The Power of Community: Learnings from the Y&Y Fellows Worldwide

September 22, 2020

The Yunus & Youth community of Fellows is present in over 65 countries, and includes youth in a wide spectrum of races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, religions, marital status, socioeconomic status and physical and mental abilities.

We come from different backgrounds. We have unique stories. We are unique.

Still, something brings us together: we are social entrepreneurs. This means that we have decided to dedicate our time and energy to creating meaningful change in our communities. This has united us and helped us overcome several challenges. Connecting online and remotely has not stopped us!

My name is Yasmin, and I am part of this community. Besides being a Y&Y Fellow, I have actively cultivated this inspiring community for about one year now. 

I have learned so much from doing so that I decided to share with you my main learnings so far!

1- Cultivate a sense of ownership towards the community as a whole

It is important that community members feel and know that they belong. They should be able to clearly see that their inputs are important and benefit the community. 

At Y&Y, we host monthly community meetings, where we ask how Fellows are doing, how we can support them further and brainstorm ideas with them. This has given them a sense that what they have to say matters and that we’re here to listen.

As a result, community members share a desire to see Y&Y thrive and are encouraged to celebrate each other’s achievements.

For Olga (United States of America), one of our Fellows, being part of the Y&Y Community has helped her to meet “some wonderful founders who are inspiring [her] to keep working on [her] project”. She is often excited for their achievements and successes, and always looking forward to hearing their wisdom. 

2- Welcome new ideas from your community members

I have found that being open to new ideas is key to ensuring a healthy community. After all, a community is made of members who share values and a mission – and not of a bossy leader and his/her subordinates. 

At Y&Y, we are constantly looking for ways to create safe spaces for new ideas to be proposed and cultivated. Recently, we had an online community meeting where we brainstormed ideas to strengthen the Y&Y community and showcase the Fellows’ work. The words “webinar” and “online event” came up quite a lot. So, the Y&Y team, along with Fellows, created a webinar series to highlight the importance of youth and social entrepreneurship to build a more sustainable and inclusive future. All webinar panelists and moderators were Fellows themselves. The result was incredible! Fellows felt honored to contribute to the panels and were rewarded with more visibility for their social businesses.

For Y&Y Fellow Avina (India), “being at Y&Y has opened up a channel through which Fellows can feel at home in terms of working towards specific passions”. 

3- Facilitate connections to foster collaboration

If a social business can create a meaningful impact, imagine what more than one social business can do! While managing a community, it is important to facilitate connections to foster collaboration and, as a result, a bigger combined impact. 

One of our success indicators at Y&Y is how much Fellows have been able to collaborate with each other. We are happy to share that this goal has been accomplished in some instances.

For example, Y&Y Fellow Olga, founder of Play Collaborate Change, is creating an online event to address the main issues faced by Carolina’s social business, GUIMEDIC (Mexico). All proceeds will go directly to Carlina’s organization! For them, “it’s  great to be part of such a kind and compassionate group of people who want to do good in the world!” 

Also, Y&Y Fellow Carla (United States of America / Mozambique) created a WhatsApp group just for Fellows that are in the textiles and fashion industry, with the goal to meet online and exchange stories and ideas and experiences to help each other out. They have discussed topics such as fair trade certification, exports and shipping, retail partnerships, pricing models, sales opportunities, online platforms, retail partnerships, and many other things. 

4- Provide “giving back” opportunities

As you create and cultivate a community, make sure to provide your community members with opportunities to “give back” to the community as a form of gratitude and capacity building. 

At Y&Y, the main way we have found to do so is by providing Fellows with the channels they need to support each other by sharing resources, experiences and feedback. 

This year, for instance, we created the Y&Y Dolphin Tank, an online bi-monthly meeting where Fellows can share their ideas and receive sincere feedback from other Fellows. It is like Shark Tank, but friendlier! Fellows who pitched and/or provided feedback at Dolphin Tanks claim that having a safe space to do so is helpful and inspiring, and encourages them to draw closer to our community.

For Avina, the Dolphin Tank was an opportunity to “go out of [her] comfort zone and receive impactful feedback about a problem she was facing while building [her] social enterprise”. 

5- Build your organization’s mission WITH your community, and not FOR them

I would say this was my main learning so far. A community is only effectively built together. As you cultivate a sense of ownership, welcome new ideas, facilitate connections and provide opportunities to give back, do all of it WITH your community members. Make sure their input is considered and that they have enough chances to apply their own knowledge and skills into your mission. After all, they are part of it.

For Y&Y Fellow Nestor (Nicaragua / Panama), “being part of the Y&Y community was an upgrade from an automatic to a more conscious social entrepreneur, digging deeper into what are the key features that relate with our passions and push us towards creativity, having at the core prosperity as a mission in our communities”.

I would summarize everything that I mentioned in this blog post with a quote by Helen Keller: “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. The Y&Y Community has taught me that, if we learn to leverage our individual uniqueness into creating solutions together, we can create the future we envision. 

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