Leadership is about falling in love with the people you serve and the people falling in love with you.

Joyce Banda

Chidi’s main problem is that she started with a ‘how’ rather than a ‘why’. Her ‘how’ was organising a cooking club for young women and her ‘why’ was to help young women to stay in school, discover their talents, and make the most of their opportunities. 

Let’s start again. First, identify your ‘why’. This is your ‘Aim’ and is the top-level reason you want to invest your time and effort in something.

There’s a useful tool for this called the Planning Triangle. This is designed to help you to plan your youth project (it could be used for any initiative, not just youth work!) so that you can work strategically, and of course, explain it to others so that they can share your enthusiasm for changing young women’s lives!

Start at the top of the triangle – the overall aim. We start here to focus on the change we want to create for young women rather than the youth activity we will deliver. What is the ‘big change’ that you want to make? Usually, it’s something so big that we cannot achieve it on our own, or through one activity.  In Chidi’s case, it would be to ensure that teenage girls in her local community complete their education. She cannot do this on her own, but it is something that her youth project could contribute to.

If your youth project or organisation is already running, your overall aim should be related to your mission. Your overall aim should identify:

  • Your target group – who you want to create change for in the longer term. This might be different to the group you work with. For instance, if you support parents in improving parenting skills, the target group for your overall aim will be their children.
  • Where do you want to see this change: your neighbourhood, school, city, or country?
  • The change you want your target group to experience. Think about a long-term problem or issue that your target group faces – then turn this negative statement into a positive statement of change (your overall aim).

Remember that your overall aim focuses on the change you want to see, not the activity.

  • Describe changes by using words like ‘increase’, ‘improve’, ‘more’, ‘better’, or ‘reduce’. Sometimes the change we want to see is to stop something bad from happening, and we can use words like ‘maintain’ or ‘prevent’. Using these words helps us focus and explain our work clearly to others.  
  • Avoid words that are unclear, like empower. When we empower young women what do we mean? Will others understand our goals clearly? Be specific.

So, returning to Chidi. Her overall aim could be said to be to “increase the number of young women in her town completing their school education”.

Reflection Questions

  1. What is the aim of your youth project?
  2. Ask others involved in your project what they think the aim is. Is it the same as yours?
  3. Are you surprised? Does this matter?

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