Steering the Ship
Start date: 01 Aug 2014, End date: 31 May 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Youth For Understanding (YFU) organisations throughout Europe are volunteer-led non-profit youth organisations that primarily organise and facilitate secondary school long-term (1 year) youth exchanges to another country of the world. Working with minors who participate in such intense learning experiences means there is a high amount of responsibility on YFU boards and their young elected volunteer board members. In fact, the responsibility of board members in non-profit organisations is generally high as research has shown there is a strong correlation between robust performance in boards and high performing non-profit organisations. This means, youth organisations like YFU need strong leaders with the right set of competences to provide effective governance. However, YFU has many challenges. Too few new board members have the competences needed to govern a non-profit organisation. Many national boards do not have training for new (or current) board members, a recent analysis and consultation with member organisations revealed high turnover among board members and a lack of development support for young volunteer leaders. Finally, there are no facilitated international opportunities for national board members to learn from each other. At the same time, national boards in YFU in Europe have a large diversity of governance practices which represents an enormous potential for them to learn from each other. So, the training course “Steering the Ship” aimed to build the capacity of the boards of European YFU organisations to develop effective governance practices, notably through the development of young board members' transversal competences needed for the well-functioning of boards. It brought together 11 youth workers from 6 countries in Brussels, Belgium from 25 to 29 March 2015. The specific objectives were to: 1) exchange and share board work practices in order to map the diversity of governance functions and practices in European YFU organisations; 2) develop participants' ability to conceptualize, distinguish and clarify the boundaries between governance and management functions; 3) explore concrete tools for board work; 4) provide space for board members to learn from one another and give a context to their personal board experiences; and 5) Learn about boards as teams and leaders; and support participants to develop personal board skills development plans and to draft a plan for implementing relevant learning outcomes of the course into board work practices in their own organisation. The training course used a non-formal education approach, being learner centred, emphasizing peer learning and using methods such as open space, discussion buzz groups, case studies, simulation and role playing, energizers, etc. Participants were encouraged to put their own personal development and board experience into context. , developing both personal governance competence development plans as well as actions plans for their board. Finally, a short publication with content from the seminar will be made and disseminated through the global YFU network (about 50 countries) as well as to other youth organisations in Europe. The impact of the “Steering the Ship” training course was to contribute to increasing the governance capacity of YFU organisations in Europe, overall contributing to increasing organisational effectiveness. The longer term benefits will be to increase YFU's capacity and quality in providing intercultural learning opportunities through youth exchanges to its beneficiaries.
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