The Pan-African Volunteers Network
More than half of the Liberian population, and over 64% of the population in West and Central Africa, are under the age of 24 years old. However, young people rarely get a say on the issues and decisions that affect them, even when they are actively volunteering as part of solutions. The PAVON network is an example of new initiatives that strengthen the collective capacities and voices of young volunteers. The network is 100% led by volunteers with a decentralized leadership structure spread across teams of volunteers. Projects are designed and implemented through collective action, with the inputs of youth of all genders, ethnic and religious backgrounds considered in the decisions of each group. PAVON’s national and regional knowledge-sharing events, workshops and summits provide opportunities for community youth volunteers to engage with institutional actors. To date, these have included the Environmental Protection Agency of the Government of Liberia and the Federation of Liberian Youth, as well as established civil society organizations.
PAVON works through a youth-led decentralized leadership and decision-making structure. The Network has found that this keeps the organization flexible and adaptive to meet community needs and incorporate innovations as they emerge. However, as a result, the network had struggled to reach institutional development actors for support or partnership.