Twenty young participants, sixteen countries represented; a swirl of passion, enthusiasm, dedication, drive, smartness and kindness all together - in brief: YPARD Europe very first face-to-face meeting.
The goal of the YPARD Europe conference was to meet each other, to create synergies, to build stronger plans and refine concrete activities on national level, for each YPARD Country chapter, in the frame of YPARD Europe strategy. Team work helped to sharpen ideas, to be more accurate and specific in defining challenges and opportunities, but also to share experiences and good practices.
We urgently need to bring young professionals from a same country together, for them to identify, as a group, those specific needs they face in their own agricultural development context. Creating national working groups proved essential in the building up of YPARD network, which counts an increasing number of members. These national groups take the lead in meeting local stakeholders, which then leads to the implementation of concrete activities that address these specific needs.
The first day of the meeting included the presentation of YPARD Global strategic plan, YPARD Europe directions, the review of the strengths and weaknesses at national level, YPARD representatives’ challenges, what they strive for, the opportunities and threats, and a tips and tricks session on communications.
Day 2 was dedicated to finding solutions to the main challenges identified:
- Contributing to building stronger management and coordination at all YPARD levels
- Creating stronger Institutional linkages
- Creating better linkages with young farmers
- Giving a positive image of Agriculture (and YPARD)
- Having thematic focus points and topic priorities
Enhancing YPARD management and coordination in the region - The Global Coordination Unit’s representation enabled to respond to practical questions related to funding, administration, network registration and hosting organizations aspects. Indeed, although working as a not formalized institution enables to keep a certain degree of freedom in YPARD’s positions and actions, it also puts us in front of a number of administrative barriers.
Building stronger working group contributes to more solid structures with enhanced strategies and repartition of tasks among members. Ultimately it may help that to have topics focal points and dedicated communications persons within national groups. More effective communications among the national teams is required, such as better knowledge of the members and their expertise, through the database.
There was a strong demand for creating YPARD Country pages on the website, which national representatives could edit in their own language with a short description about their strategy, plan and activities such as information about agriculture in the country. These pages would give an official venture to YPARD Country chapters - in addition to their Facebook group, meant to generate informational interaction and where information is vaporous.
Creating stronger Institutional and Policy Linkages – The team suggested that efforts be focused on identifying and working with those people or organizations already involved in policy designs and processes, such as on developing policy-related mentorship, promoting YPARD within institutions and implementing concrete activities. We should join forces among countries that meet similar issues, as well as participating more in policy debates and conferences, lobbying activities, while ensuring proper training access for young people to contribute to discussions more effectively. A focus group could be dedicated on policy.
Getting Young Farmers more involved with YPARD - Expanding the network through YPARD members who are already farmers or involved in extension and advisory services would enable to invite more farmers to join YPARD. Working with farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, organizing fairs and theatre forums, providing more information targeted to farmers’ needs, developing agricultural incubators, providing information in local language are few of the possible ways to solicit young farmers to join us.
Enhancing the positive visibility and image of agriculture (and YPARD) - Social media activities, documentaries, publishing stories of young professionals in agriculture but also of YPARD achievements on ypard.net and organizing fairs were identified as key for promoting agriculture and YPARD work.
Funding - One of YPARD’s key priorities is to explore better ways to source funds. Improving technical writing skills of YPARD team such are visiting crowdfunding solutions were also suggested as crucial for better fundraising at all levels of YPARD.
Priority Topics and Topics Focal Points – Thematic focal points, based on their background and interests, would take the lead on specific topics identified as priorities by YPARD. The team was keen to see the development of website’s pages by topic, as we go ahead in this direction. Biodiversity, Climate Smart Agriculture, Employability are examples of such topics.
Language Barrier and Communications struggles - we don’t hear from all the country representatives with the same regularity although many activities do happen. Language is the main issue to engage our members in the broad community and share information. It is without mentioning the struggle of overload of information on the internet and through YPARD Channels themselves. Also time is a constraint. Moreover, communications is another job: it is difficult to request from country representatives to be project managers, coordinators, researchers, farmers, communicators all at the same time. An ideal would be that each country chapter has a dedicated person for communications who could share more information on a regular basis, about their country specific case and on YPARD activities specifically.
The European meeting was also about making a network analysis of YPARD Europe. By gathering every each representative’s contacts together, the team has a huge network. A question remains: how do we organize this network of networks? How do make the best of it, as a team?
YPARD as a team, both on European and global levels, has an enormous potential. By defining the priorities for each country, creating clusters of people by fields of expertise, sharing tasks among members, exchanging best practices within the global and European team, and building capacities where it is mostly needed, YPARD has the mean to multiply its efforts and activities.
YPARD Europe is also the story of individuals from different countries and backgrounds getting together for a same purpose: agricultural development and the active participation of young professionals towards a sustainable future.
This European meeting of young professionals for agricultural development provided the team with a collective five-sense experience of what we grow and what we eat. YPARD Europe makes the case strong: they want to work for a sustainable agriculture, from quality raw products we grow to healthy food in our plate. There is no alternative for a long-lasting world and humanity. They offer to the world their own perspective of success: "You may never gonna make huge money but you are doing a really good stuff.” to use TwoTales Brewery founder’s own words.
“What are you passionate about? What's your tale? What is the story of your passion? It doesn't matter what comes out. What's important is the process. What we need to exchange is stories; that's stories we believe in. That's the way to get public support and remove political barriers.” Tell us your story.
Click here to watch YPARD Europe Strategic Meeting video!
Picture credit: Marina Cherbonnier.