Originally posted on UNDP Kosovo by Arblir Pireva.

Episode I: Outreach

Every second person in a Kosovan city today is below 25 years of age. The future of Kosovo* lies in this young population, but little has been done to empower them, especially the ones living in rural areas. A lack of adequate opportunities to access quality education or trainings and the inability to become engaged actors of social change have been grave impeding factors, hindering youth’s progress in reaching their full potential.

To change this paradigm, UNICEF Innovations Lab has initiated Podium – a social advocacy workshop that teaches youth and adolescents of different groups in Kosovo how to advocate for the needs and rights of their community. This year, in partnership with UNV and UNKT, UNICEF Innovations Lab organized a special edition of Podium, whose theme centered on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this special edition, youngsters not only had the chance to learn about the methods of advocacy and implementing campaigns, but they also learned about the SDGs – the 17 Global Goals that ensure global prosperity through eradication of poverty, promotion of gender equality, protection of the environment.

In striving to reach a wide number of youth and adolescents—here prioritizing the marginalized, underserved youngsters—UNICEF Innovations Lab, UNKT and UNV employed diverse outreach methods including traditional media, social media and direct outreach. Direct outreach, however, proved to be the most effective in explaining the purpose of this initiative. In a 3-week timespan the Podium team visited 6 municipalities.

While reserved and timid at first, the young people in Kaçanik/Kaqanik became very vocal about the problems that they face on daily basis. The lack of sports facilities and the shortage of requisite number of books in the library were just few of the challenges that came to mention. These bright youngsters comprehended the importance of the Global Goals, hence they assessed the problems of their community in the context of SDGs.

Obilic’s Youth Center was also full of interested and excited adolescents. Considering that they live next to the Kosovo A Power Station – Kosovo’s worst single-point source of pollution – most of their problems were linked to climate action. However, they felt powerless in raising the voice against these problems, given the history of all the ineffective campaigns that have been done against this phenomenon.

“The biggest problem in our community is obviously air pollution. However, if I am going to apply to Podium this time, it’s not going to be about advocating against this problem, considering how many times our requests have fallen on deaf ears”, says a young boy in the audience.

Nonetheless, youngsters also had other ideas about problems that need to be addressed. Lack of threshold resources in their schools, such as functional laboratories and sports facilities, were also among the challenges they would like to overcome.

As result of the implementation of a fruitful outreach, over 250 applications from youth all around Kosovo who expressed their interest to be part of Podium, were received. From this vast number of applications, 45 people assembled in 10 teams with ten distinct ideas were chosen to participate in the workshop.

Moreover, after the selection of participating teams, a training on how to gather primary data was provided. This training equipped the youngsters with skills needed to prepare questionnaires and conduct surveys in their communities regarding the issues they were trying to tackle. The data that was gathered from these surveys helped the teams narrow down the scope of the problems; which they later on worked to make known to the public.

Stay tuned for the next episode: The Podium Workshop.

*All references to Kosovo are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)