„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“

YMCA EUROPE BRUSSELS OFFICE - 2020 OVERVIEW

3rd February 2021

The year 2020 was particularly challenging for the work of all youth NGOs in Brussels: meetings were not possible anymore in person, nor conferences or regular interactions with decision makers. Nevertheless the Brussels Office of YMCA Europe was able to continue its work, and took on several new items on the agenda.

team bru

This overview report seeks to outline the activities of the Brussels Office during the year 2020, a year marked by the CoVid19 pandemic, and its consequent impact on the activities of YMCA Europe and work practices.

Since March 2020, all activities of the Brussels office have been moved online, due to the start of the CoVid 19 pandemic. This caused a change in the type of activities, but not a significant slowdown in the frequency and number of activities.

The Brussels Office works on 3 main areas:

  • Advocacy
  • Fundraising 
  • Projects.

Advocacy covers all matter related to development of policy positions, representation vis-à-vis EU institution and other actors, development of campaigns’ contents and relations with fellow NGOs and other actors; fundraising covers all search for funding opportunities to fund YMCA Europe’s activities or our member’s activities; project covers all instances where the Office provides work or expertise for an active project.

This overview report will show how the Brussels Office contributed to the offer of educational material online for our members and regularly continued its work on fundraising application. The work on advocacy on the other hand increased exponentially, due to the need to reorganize meetings with stakeholders and partners, and due to our new branching out towards campaigning.

The first few months of the pandemic were rather useful to understand how to reorganize the work, but to this day the true difficulty continues to be planning ahead. As the report will show, fundraising and advocacy counted on minimal changes, but the way we engaged our youth representatives changed, and along with that the frequency and length of our work with them.

Another thing to be noted is that we found ourselves not only in the middle of a pandemic, but also at the end of our last efforts to influence the new MultiAnnual Financial Framework of the EU, the new Budget 2021, and the new Erasmus+ Programme, all processes that were heavily impacted by the CoVid crisis. We were also in the process of electing a new Board as YMCA Europe and devise a new Strategy for the next 4 years

Advocacy

The month of April 2020 saw us adapting to the needs of working in a pandemic, and this impacted greatly the type of work we could do with advocacy, bringing all meetings online, but also halting the work of the institutions we work with, giving us some time to decide where to direct our efforts in the most efficient way.

  • Campaigning: EU Institutions

As Institutions temporarily halted their work, we understood that the next work they would do would be to adapt the Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU (by then almost all negotiated), and the Budget 2021 to the needs emerged with the pandemic.

The most urgent need was to make sure to preserve all the progress made to secure youth funding: by that time, we had almost secured an Erasmus+ budget, crucial for our youth, meant to be tripled.

youth matters

To this end we devised a campaign called Youth Matters, involving all European offices of the Big 6, to ask European Institutions to not forget youth and make sure they were at the center of the plans for recovery post pandemic. 

In May, we embedded our message on direct emails to the most important EU institutions: the current Presidency of the Council of the EU (Croatia), the next Presidency (Germany), the President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel, the President of the European Council Jean Michel, the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, the Chair of the CULT Committee Ms Sabine Verheyen MEP.

We have received personal positive answers from all of them and meeting requests, and with a social media reach of 121,000 people and 2,987 interactions, it’s our most successful campaign so far. More info here

mariya gabriel

  • EU Institutions: Consultations

The Brussels Office participated to 6 surveys (on youth work practices under CoVid19, on Fundamental Rights, on youth workers’ needs, on quality youth work, on digital, green and inclusive costs under Erasmus+ and the digital education action plan).

The Brussels Office has also participated to two focus groups, one organised by the European Commission on EU Youth Dialogue projects, unit costs and solidarity, and one on young people and the future of Europe, organized by the European Committee of the Regions.

Our Youth Policy Group representative Eliza Vas has also participated to the European Commission 3rd Youth Work Convention, a week long event ended with an important declaration where we put our direct input, the Bonn Declaration, which has started what we now call the Bonn Process.

  • Work with our members

The Brussels office, as a part of the initiatives of the group YMCA Connects, provided during lockdown (March-April-May 2020) a number of seminars aimed at supporting our members to understand how to interact with European Institutions and EU policy making. The webinars were well attended.

The Office also provided links to best practices and tools gathered by fellow youth NGOs in terms of online youth work and digital tools for NGOs seeking to redirect some of their work online.

We have also involved our members in a number of campaigns led by fellow youth NGOs:

  • a campaign to support protests for democracy in Belarus,
  • a Europe-wide campaign to keep funding for youth during the CoVid crisis (ACTNOW),
  • an environmental campaign to abolish the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), which allows multinationals to sue states when they take decisions which oppose their financial interests, effectively delaying the energy transition.

We had very positive responses from our members, who took up the campaigns and sent letters to their Ministers, raising their advocacy profiles.

The Brussels Office will also contribute to the Refugee and Migrant Conference of YMCA Europe in February 2021. The Office has contributed to the designing of the Conference, and will deliver a dedicated fundraising workshop during it. The Conference will bring also high profile guests such as Margaritis Schinas, the Vice President of the European Commission.

refugee conference

  • Youth Policy Group (YPG)

During the first months of the year 2020 the Brussels Office selected new members for the Youth Policy Group, adding 4 new members to the team.

