In the lead to the LearningPlanet Festival, meet: Valentina Raman & Zineb Mouhyi, two of the co-founders of YouthxYouth (Youth by Youth). They will be hosting a 3-day event in celebration of the International Day of Education.
YouthxYouth all started in 2020. Can you share with us how and where?
YouthxYouth emerged during the summer of 2020, though the seed was planted in 2017 when the three original co-founders, Zineb Mouhyi, Valentina Raman and Jessica Spencer-Keyse, met during the Weaving Lab’s pilot journey for weavers of learning ecosystems.
At the time, we had been engaged in global education conversations through our work and noticed a paradox consistent across all the international events we experienced: despite the increasing awareness about the need for greater student agency, voice and decision-making power in education — and the increasingly acknowledged need for truly global representation in the room — there seemed to be little to no young people invited as equal participants and very few participants from countries in the Global South.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic shut-down schools across the world, affecting youth inequitably, and youth activists began to rise, we began to find young people who shared a passion for education transformation and saw the importance of uniting in global solidarity. Thanks to our partners at LearningPlanet Institute, we decided to officially launch in alignment with the International Day of Education in January 2021 with our (now annual) YouthxYouth Learning Festival.
This virtual global Festival was co-designed, organised and facilitated with a team of 20 youth facilitators (we call them “hosts”), of which three now serve on YouthxYouth core team as Directors (Erioluwa Adeyinka, Success Areeveso, and Olatomiwa Olusesi). Their foundational contributions bridged us from the seed to the sapling of who we are as a community today.
How do you onboard the youth to your initiative? What are the requirements to be part of the movement?
Our YouthxYouth (YxY) Activists usually first learn about us and our global learning community for education activists through our annual YxY Learning Festival, which happens each year in January in partnership with LearningPlanet Festival around the International Day of Education. Our application to become a YxY Activist is open to all youth ages 15 to 26 years and participation in our programming and Festival is open to all ages. Our community is open to any young person who is an aspiring or experienced “education activist,” i.e. someone dedicated to the reimagination and transformation of education for our collective liberation.
Some young people have never used the term activist – or even can self-describe themselves as activists in their contexts for political reasons – yet this feels like the most inclusive term for how and why we are joining together: globally-informed, locally-led, youth-powered ACTION.
At YouthxYouth, we support our YxY Activists to connect, learn and grow into their most thriving selves in service of education transformation. Upon onboarding into our programs post-Festival, a YxY Activist is paired with an “Uplifter,” someone on our extended team of youth hosts who has regular check-ins with the activist to support their learning journey.
We then support their ideas and project development through our 5-month Global Action Circles and 6-month Allyship programs; develop their capacities in weaving people, projects and places through our 11-month Weavership; provide resources for their facilitation of global and local Community Meet-Ups to deepen relationships; and share stories of transformation and insights from youth working in global solidarity on our social media @yxyactivists and in our youth-led magazine, The Youth’s Voice.
Who are your sources of inspiration?
We have many! We deeply believe in the importance of learning from what already exists and weaving the knowledge, wisdom, and practices others have identified. Among our inspirations are:
- Author and facilitator Adrienne Maree Brown, in particular her books Emergent Strategy and Holding Change
- Ecophilospher Joanna Macy, her facilitation methods through the Work that Reconnects are a huge source of inspiration
- Activist and filmmaker Valarie Kaur, who recently published an excellent book called See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love
Teacher-philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, whose radical ideas and holistic, liberatory model of education continue to inspire us to radically reimagine.
What are your latest successes and achievements you are the most proud of?
We are heading into the third and final learning phase of our 2022 Global Action Circles (GAC), our largest cohort to date (72 youth and adult education activists). We are especially celebrating the fact that this learning journey has been entirely youth-led, with our experienced youth hosts supporting our newer team of youth hosts to facilitate the 5-month learning process for 6 intergenerational groups, who meet 9 times as a Circle, 4 times all together across Circles, plus uncountable one-on-one and WhatsApp conversations.
The outcomes of these hundreds of conversations about transforming education? We shall see at their final showcases, happening at our 2023 YxY Learning Festival! We are also still celebrating the continued projects and growth of YxY Activists from previous cohorts, some of which have become hosts of this current Global Action Circle cycle — read more of their stories here.
Do you have anything new to announce today?
Yes! Our 2023 YouthxYouth Learning Festival application & registration is now OPEN, our annual gathering for youth activists and adult allies who are curious to learn and eager to support youth-led, adult-supported transformation of education, happening for the third time this coming January 27-29, 2023, in partnership with LearningPlanet for the International Day of Education.
If you are connected to youth and adults that may be interested in this opportunity, we kindly ask you to please share this application and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for the most up-to-date information. Please also feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] for more ways to partner.
You are organising an event during the LearningPlanet Festival, can you tell us more about it?
During our 3-day annual Learning Festival, we will be exploring the following questions:
- Day 1: WHAT IS? – What is our experience of education and what is its purpose? In what ways are young people already influencing and designing the future of education?
- Day 2: WHAT IF? – What if we designed the future of education together? What if young people all over the world could collectively act to transform the future of learning and education?
- Day 3: WHAT NOW? – What can we do together? What do we need to do now to grow the seeds and saplings of youth education activism?
Our Festival is a time to elevate and celebrate youth-led education projects globally and reflect together on how we might deepen the connections between our many initiatives to create a global momentum towards education transformation.
This year, we will also be hosting local in-person events the week before our Festival in Lagos (Nigeria), Kampala (Uganda), Yaoudé (Cameroon), Devon (UK), and potentially other locations, led by local youth and partners. If you would like to be a part of a local event and/or see ways to partner, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].
Are you confident in the capacity of your generation to face and solve global challenges?
Absolutely! However, we know that it is going to require us coming together across borders, differences, and generations to make it happen. We are confident in our capacity to grow and to become the ones we’ve been waiting for. It won’t happen in a day—this is a marathon, not a sprint—so it will require us to show up for each other and what we believe in over and over again, practising new ways of being and doing, to co-create the world of our deepest longing.
If we are able to transform our global and local education systems into learning ecosystems that serve us, our communities, and the planet in the next 20 years, we believe we can co-create a world that is more kind, fair, ecological, and life-affirming for all.
YouthxYouth additional resources
Video of youth voices during 2022 YxY Learning Festival
Video of adult allies’ messages to all youth education activists
Visual harvest of learnings, live-scribed by Mona Edrup at our 2022 Learning Festival Opening & Closing