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Youth in Forests Asia Summit: the end of the beginning

Yi Ying moderating youth group discussions during ForestsAsia

“It felt really good - like a privilege; it felt humbling; youth felt empowered, integrated, and they sensed collaboration was possible between young people and senior professionals, for tackling major forestry issues where youth can help drive solutions.” Yi Ying told me, as we were reviewing how successful Youth’s participation was during the Forests Asia Summit, Jakarta, Indonesia, 5-6 May 2014.  

Yi Ying evolved from youth moderator of the Youth Session to Master of Ceremony of the Summit’s day 2. She received very positive feedback on her work and appreciated the freedom and trust she received from CIFOR, the Summit’s organizer, for filling her role as MC: “here is the script – go ahead; we trust you will be doing a great job.”

Through the organization of the Summit’s Youth Session, we wanted to challenge conference formats; we ended up with a 21years old Master of Ceremony of the Summit! We wanted to cease one-man shows; we processed to vibrant group discussions during the youth session. We wanted actionable outcomes; we presented a set of feasible and measurable recommendations every stakeholder can take ownership for.

The #ForestsAsia youth session

At the beginning of the Youth session, Andhyta Utami, delivered an inspiring speech on the necessity for young people to get involved in Forestry Development. Based on her experience at the Indonesian Youth Parliament, she explained how, to her, young people have a number of assets and should take actively part towards sustainable forestry development.

Then, participants split into five roundtables where they discussed ways to tackle a challenge facing Southeast Asia’s forests and people today. The roundtables were moderated by the five youth moderators who were trained on moderation techniques prior to the summit, through a mentorship programme online and a face-to-face session! They had identified and fine-tuned, themselves, their discussions topic and organized e-discussions to collect Southeast Asia youth-in-forestry’s input. The online discussions were useful to shape the discussions topics and were brought into the on-site session’s discussions.

The youth session attracted a lot of interest; it was very lively and generated clear and feasible recommendations for youth empowerment and involvement with regard to the five themes of the summit. Also, the young moderators performed very well in their role as facilitators.

The youth recommendations were brought into the closing plenary, by Sarah Dickson-Hoyle, IFSA (co-organizer of the youth session). Check the closing plenary video: 53.55 mins. The speech was eloquent and the feedback from the audience very positive.

Read the Youth Session’s recommendations.

Challenging but rewarding!

Most of the youth moderators considered their role as a challenge, and not a common one. Some expressed that they never faced such a type of exercise before. It was a difficult but a strong learning experience.

The youth moderators learned a lot about blogging and facilitation methods. They gained knowledge about techniques but also got the opportunity to practice and gain experience, and manage international groups. Also, the online discussions unexpectedly brought good comments.

New concept, new ideas!

One of the youth champions expressed that through this experience she learned ( - surprisingly, to her) that apparently there ARE youth concerned and willing to participate. She found out that the youth do have ideas, which the youth session helped them to voice and that may not have come up otherwise. The summit came as a channel to bring forward these ideas. The Youth Session per se, as a mean to get insights from participants on youth involvement was very interesting.

The moderators received very positive feedback from the participants to the youth session: they expressed that it was important and refreshing to have the youth involved significantly in the summit. The youth session felt like a “breath of fresh air after a long day” for the youth presence and the chance to contribute and participate in a more interactive session.

She also realized that some older people do have youth perspectives and young and fresh ideas. Older people seemed to benefit from the youth session by being pushed to have fresh perspectives and adapt their speech instead of using jargon.

One moderator learned a lot through interacting with participants and particularly young people in Indonesia. It helped her reflect what she learned from her readings into the “real world” and understand that things are more complex than they may seem put back into concrete context, with stakeholders fighting for their own interests.

The moderators also learned from observing the management of logistics of the session and the way to connect youth with organizations like CIFOR and big occasions like the summit. It was interesting to see how a big organization like CIFOR welcomed the youth – how such an institution can provide room to the youth.

Knowledge is Power!

One of the moderators particularly got hooked by the social media training. She now sees the value of twitter and learned how to use it effectively. She used Facebook for keeping informed in the past – she now understand that Facebook is more for socializing, while twitter serves the purpose of getting informed and inform. This mean will help her reach out people interested in forestry and update them, while she will keep using Facebook to stay connected with her friends.

Some young moderators were amazed to see how social media empowered young people. The training and the practice was engaging and useful. “I have never learned so much in my Life” one student in medicine said. The fact of interviewing summit’s participants was also a rewarding experience for the proximity it creates with all levels participants. Also, it is powerful to see that we have the means to share information in our own languages through social media.

What Next?

We shall follow-up on the achievements and recommendations of the youth session in order to ensure the implementation of these at different level: from participant’s level, moderator’s level, CIFOR, YPARD, IFSA’s level and bring them further to other organizations. Also, we want to carry on implementing youth session in the future, with a strong mentoring component, and integrate young people into conferences’ core sessions as panellists.

It is also the starting point of strengthening our networks in South Asia through the key young individuals met at the summit. We linked up with youth of the region from the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia, and beyond the forestry sector.

Notably, young Indonesian people who attended the youth session expressed that it was unclear to them how the recommendations would be brought forward. We need to share with them the outcomes and show how this will be used and engage them within the process.

By being empowered Today, the current generation of Youth will realize the importance of giving a voice to the youth, and as adults, they will be cautious of giving more importance to young people in the future; Yi Ying believes.  What do you think?

Missed the Youth Session? Here is the webstream of the #ForestsAsia Youth session!

Also, read what youth’s moderators say after Forests Asia online.

Watch Sarah Dickson-Hoyle, IFSA (co-organizer of the youth session) bringing the youth recommendations at the ForestsAsia Summit’s closing session, at 53.55 mins.

Click here to read Forests Asia Summit youth session's final report.

The youth session's team at ForestsAsia

Pictures credit: CIFOR - some rights reserved