Attending Conferences and Meetings

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Young advocates interacting online on different devices

Attending and actively participating in key events will benefit your advocacy and allow you to engage with potential supporters and key stakeholders.

When attending a stakeholder meeting as a youth advocate, you should engage with various actors about your issue. These events will help you learn more about your issue from different perspectives and hopefully introduce you to the processes and decision-makers, ultimately responsible for making the policies and legislation around your issue.

These events vary widely – you could attend an organized meeting, a training or workshop, a conference or some other special occasion. Attending a lot of events can be fun, but you should think about your actions critically. Consider each engagement’s relevance and how your involvement would benefit your cause before you commit to attending. It is also important to enter the space knowing what you hope to get out of the meeting.

Don’t underestimate yourself. Many young people assume that they don’t have the necessary qualifications or skills to attend meetings, workshops or conferences. While you may be just beginning in your  education or career, remember that your experiences and ideas are important. You might not be the head of an organisation or hold a PhD in Economics, but your lived experience as a young person today matters, and your voice and views should be heard. 

Being confident in yourself is a big part of the battle. Show up. Listen. Say something if you feel the time is right. Make contacts with people. None of this is easy. But you will feel so much better for having tried and having ‘put yourself out there’.

Be careful of becoming a ‘conference hopper’ and losing yourself in the process. You do not want to find yourself going from one conference or workshop to another, ‘hopping’ around to different events.

Finding spaces for engagement

 

Each opportunity to engage is different. Events vary in terms of their purpose and setting, so how you prepare and the actions you take while attending will differ. Events can take place in person and online, and can be anything from a 30-minute conversation to a daylong engagement. Here are some examples:

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A city skyline
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Four people sitting around a round table

Meeting

  • This can be an engagement between two people or a group of people.

  • Meetings can be organized to discuss an issue or make a decision in a formal or informal setting.

Conference

  • Conferences are larger, more specific meetings, where participants come together to present, debate and discuss a particular issue or topic.

  • Different conferences can have different outcomes, such as knowledge sharing, creating a shared document or communiqué or reaching some kind of agreement as a group.

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A group of people in a conference
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Two people attending a training session

Training/workshop

  • Trainings aim to equip participants with new skills and information relating to a specific topic.

  • These engagements can vary in size and length, as well as level of interactivity.

Tips and Tricks for Getting Invited

Get on the list. Securing an invitation to a local or national meeting might be as simple as joining the right mailing list or network. Identify organizations and government agencies that work on your issue. Ask if they hold stakeholder meetings and whether you can get added to a general mailing list or list of contacts for upcoming meetings. 

Use social media. Many decision makers use social media platforms. If you are on social media, make sure you follow government officials, government departments, organizations, media, business or other stakeholders related to your issue and see if they share information about meetings, workshops or conferences.

Let your network know about your intent to engage. You may be surprised by how many potential invitations people miss because they do not tell others about their desire to participate. People are less likely to invite you if they do not know you’d like to take part. Reach out to people who have participated in or organized an event that interests you.

Organize the event yourself. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific group of people, consider organizing the appropriate event.

Preparing to attend an event 

Once you have found your way into an event, you need to prepare for your engagement. Good preparation will allow you to enjoy your experience and use it to better your advocacy. Having some kind of background information on the event and the issues being discussed will be useful.

Remember that each event is different, so you will need to alter your preparation accordingly. Referring back to the fact-find- ing section may help you. Here are some general points to consider:

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A young person sitting at a desk in front of a computer with a cat on the windowsill

Gather information on the event itself

  • Who is organizing the event?

  • Where is the event taking place?

  • What is the purpose and history of the event?

  • Who will be attending the event?

  • What are some of the activities planned for the event?

 

Research the subject matter of the event

  • What issues will be discussed during the event?

  • Are there any specific documents you need to be aware of?

  • Is there any relevant information you need before attending?

     

Prepare for the role you will play in the event

  • Is this an opportunity to observe and learn or will you speak out?

  • Will you propose some kind of change or attempt to influence a decision being made?

  • Are you representing a larger group or just yourself?

  • How can you prepare for this?

     

Organize any resources or support you will need to attend the event

  • Do you need to pay to attend the event or travel to the venue?

  • Do any scholarship opportunities exist?

  • Do you need a chaperone to attend with you?

So you’ve been given a seat at the table. What now?
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A young man speaking at a podium

Participating during an event

Once in the room, try to make the most of your experience. Meet new people, contribute whenever possible and learn as much as you can. This is where all of your preparation comes in handy.

  • Refer to the notes you made while preparing to attend the event. Your research is specific to the event you are attending, and this should guide you throughout your engagement.

  • Keep in mind all the research you have done throughout your advocacy journey. You may use the policy documents you researched earlier, as well as your fact-find- ing, to support your points and positions.

  • Listen actively and take notes of the conversations had. Gathering information from your engagements can help your advocacy in the future.

  • Try to meet and interact with other participants throughout the event, and develop networks with other young people and adult allies. 

  • Be confident in yourself as an advocate and participant in the event. Take part in any activity, speak up and share your opinions where you feel comfortable.

  • Participate and offer suggestions, where appropriate. This demonstrates that you are well-informed and can add value to further discussions and consultation around the issue.

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The Youth Advocacy Guide [ENG] cover page

Did you know the UNICEF Youth Advocacy Guide has been updated?

Check out the newly adapted global version available in English.

[Coming soon in Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese!]

 

You can also host your own advocacy training! Download the training guide and collaborative workspace here.

At the end of the event, remember to take some time to reflect on what you have experienced. What lessons did you learn – about yourself, your issue, the process, other stake- holders, and anything else you think is relevant? Make sure to use any relevant information in your advocacy journey.

Interested in doing advocacy? Read more about how you can champion change through advocacy here!

Also have a look at the Youth Advocacy Resources Hub for more tips, tricks and tools to help you along your advocacy journey!