These new members were trained in a series on online training seminars, dealing with YMCA Europe advocacy structures and procedures, EU youth policy making, youth policy structures functioning (such as the European Youth Forum and the Advisory Council on Youth of the European Youth Forum), and EU structures and decision making.

The Youth Policy Group then agreed on a number of new tasks to work on: the renewal of the YPG Terms of Reference, creating a number of focus groups to consult young people on what are the most urgent issues for them in their lives, and planning for the next European Youth Forum Statutory Meetings.

4 members of the YPG were later on involved in a total of 12 online meetings which were part of the regular holding of the European Youth Forum statutory meetings. The 2 statutory meetings would have been held otherwise across a maximum of 3 days each, but due to CoVid the meetings multiplied and where held over the span of several weeks.

The Brussels Office was present to all these meetings alongside the YPG representatives, since most of them were new to the statutory meetings. The Office also organised several YPG meetings to agree on common amendments on YFJ Policy Papers and drafted some too. 14 out of 16 of these amendments were approved during the meetings, impacting policy papers on Peace and Security, Youth Participation, and others.

  • Youth Led Solutions

The Brussels Office also led the area work in Europe related to the Youth Led Solutions Summit, organising the first round of seed grants and providing guidance and information to the member movements. Then the office organised the work towards the Summit, with two Europe-wide meetings gathering 9 teams to discuss climate issues and project ideas.

Then the office also organised the conference SDG13: European Youth Led Solutions for a Global Issue, gathering several accomplished climate activists from fellow Youth NGOs, to inspire and guide the work of our own young activists.

The conference had dozens of participants from all over Europe and the world. The Office then organised the evaluation and awards of 15 project applications from across Europe, granting several grants for a total of 9 projects aimed at climate work.

  • Work with partners

We have worked on a series of initiatives together with fellow youth NGOs. We have invited the European Youth Forum, AEGEE, WOSM and the National Youth Council of Ireland to our conference on SDG13.

Our YPG representative Katerina Louokopilou has participated to the WOSM event on youth organisations response to CoVid 19, bringing the experience and best practices established by YMCA Europe members to the attention of the OECD.

The Brussels Office has also participated to 4 meetings of the Erasmus Coalition (gathering the Life Long Learning Platform and the European Youth Forum members) during 2020, allowing us to gain precious intelligence into the destiny of the Erasmus+ programme with the new MultiAnnual Financial Framework of the EU and the new Budget, at a moment where the new Work Programmes have not been published yet as of January 2021: this means that thanks to this information we will be able to plan our fundraising, despite CoVid 19-caused delays.

We also started to follow the European Youth Forum work on climate, opening up new chances for participation, representation and consultation for us.

The Brussels Office is also a member of the European Youth Work Expert Groups on Funding, Education and Youth Rights, who create the basis of all youth advocacy of the YFJ on all themes related to fundraising for youth, youth social rights, non formal education and much more.

Fundraising

The year 2020 was a slower year for fundraising, since we were at the end of the programmatic year of the European Union and at the end of our Strategy, reducing the opportunities for us. Nevertheless, the Brussels Office kept working on project applications.

The Office applied for funding for advocacy activities, specifically to the European Youth Foundation, with an application submitted in April 2020. The application was not successful.

The Brussels Office also partnered with WOSM for an extensive project dedicated to environmental activism and education, under the call for proposal European Youth Together, a Key Action 2 of the Erasmus+ programme.

The project will allow to involve several young people in a series of training with content developed by WWF, and an opportunity to link with several Change Agents who have been involved in Climate activities in the past. The project would also go to cover 40% of the Brussels Office costs. We are still waiting for the results of the call, and we hope to hear from the European Commission in the next week or so.

The Office has also applied for YMCA Europe as partner to a KA2 Erasmus+ project led by YMCA Romania. The project dealt with youth work and digital skills, a very important set of tools to be developed after the CoVid 19 pandemic. The application was successful, and the work will start in 2021.

At the end of 2020 the Brussels Office also started to work on another KA2 as a partner with WOSM, this time dedicated to impact measurement of our work on our young people, a very important tool for our movement strengthening. The project will involve YMCA Europe and one of our members, and it is still in the development phase.

2021, when the new programmes will finally start, will bring much more fundraising opportunities: the Brussels Office counts to apply for at least 4/5 calls for proposals during the year, among which:

  • Brusselsbased international organisations KA1 Facilitated Erasmus+ accreditations;
  • KA2 with world focus
  • LIFE programme
  • European Youth Together
  • Horizon

At the moment the Brussels Office has full legal personality under Belgian Law, registered as an ASBL, a Belgian Not For Profit Organization.

Our members are all registered as such in the ASBL register, and our Constitution is complete. A bank account has been established for office operations and can be fully operated online.

We are now able to apply for funding from Brussels for all types of EU and international funding: specifically for Erasmus+ we will have access to funding from both the Flemish National Agency (JINT), and the French language one (BIJ).


The year 2021 will be a very exciting year, with new challenges and new opportunities ahead. The Brussels Office already has a series of activities planned out, and a lot of work to do, thanks to the support of all YMCA Europe staff and its members. 

 

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