Four four years, URI has run a Global Youth Ambassadors Program to give young people around the world the opportunity to develop as leaders who run their own interfaith projects. Now, with more than 40 trained and experienced program Alumni wanting to continue to serve the interfaith movement, they have decided to form their own Cooperation Circle.
“These young people were already deeply involved in the URI before deciding to form a CC,” says Rachael Watcher, URI Multiregion Regional Coordinator. “They formed in order to create a continuum and training program for an existing URI program.”
The main purpose of the Global Youth Ambassadors CC will be to partner with URI’s Young Leaders Program to support the continuing evolution of the Ambassadors’ work and to mentor new Ambassadors around the world.
This new CC will provide “a means by which to continue the service and program that they were involved in as Youth Ambassadors, offering a unique service to the URI and the Youth Ambassadors program,” says Rachael.
The CC was formed when a group of former Ambassadors attended a leadership retreat in San Francisco in March 2014. Several of them had already reached out to alumni and gauged interest and support for setting up the CC. In between breaks and workshops, the group developed their purpose, objectives and key activities and filled out a CC application.
Matthew Youde, one of URI’s Young Leaders Program Coordinators, believes that bringing together the Ambassador Alumni in a community of their own is important for youth leadership development across URI’s network.
“Genuine youth led initiatives are essential to promote the role of youth in leadership, in URI and in all walks of life,” Matthew says. “In a community of peers, youth have the power to design and implement what they want to do, get recognition for it, and then use that platform to grow in responsibility in the movement.”
One of the 2013 Youth Ambassadors was Vedrana Damjanovic, 19, from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She took the lead in bringing the others together to set up the group and hopes that they can play a large role in the future of the Ambassadors Program. Additionally, the group plans to bring its collective experiences, ideas, case studies and best practices together to provide new resources for URI.
“It is our hope to further the Young Ambassadors Program and the Youth Leadership Program training,” Vedrana says. “We would also like to help develop a new program and better resources for URI, including a new manual for the Young Ambassadors Program.”