There are many things that young people are used to being told they are too young to do. Too young to drive, too young to stay out really late, too young to date.  These all seem pretty reasonable, one must have some boundaries as a child, right? But how young is too young to take on an initiative that could change your community or your school? Surprisingly enough, a few of our young leaders mentioned this as a common reaction when seeking support for projects having been either told this at some point or made to feel this way in their pursuit. So here are 4 Challenges Young Leaders Face and some pointers to persevering past the naysayers.

Two young people discuss solutions to community problems at the Global Youth Village Program

“Everyone says that I am too young.”

You are too young can easily be translated as, “I am equating your age with your level of experience and that seems risky. I would feel better placing my investment (financial or otherwise) in the hands of a sure thing.” Take this in stride. This is the perfect time to seek mentors and organizations willing to sponsor you and provide the stability and project management expertise that makes funders feel more comfortable. Partnering with an non profit organization who can also serve as a fiscal sponsor allows you and your organization to receive and apply for larger grants designated to more established entities and nonprofits solely. Please note that with fiscal sponsorship also comes a small percentage due to the sponsor from any awarded funds.

“It’s hard to keep my team focused and committed with school and everything else.”

Taking a quick break!

This is difficult at the beginning stages of any long term initiative. After the first seemingly large victory people lose interest. Without that constant gratification it is often hard to keep moral up and convince everyone to see your project as a priority.

  • So the first step is to realize that no one will love your idea more than you. At some level you have to be committed to throwing in 110% when others fall short.
  • Next, ensure that people are working in their passions and feel as if they have ownership over their piece. Empower your team to add what makes them special to their portion or task.
  • Provide consistent and positive feedback. People love to feel like they matter and are doing a job well. The abundance of positive feedback also softens the blow when you need to mention areas of improvement. Your team already trusts you and they know the criticism isn’t coming from a negative place.
  • It may not be possible to pay your team, however consider inexpensive or free ways to acknowledge small victories.
    • Provide favorite snacks during work sessions.
    • Publicly acknowledge birthdays
    • Hold on to gift cards and purchase interesting groupons for later use and give them away when you reach a milestone in the organization or someone meets a significant love.
  • Set clear goals. Ensure that each team member knows what is expected. Set clear deadlines. Establish team wide standards for work and deliverables early.
  • Check in often…but not too often.
  • Encourage collaboration. You don’t have to be in on the planning of every single detail, that does not mean that team members can’t seek answers or ideas from each other. Everyone should feel comfortable leaning on and creating with each others as partners when needed.
  • It’s great to check in on progress however, there is a thin line between that and micromanaging. Set a time and frequency to connect and discuss progress upfront and stick to what is decided.
  • Understand what everyone wants to get out this experience and keep your eyes on opportunities to pace people in a position to get what they need and want.

“Time management is not my strong suit.”

Trust us, there are a lot of seasoned adults that struggle with this as well. It is a learned skill. The easiest thing is to use technology to your advantage with this one.

  • Program dates and important events into your phone as soon as it is mentioned. In addition to this, set alerts for the event in the case that you
  • Utilize a platform such as Hootsuite to schedule social media posts far in advance when you have time so that it does not fall by the wayside or you find yourself scrambling on the day trying to formulate thoughtful content.
  • Keep a to do list and PRIORITIZE it! Some people use a letter or a number system A or 1 being of highest priority and so on. A to Do list can be overwhelming but prioritizing it gives you small chunks to focus on first.
  • More information on Time Management

Emerging Young Leaders discuss issues of peace and security at the U.S. Institute for Peace

“Sometimes it all becomes so overwhelming.”

It is easy to think that you have to do it all yourself, especially in the stages preceding adequate funding to actually hire staff. This is a quick way to burn out. The advice for this is simple, Ask for help. Embrace the act of delegating tasks. If you have people willing to help, let them. Reach out to other young people, relatives, or older retirees who may be willing to take on small tasks simply for the experience, just to be a part of something great, or to stay busy. You will be surprised by the increase in productivity and morale when you take on only what you have the capacity to handle and efficiently.

At Legacy International we believe in the abilities of youth and know that youth voices matter. 

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