UNICEF and SCOUTS Innovate Adolescent and Youth Engagement During COVID-19 Pandemic
Since the UNICEF East and Southern Africa Regional Office and the Africa Scout Region entered into a partnership over 13 months ago, a lot of activities have been implemented that have brought more opportunities for youth engagement particularly at a difficult time of the pandemic. With the history of a long-standing global and regional collaboration, the two organizations managed to navigate the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to programmatic shifts to achieve some great results so far. These were achieved through delivering joint partnership programme activities at a regional level while actively reaching out to the countries to facilitate local-level collaborations between UNICEF Country offices and National Scout Organizations.
With a focus on innovative, data-driven adolescent and youth engagement on climate change awareness and mitigation, promotion of adolescent nutrition and other programme priorities in East and Southern Africa, the partnership addressed the following three main areas: adolescent engagement for climate change mitigation and awareness; engagement and behaviour change around adolescent nutrition; and adapting and promoting UNICEF’s innovative platforms for learning, information sharing and engaging adolescents on programme priorities.
In line with the expected outcomes for adolescent engagement for climate change mitigation and awareness, support was provided to Africa Scout Region to customize and deliver a six-week Plastic Tide Turners challenge via the Cartedo platform as part of the Scouting at Home COVID response programmes to help young people aged 14 years and above to understand the impact that humans have in the world when it comes to plastic use and consumption and how they can promote a clean, healthy planet that will contribute to a more sustainable world. Over 2,800 young people from 14 countries took part in the challenge generating more than 5,300 ideas with a 68% completion rate. In Burundi, UNICEF and the SCOUTS were able to identify and support the top three participants from their country.
Over 450 Scouts were sensitized at the April 2020 Special JOTI Edition on the potential impacts of COVID-19 on Nutrition, key tips on healthy eating while preventing the spread of COVID-19, and the importance of youth and suggested actions for youth advocates. Further, an adolescent and childhood nutrition Training of Trainers capacity building workshop was conducted and attended by 25 young people and 11 adult leaders from 12 countries in East and Southern Africa. From this training, the young people and their adult leaders were empowered to become advocates for healthy nutrition among adolescents and youth in their countries. A follow-up e-learning course and an advocacy document are under development. A survey to identify key nutritional issues among adolescents and youth was also conducted. The integration of the adolescent and early childhood nutrition advocacy toolkit into the Scouts Food for Life project has been planned to take place by December 2021.
The adaptation of the SCOUTS Plastic Tide Turners programme content into a dedicated page on UNICEF’s Internet of Good Things was done and the content also translated into Portuguese for dissemination in Mozambique. A U-Report workshop was held in February 2021 bringing together 35 UNICEF staff and 38 representatives of National Scout Organizations to discuss ways of maximizing the use of U-Report to drive adolescents’ engagement and social change through the collaborations between the Scouts and UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa. The workshop also showcased case studies of previous and current UNICEF-SCOUTS collaborations on U-Report and explored opportunities for future collaboration between NSOs and UNICEF Country Offices on maximising U-Report for SCOUTS. Subsequent support was given to countries that led to the formalization of national-level partnerships between three UNICEF Country offices and National Scout Organizations in Burundi, Kenya and Namibia.
Other activities implemented around innovation and adolescent engagement through this partnership over the first year include:
- Workshop on Youth Agency Market Place: Scouts were represented at a two-day workshop hosted by RLabs from 13-14 February 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa that brought together a group of collaborators from highly complementary and strategically aligned organisations to flesh out a marketplace based on the current challenge statement – Accelerating speed to Piloting.
- PSEA Assessment: Upon signing the Small-Scale Funding Agreement, the Africa Scout Region underwent, in March 2020, a Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) Assessment by UNICEF to evaluate the policies systems and procedures for preventing and dealing with incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse in the work of the movement. The rating for the WOSM Africa was noted as Moderate. The exercise provided guidance and recommendations for strengthening its overall Safe from Harm procedures.
- COVID-19 Youth Online Design Challenge: Between April and June 2020, Scouts were part of the Steering Group for Africa COVID-19 Youth Design Challenge lead by UNICEF ESARO, Cartedo and other partners. Apart from contributing ideas to the development of the challenge, support was provided in promoting the challenge and activating the participation of National Scout Organizations across the region.
- JOTA-JOTI 2020 Session: At the 2020 Scouts Jamboree-On-The-Air/Jamboree-On-The-Internet (JOTA-JOTI) event, held in October 2020, UNICEF delivered a session on “Engaging adolescent and young people through U-Report, particularly in COVID-19 response” which was accessible to young people worldwide. The session showcased U-Report as a tool through which Scouts can get access to lifesaving and wellbeing content and use it to practice life skills to engage in different programme priorities, including on COVID-19.
- Better Together Programme: The SCOUTS were actively involved in the planning and delivery of the Better Together and Better Together Africa programmes for young people that provided opportunities for them to develop and earn from their digital skills.
