As a leader in youth engagement, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is excited to announce the formation of the inaugural GRS Youth Advisory Committee: an advisory and advocacy body composed entirely of young people from the communities in which GRS works. By centering youth voices and perspectives, the Committee will play an important role in participating in and informing organizational strategy, and provide members with access to personal and professional development.

GRS has always strongly believed that meaningful youth engagement and participation is key to impact. These principles have been essential to GRS since the organization’s inception — informing strategy and driving program planning, design, implementation, and evaluation. 

While young people have long been central to GRS’s structure and operations on several levels, the formation of the Committee is a key opportunity to institutionalize the way youth perspectives and voices are integrated in GRS’s organizational approach. Youth advisory committees are included in USAID’s recommended youth engagement strategy to solicit continuous input and feedback from youth, to directly involve them in decision-making processes, and to create opportunities for young people to learn from and engage their counterparts. 

The inaugural GRS Youth Advisory Committee includes nine GRS Master Coaches and staff members who are former Coaches and under 30 from Zambia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Malawi. In the spirit of amplifying youth voice, here’s what several members shared about why they joined the Committee and why they believe youth leadership is so critical to GRS’s work:

Why did you join the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC)?

Coach Mukuka, GRS Zambia: I joined because I wanted to contribute to decision making and to fully mainstream some of the issues that Coaches and participants face, and to also share and develop new approaches with other Coaches and staff. Most important for me is to be part of the creative process.

Coach Feslistus, GRS Zambia: I realized that [joining the] YAC is an opportunity for me to…collect the views and concerns of Coaches and present them to the leadership of GRS.

Coach Damilola, Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI), Nigeria: I joined the YAC because I want to be able to share ideas and give feedback, and to be able to promote young voices across Grassroot Soccer…Joining the YAC will let my ideas be known and let me connect with young people with the same passion, talk about what we think, and how we can make GRS better and impact more people.

Why are youth voices and leadership important to Grassroot Soccer’s work?

Mukuka: Youth are the center of Grassroot Soccer…The implementation of activities is done by youth and they are the ones most affected by the issues that GRS addresses. So, their voice and leadership is critically important as it shapes the information, styles, language, and approaches that GRS takes in developing programs and projects. Additionally, young people form the majority of the population in Africa and globally, so allowing them to use their voice and take leadership roles is key.

Felistus: Youth voices and leadership are so important to Grassroot Soccer’s work…I feel so happy that GRS has given us the room to be part of the decision-making process…by incorporating the needs of Coaches and their participants more deeply.

Damilola: You can’t reach out to a young person without a young person. The future of tomorrow lies in the hands of young adults and you can’t know what young people actually want if you don’t involve them in implementation and leadership. GRS is bringing in young ones to make decisions, help in the implementation, and involve them in leadership to make decisions for themselves.