUN), The Y representatives have been able to be a part of exciting changes for our Youth Empowerment journey.

Adam Brown-Rigg, our Group Manager for Youth Development, has been a crucial part of this agenda.

Seeking connection with global Y organisations during the isolation of COVID, his team conceived and delivered an online conference where attendees shared learnings, successes and projects in the youth development space across the region.

As a result of the success of this conference, the Asia Pac executive team decided to leverage sub-committees across the region to provide more rigorous research and development across the overall Y organisation's key objectives. Adam was recruited to chair the subcommittee concentrating on youth empowerment. Supporting young people has been the Y's purpose since it was founded in 1844, so this was a huge role for Adam.

Through monthly meetings and aligning explorations and projects with the global YMCA alliance objectives, the group’s purpose was defined, and plans were initiated. World Alliance 2030's four pillars include Community Wellbeing, Meaningful Work, Sustainable Planet and a Just World. These informed the sub-committee’s mahi, with the aim to present the YAPUN executive team with future recommendations to propel youth development further. Essentially, the sub-committee worked on how we can best empower young people to build a just, sustainable, equitable and inclusive world, where every person can reach their full potential.

With such a diverse group of YMCAs, these projects needed to range from small wins to chunkier transformational pieces. The Youth Empowerment team's presentation of their projects at the latest YAPUN conference garnered a positive reaction from the exec team. With the team's work, the value of youth engagement, governance, and contribution was demonstrably realised. The team included elected young people representing each region, meaning the voice of youth was, vitally, ubiquitous at the conference. Adam travelled to Seoul with the NZ contingent, and joined other teams in person and online, gaining valuable experience in networking and change leadership, all while sharing insights from his extensive youth development experience, which has included the national rollout of Raise Up in the past year.

The presentation focused on an initial 'Social Impact' strategy, and then took a wider look at climate change. Understanding the why of what we do, and how it impacts society (and on a smaller scale each community) is essential for all parts of our organisation in achieving the YMCA mission or “reason to be”. The second part of the presentation honed into what is one of the most pressing issues for society in general, but especially for our rangatahi - climate change.

Taking an overwhelming problem and providing tangible goals and actionable behaviour consistently proves to be the most successful strategy in effecting the climate change issue. The planet is not just for us today, but for our children tomorrow. This ethos was the driving force for the project direction and will continue to be a valuable concept in future proofing The Y organisation across the world.

The subcommittee also outlined their overall Youth Empowerment recommendations:

  • Provide youth with support resources to facilitate their involvement.
  • Invite participation in the World YMCA council.
  • Offer educational opportunities.
  • Organise workshops for interested individuals.
  • Facilitate international exchanges.
  • Allocate a portion of the budget to support these initiatives.

It wasn’t all grind; the Seoul YMCA were amazing hosts and wanted to showcase their home to the team. Adam and Rhona (a member of Adam's team who also participated in the conference) got to explore the history of Seoul with a tour of a demilitarised zone, experience the sensory overload of a beautiful international flower show, and to taste Seoul (we are vicariously living for the descriptions!). Touring local eateries was a way to connect to culture, through food and hospitality. Potentially quite the challenge for our resident vegan Adam, but the hosts were very accommodating and went above and beyond, so he didn’t go hungry. Gift giving was a fun part of the Seoul culture, and Adam returned with an extra heavy bag filled with fascinating badges from the local YMCA community.

The realisation of the Youth Empowerment vision for Adam is stepping back himself, with young people advocating for themselves without the need for him “as conduit”. His impressive effort in leading The Y, and NZ, in this space is massive. His goal for the next conference is to achieve fundraising targets so even more young people will be able to attend.

Adam, and the rest of the amazing Y North and YMCA whanau will continue this collaboration to ignite change, and we look forward to bearing witness to the positive changes ahead. Together we can continue to make our name synonymous with Youth Empowerment! Collectively we can find the best way forward together.