Strengthening Country-Level Partnerships
The regional partnership has catalyzed a series of national engagements between the National Scout Organizations and UNICEF Country Offices in the region– some formally while much more informally. To date, there have been formal partnerships in Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Informal collaborations on different programmatic areas continue to happen in Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Madagascar, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. The impact has also trickled beyond East and Southern Africa and inspired engagements in West and Central Africa with Benin and Ghana having entered into formal partnerships and informal collaborations ongoing in the Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger, Chad, Nigeria among others.
In 2020, L’Association des Scouts du Burundi played an important role in the introduction of innovative online platforms in UNICEF Burundi's adolescents and young people skills-building programme. They joined other partners to conduct community outreach to ensure that Some 1,722 (50% girls) Burundian adolescents joined the COVID-19 Cartedo Challenge. With the success of the campaign, the first Small Scale Funding Agreement was signed in November 2020 to implement a national campaign to support the "Reimagine your Future” challenge where more than 4,000 adolescents and young people (boys and girls) registered to the challenge. An additional partnership agreement was signed in March 2021 to strengthen adolescent participation in UNICEF programme design and monitoring while reinforcing their preparedness for emergencies.
“The collaboration with UNICEF, particularly through U-Report, has been a big opportunity for Burundi Scouts Association to train young people to be active in the development of their communities. It has also provided us with an occasion to identify the challenges in our communities and contribute to discovering solutions with the youth participation” says Jean-Marie Niyomwungere, National Executive Coordinator of the Association des Scouts du Burundi.
On 10 September 2020, UNICEF Botswana and Bostwana Scouts Association also entered into an MoU to strengthen youth engagement in decision-making processes at the national and sub-national level through the U-Report platform.
"The MoU is an efficient platform of cooperation and through it, we will be able to hear the voice of the youth. Young people especially boys in schools are hurting but with the U-Report we will be able to help them. Through the U-Report Scouting and UNICEF would both facilitate issues of interest and improve knowledge and civic engagement,” said Ms Omphemetse Kegapilwe, Chief Commissioner of Botswana Scouts Association.
At the start of 2021, UNICEF Kenya and the Kenya Scouts Association signed a one-year letter of commitment to support the rollout of U-Report in the country under the name YUNITOK Kenya. This is aimed at expanding education, skills development, employment, and engagement opportunities for young people to amplify their voices on issues affecting them through the YUNITOK Platform to reach one million Scouts in three years. The programme is being implemented in the country in partnership with the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, National Youth Council, Youth Enterprise Development Fund, Kenya Girl Guides Association and Generation Unlimited.
On 21st April 2021, UNICEF Namibia and Scouts of Namibia signed one year MoU to formalize the partnership between the two organizations to jointly operationalize the U-Report project, together with other key stakeholders from Government, the United Nations in Namibia, civil society and other youth groups. The partnership aims at contributing to the establishment of, and gradual scaling-up of U-Report in the country. The collaboration is expected to close the gap in perception data on COVID-19 secondary impacts on key affected populations in Namibia, establish mechanisms for influencing policymaking of government at different levels (national and regional) and programming of UNICEF and its partners, using UNICEF Namibia’s position as a key advocate for children, and position U-Report as a real-time channel for social and behavioural change communication.
In Zambia, no formal partnership exists between UNICEF Zambia and the Zambia Scouts Association but that hasn’t stopped collaboration from taking place. On the strength of the regional partnership, the Scouts have continued to take part in different initiatives while still pursuing possibilities of discussing a national partnership. Through their initiative, they've continued to engage in programmes on ending early child marriages, gender-based violence, drug and substance abuse, climate change awareness and action, child and online safety training, and mobilizing young people to take part in the community and national development activities. These are activities they are looking to scale up with support from different stakeholders.
While most of the partnerships formed so far have been around U-Report, NSOs have identified other areas for possible collaboration with UNICEF and other UN agencies e.g. expanding the Scouting in Schools programme, food security and nutrition, ethical leadership, digital skills development, youth entrepreneurship and employability that will shape the future of the UNICEF-SCOUTS collaboration in Africa.
Despite the challenge of limited access to mobile phone devices, the involvement of young people so far indicates that the engagement of adolescents in digital engagement programmes is an interesting way for them to learn and take part in finding solutions for local challenges. It has also shown that adults too can learn a lot from the experiences of young people. More resources are however needed to scale up these activities to reach out to and engage more young people, especially as the world enters post COVID-19 recovery phase.
Overall, the partnership has been a great catalyst for youth engagement particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic that affected youth participation and brought about numerous other challenges. Thanks to this collaboration and the utilization of technology, more young people have gotten opportunities they would otherwise not have had to interact, learn and contribute to finding solutions to both personal and community challenges in difficult times. We continue to encourage and support specific partnerships at the national level between the NSOs and UNICEF country offices so that the partnership best fits and supports the activities in local contexts.
To benefit from this collaboration, Nationals Scout Organizations can submit a partnership service request at services.scout.org/service/12. For more information and support contact: