On May 5-7, 2015 at Mida Resort & Spa Hotel, Chaengwattana Road, Bangkok, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) arranged a get-together event to review the lessons learned during the first half of this collaboration on 17 projects funded by UNFPA for youth empowerment as a self-defensive device on sexual and reproductive health issues. The gist extracted from the sharing and exchange of successes and challenges with each other covers the following topics:

Factors influencing successful implementation

  • Youth involvement as a partner in decision-making and as a leader
  • Explicit activities of the liking
    • Activities consistent with the nature of the learner
    • Timing in line with the target audience
    • Practical applicability   
  • Experienced teamwork
    • Positive attitude towards adolescents
    • Knowledge, understanding and skills in arranging activities
    • Continual training and exchange of experience
  • Social environment
    • Parents, adults, schools, and communities share the same goal
    • “Teen-friendly” services
  • Sufficient funds, resources, and knowledge
    • Partners and networks get involved and be aware of the importance
    • Exchange of lessons during implementation
    • Channels for public relations
  • What we learned from our peers’ experiences
    • Accept the characteristics of the target audience
    • Engage the target audience in designing activities
    • How to select and introduce the target groups
    • The youth’s methodical thinking outside the box
    • Reaching difficult-to-reach targets
    • Patterns are not the final answer
    • The form of activities must address the local context
    • Each community has its own unique culture/tradition
  • Obstacles encountered
    • Cooperation of the local partners in the area
    • A small number of teamwork, unable to reach the target group, lack of skills and confidence
    • Time and location are not in line with plans and activities
    • Restrictions on law and regulations

Insights from “behind the pictures”: a key tool for mid-service debriefing and reviewing the halfway through the projects 

During the mid-service debrief procedures to review lessons learned, the main tool used is the activity that asks each project to select pictures taken during the service to tell stories of both success and challenges. This should lead to the learning arisen from “Stories from Photos” — the selection of pictures may affect the meaning interpretation and expression. For example:

  • To communicate with public in order to promote awareness that youth are entitled to protect their rights when becoming a target of the sexual harassment and assaults, if pictures that “provoke emotional sensitivity” are selected and may lead to the interpretation that “the children are victims”, the pictures might succeed in calling the sympathy from the audience. However, the core message sent to promote children and youth rights might not be achieved. This could distort or mislead the exact intention of the photographers.
  • Showing the public negative images of youth as a “bad ass”, such as young men wearing sunglasses, smoking cigarettes, dyed hair, riding motorbikes, having tattoos, may reaffirm such undesirable images of youth with risk behaviors in the public perception. Conversely, this kind of pictures cannot convey the potential of these children exactly like what the photographers want to express.
  • In displaying youth group activities, the pictures with explicit gender presentation could affect the attitude of the audience as we can see the pictures of confidently active participation of young people who have a clear image of an “LGBT” more often than the general teenagers. This reinforces such image and tends to convince the public that LGBT teenagers have higher self-confidence than their peers.

Points to ponder on using websites to “raise fund from the new types of charity givers”

In addition to jointly reviewing the progress and challenges in the implementation, the partners of these 17 projects also learned different ways to web-based fundraising for development. The successful stories told to them covered the success of Taejai.com, the community to create a common space for giving to society, and an example of a fund raising project, Documentary Club. , as well as sharing experience in designing projects for funding through the Site. They also had a chance to try designing their own web-based fundraising projects, which is considered learning by doing during the meeting. This could lead to the major discovery of significant lessons learned about designing and developing small-scale projects that aim to improve the potential of local communities. These points are as follows:

  • Fundraising from the “new types of charity givers” must be campaigned by using a clear, concise, and comprehensive project.
  • The outcomes of the fundraising are vital. Therefore, it is crucial to build up concrete and tangible results.
  • Although the projects are the leadership, empowerment programs, or “young generation creation”, there must be a communication method that yields clear results. The use of the term “leadership” is still abstract.
  • It is essential to publicize and make the project known to the public in general to raise funds through the Internet. This is also considered an important factor for fundraising to reach the set target. Therefore, getting to know the nature, characteristics, and personality of those who frequently use “modern media” is necessary. In addition, the consistent news releases and updates to announce the progress of fundraising through the website should be made.

In addition to the mid-service debrief, the exchange of successes and challenges of the project implementation as well as the guidelines for fundraising through the Internet in order to create the sustainable social development programs, in this meeting, the participants from 17 projects jointly learned the importance and method of evaluation, the Result Based Management, as well. Apart from this, they also covered the review of the design of plans and procedures with key indicators used to monitor the implementation of sexual and reproductive health projects in the same manner as the international standards.

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