Successful digital Dance4Life Experience

After a year of showing great resilience and creativity as a network and jointly taking on the challenge of moving the Journey4Life online, we look back on a successful digital Dance4Life Experience. Our annual partner event took place online due to Covid-19, but that didn’t stop us from making it fun and engaging! The topic this years was Harnessing Digitalization as a way to increase scale and impact. From 26-30 October we met on Zoom every day to learn, exchange, connect and have fun!

We looked back on 2020 – which has been a crazy, challenging year, but also generated many innovations in the franchisee network. For many this was finding new and creative ways to reach young people online. For example, AFEW Ukraine has enhanced their social media channels to reach out to young people online. This has allowed them to reach new target groups and keep the contact with existing clients, activate more youth on campaigning and to develop online counselling.
However, moving online was not possible for all. Our colleagues at Amref Malawi work in remote communities where access to internet is not self-evident, so they had to do outreach activities in accordance with Covid-19 prevention measures. In Indonesia, our colleagues at Rutgers WPF organized Virtual Youth-Friendly Services Tours, to replace the visit to a youth-friendly health facility which is usually part of the program.

The exchanges during the Dance4Life Experience made clear how resilient and creative our network is and how much this attitude made possible in times of physical distancing.

Include stigmatized groups
That moving online does not only present limitations but also opportunities for reaching more target groups was an important lesson from the Experience. With the help of Dr. Toyin Janet Aderemi from UNRWA and Yuri Yoursky from ECOM, we explored taking full advantage of going online to expand our reach and include stigmatized groups, such as young people living with disabilities and LGBT youth, who have already found their way to online platforms as a result of the stigma and barriers they are facing.

New skills and knowledge
We welcomed many interesting speakers during the week. We listened to Sally Beadle from UNESCO who shared the latest evidence and findings on CSE in digital spaces, which was complemented by Charlotte Petty from RNW Media who shared about their experience implementing CSE in the digital space. We extensively reflected on the co-creation process, initial results and learnings of the online Journey4Life – the digital version of our empowerment curriculum. Now that we start working more and more online, we realize we need new skills and knowledge. For that reason we welcomed Jess Malz from Inbo and we spent a full day learning about interactive digital facilitation. The day after, we looked into digital safeguarding and mental health together with Dr. Manasi Kumar from the University of Nairobi and Alona Kryvuliak from La Strada Ukraine. We opened up these two days to Champions4Life – the youth leaders who deliver the Journey4Life to young people in their countries – which led to an online gathering of more than 70 network members! This generated an amazing amount of energy and connection online and we hope to organize more of such global gatherings in the future.

Regional collaboration
As an integral part of the Dance4Life Experience, the Board of Franchisees presented the advice they have given to the Dance4Life leadership team. To start with, they addressed all the reasons we have to celebrate: how the research done earlier this year shows that franchisees perceive their relationship with Dance4Life as equal, the power of digitalization for the franchisee network, all the innovations, especially the online Journey4Life, and how they see learnings from network activities being transferred to implementation. For 2021, they consider that regional collaboration should be a priority, they feel we should bring in more expertise from outside of the network, and with the merger between Dance4Life and Rutgers coming up, they hope that strategic-minded people will apply to become a member of the Board of Franchisees next year.

Online Academy
2020 has been a year in which we were forced to renew not just ourselves but also the way we work, and we were able to see the benefits and reap the rewards during this year’s Experience event. We look forward to continue innovating digitally next year, when we plan to set up an online academy that brings together the expertise of Dance4Life, franchisees and other experts. Working towards a healthy future for young people worldwide.