“Guia Egreso” is a project I led for Doncel, and the World Bank in 2011. Doncel is an Argentine nonprofit with the mission of improving the transition of youth living in foster homes into autonomous adulthood. Doncel hired my colleague and I to design, coordinate, and execute the project as awarded by the World Bank’s Youth Innovation Fund (YIF).
While recently Argentina has experienced strong economic growth, the unemployment peaks of previous crises have resulted in severe loses of income and downturns in living standards. Unemployment rates for youth remains much higher than those for adults and the trend is getting worse. Integration into the labor market is especially difficult for vulnerable groups. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 young people living in institutions or group homes in Argentina. At the age of 21 when they are required to leave these homes without financial support, adequate preparation or substantial work skills and opportunities, these young adults enter a situation of special vulnerability.
The first objective was to deploy an online toolkit and guide, produced by and for foster youth exiting foster care.
The second objective was to train former foster youth to provide support to current foster youth using the “Peer to Peer” method.
A three step process was planned so that the workshops facilitators could develop the main content to incorporate into the online toolkit for youth exiting foster care. Through this process, the youth participants would acquire the pedagogical methods necessary to share their experience with youth currently in care.
1. Six participatory meetings where the main concerns, needs and experiences of youth exiting foster care could arise in order to collect the most relevant information from their point of view. We video recorded these interviews and meetings to be published as on the web as content with the Guia Egreso online toolkit.
2. Systematizing the information captured in the interviews was our next step. We worked together as a team through creative sessions to translate the content of the interviews and meetings into categories. We worked together to co-produce texts, videos, guides and other resources, using language appropriate to the audience. The intention of this step was to produce the materials eventually published online.
3. Workshops to train facilitators chosen from among participants in the first meetings. These participants represent those who have most successfully integrated into the workplace and society. Once prepared, these facilitators had acquired the skills to engage with youth currently in care. After this project was completed these facilitators were able to provide mentorship to current foster youth, and support the adoption of life skills using the “Peer to Peer” methodology. The overall goal was that the trained youth learn how to share a positive, and at the same time realistic approach. They demonstrated the ability to share the preparation and experiences they had with youth still in care.
This project is considered the first example of peer-to-peer production by an NGO in Argentina.
The participants were able to come together to form an effective team. This team continues to work on the project even today in 2016.
Each individual participant expressed confirmation that the in-depth interviews were transformative. Through the process they were able to reflect on, and digest their transition into independent, and autonomous adulthood. The participatory meetings enabled them to recognize their shared background and connect their story with the stories of others.
The systematization of their knowledge and production of the content for the online toolkit led to a complete guide published at GuiaEgreso.com.ar. The website has received over 15,000 visitors. The Facebook group has grown to over 1,500 followers, and provides a hub for the community. The online resources and materials are continuously updated and expanded on by the Guia Egreso team. The group of participants were able to provide mentorship directly to foster youth and lead workshops for foster youth in four other cities in Argentina: Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Provincia de Buenos Aires, and Tucumán.
I consider this project a major success in my career because it has generated value beyond itself.