Less than a week away, the Commonwealth Youth Council spoke to Oaktree in Australia to learn about their work and how through partnership they have created impact for youth in the Pacific.
What initiatives do you have in place related to eradicating poverty or/and promoting sustainable consumption and production?
Oaktree works in partnership with other organisations to affect meaningful impact in eradicating poverty and promoting sustainability. We do this in two ways:
Firstly, we create partnerships for education, supporting locally based organisations abroad to design, implement, monitor and evaluate innovative education projects. We do this because over the past 40 years, there has been a top-down approach to development. This has been disempowering and stifling, and prevented those closest to poverty to tailor solutions to fight it. We believe sustainable change needs to be led from the grassroots-up. That is why we partner with experienced locally based organisations to lead change. Our partners are the experts; we simply provide them with the support they need to make change happen.
Secondly we engage in peer partnerships with youth focused organisations across the Asia-Pacific. Through direct skills sharing and mutual capacity development, young people across our region are collaborating on the shared goal of social change. Our peer partnerships may have a focus on a variety of issues, from political engagement, running campaigns, to creating spaces for young people to engage with issues that affect them. Oaktree is privileged to learn from the expertise of our peer partners, and through promoting this learning we hope to create a broad shift in the perspective of the Australian public about our role in the region and the value of meaningful partnership
Oaktree is committed to seeing youth participation in all aspects of the development process. Young people represent 1.2 billion of the world’s population and are invariably affected, either directly or indirectly, by international development programs. The participation of young people in international development processes allows young people to realise their rights, increases effectiveness and sustainability of programming, and represents an opportunity to invest in the current and future capabilities of social change agents in the development sector and beyond. By putting young people at the centre of our work, it creates strong, long-term solutions that address the root causes of poverty and build leadership capacity in the next generation. Youth participation is not another box to tick, but an essential area of prioritisation if the aid and development sector wishes to become more innovative, effective and relevant.
Give us an example of an initiative that has had significant impact.
An example of how our partners are achieving grassroots and systemic change is the model implemented through the High Schools Transformation Project (HSTP) in Timor-Leste.
Oaktree partnered with Ba Futuru from 2013 to 2016 to implement HSTP. The program aimed to transform the education environments to become child-friendly learning spaces with enhanced educational quality. It achieved this through teacher training that focused on participatory and positive teaching methods, school governance training and support, developing life skills curriculum and, amongst other things, provided scholarships to ensure that the most vulnerable students can access education. So far, there have been many positive accounts of participatory education methods being included in classrooms, leading to students becoming more engaged with school work and enjoying learning more than previously. The life skills workshops have meant that teachers and children are now more aware of where to find information and help if they, or someone they know, are experiencing harassment and abuse. Governance training for school directors and administration staff is leading to positive impacts in school governance that should have lasting change.
There has been promising initial engagement with the Timorese Ministry of Education, and it’s possible HSTP’s teacher trainings can influence national teacher training accreditation programs. This could create large-scale change, with numerous possibilities: from moving away from widespread use of physical punishment in the classroom, to providing safe classrooms which empower and educate the youth of Timor, who have a huge role to play in the future of their nation.
This will hopefully create widespread change, and it will have a direct effect on the lives of many Timorese and Cambodian young people.
Message for young people:
Oaktree believes that rhetoric needs action. We encourage young people to stand up and take part in shaping the world. We also encourage organisations, governments, and communities to recognise the potential of young people and act to meaningfully engage young people in policy, advocacy, and practice.