Traveling light was my choice for the “Youth in Power” event in Dublin, Ireland—a decision befitting the brevity yet intensity of the three-day event. My journey began with my arrival at Dublin International Airport at 8:00 AM on the 27th of January, where, after a brief interaction with immigration, I hailed a car via the Bolt app to Croke Park. Dublin greeted me with its serene winter embrace, its historic streets a testament to its literary legacy and vibrant life. This city, alive with the dance of shadows and light on its cobblestones, mirrored the resilience and spirit of youth-led movements.

This post is an invitation to join me in traversing Dublin’s cobbled lanes, to immerse in the city’s ambiance and the pulse of our pivotal meeting. Will you join me on this journey?

I do not wish to dwell on statistics, yet it’s compelling to note that we are part of the largest generation of young people in history, numbering 1.8 billion globally. Despite this, the innovative potential of youth in crafting solutions for better health outcomes remains largely untapped. To harness this potential, it’s imperative for young people to collaborate, executing bold, strategic, and innovative ideas tailored to our unique needs.

Our 2024 strategy meeting, collaboratively organized by three youth-led and youth-focused drug-related organizations—Youth RISE, SSDP International, and Young Wave—was aptly themed “Youth in Power (YIP): Addressing the Sustainability of Youth-led Drug Related Organizations.” The gathering commenced on the 26th with a dinner, a prelude to the collaboration and discussions to follow, which I unfortunately missed due to my next-day arrival.

The heart of our discussions began on the 27th with an opening circle, setting the stage for a deep dive into the future of sustainability within our personal careers and organizations. We pondered whether sustainability leans more towards individuals or the structural makeup of our organizations. This led us to explore collaborative team structures and address the issue of burnout—particularly resonant for me, coming from Nigeria, where mental health discussions are only just beginning to gain momentum. A critical insight shared by our Executive Director, Ruby Lawlor, was the link between funding and burnout prevention. Adequate funding allows for time off without the risk of job loss or funding withdrawal, highlighting the importance of financial sustainability in burnout prevention. This session provided a rich learning ground, as participants shared diverse and unique strategies for managing stress and burnout at work.

We then transitioned to discussing the Paradigma Coalition, deliberating on strategies to bolster its effectiveness and enhance its impact. Want to learn more about Paradigma? Click here!  Post-lunch, our focus shifted to the Mid-Term Review and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) Strategy. Ruby meticulously dissected every component, including plenary sessions, side events, and the high-level segment, offering a comprehensive overview of the CND’s program. This was followed by a presentation on YIP solutions, after which organizations split to strategize their plans for 2024.

The final day, the 28th, was dedicated to goal setting and brainstorming on integrating sustainability into our organizations. We dissected sustainability in long-term planning, considering priorities and strategies for financial viability, donor tracking tools, and essential policies covering finance, HR, and governance. A highlight for me was the horizontal learning between organizations, sharing successes and learning from each other’s experiences. We delved into what our organizations specifically need over the next 6, 12, and 36 months—acknowledging that while funding is crucial, our needs span wider to include effective people management and a robust social media strategy.

A subsequent peer-led session on Leadership Transition delved into identifying green flags for healthy transitions, best practices for onboarding, and areas for improvement. Emphasizing the need for proper documentation, transparency, and experience transfer to new members, we explored ways to ensure continuity and maintain relationships with partners and donors, spotlighting the importance of a strong board for conflict resolution and relationship building.

Ruby emphasized that onboarding varies by position, advocating for a staged approach that provides clarity and integrates new recruits into the organizational culture and history. This segued into discussions on institutional knowledge, where we explored best practices in documentation, leveraging tools like Google Drive, Slack, and AI innovations for minute-taking and graphic design, etc. A peer session on Workplace Standards & Care Protocols offered a safe space for discussing concerns and identifying areas for improvement, fostering a culture of care and support.

Our last creative session concluded the two-day YIP strategy event on a high note, with discussions on practical ways for ongoing engagement and collaboration for amplified impact. A key takeaway for me was the realization that young people are not only realistic and action-oriented but also inherently skilled in addressing issues that affect us, offering unique insights through our experiential knowledge and technological fluency.

As we wrapped up the event, my excitement for the impact we’re poised to create was palpable. The momentum we’ve built is just the beginning, and I eagerly anticipate our future gatherings. This narrative marks a pause in our ongoing story, but before I conclude, I invite you to view the captured moments from our event, each picture a witness to our collective journey towards youth engagement.