Innovation is not just about technology but rather about the way the revolution in communications is bringing people together.
Earn Buy-In from Day One
Recognizing that the need for our work exists in many other developing nations, YTF is committed to increasing our global presence. We won’t do this, however, without earning the trust and buy-in from the communities that are seeking to replicate our paradigm. They know their communities and their needs better than we do. Buy-in ensures that we are bringing value to the community, affecting the breadth and depth of people impacted as well as our alignment with issues facing the community.
Select Projects Carefully
We are reactive in our expansion approach. Grassroots organizations come to us requesting that we work with them to create a Community Technology and Learning Center (CTLC) in their community. We consider organizations very carefully and in addition to being like-minded, sharing our vision and being credible organizations, YTF seeks partners that can provide their own volunteers, source materials from local merchants or co-invest in the initiative.
Hire Local Teams
We believe it is imperative to hire local teams in country. They know the culture, they speak the language. We have learned that the adage, “people are your most important asset” isn’t quite right. People in general are not your most important asset. The right people are. By hiring local, we hire the right people every time. We combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, leading the alchemy of great performance at the local level.
We do not believe in helicopter aid. We are not going to solve the poverty problems in developing nations by just giving out aid. We are going to inspire the beneficiaries to sit in the driver’s seat of their development. We will work with them toward achievable and realistic solutions to their most pressing needs.
Design Best-Fit Programs
Replication is anything but a cookie-cutter process. The objective is to reproduce a successful program’s results, not to recreate every one of its features. Replicating programs that do not produce results is a waste of precious social resources and is harmful to the beneficiaries.
Partner with Communities
Our beneficiaries are not the problem, but part of the solution. At the core of YTF’s work is a network of grassroots partners that are committed to positive youth development in respective countries. We partner with whole communities and work with the “go-to” people in these communities, including the local government chairpersons, traditional rulers and chiefs to develop programs that best meet their needs.
There is no Currency like Trust
Trust is the most precious commodity we can offer. Building it takes time, and it can be destroyed in an instant. We have learned that nothing is more important than earning trust from the local partners and the community. We listen to them. We don’t dictate. We understand what their issues are and then partner with them to develop solutions that best meet their needs.
Over the years, our volunteers have proven to be an incredible source of talent to YTF. Our volunteers are family and we treat them as such. We never underestimate the potential of our volunteers and their dedication and service to the cause we serve. We have over 200 volunteers living in as many as 8 different countries, many of whom have volunteered with us for an average of 4 or more years. In 2012, a YTF online volunteer team was recognized as part of the United Nations Online Volunteer Team of the Year Award for the amazing role they played with the establishment of YTF’s Soacha Digital Village in Colombia.
Innovation is not just about technology
Innovation is not just about technology but rather about the way the revolution in communications is bringing people together. We must not forget that technology in itself is not a determinant of change, only a facilitator. It is the social context within which these new technologies are introduced and, more importantly, implemented, that determines their usage and impact. The information revolution has much less to do with bits and bytes, than it has to do with the realities and aspirations of everyday people. In designing our innovative programs, we seek to build an all-inclusive “global information society” that doesn’t limit who has access to the information society, and that doesn’t leave people behind and further disintegrate society.
We are Always Learning
Even after 12 years of doing this work, we encourage our teams to keep individual journals of lessons they learn daily, the people they meet and the character they build. We ask that each team member review their journal often; they will be surprised at how much they learn. We never want to stop learning.