Young people are strongly impacted by their urban surroundings, which influence their holistic development and the ways in which they grow and learn. As masters of their realities, they know best about their needs and aspirations for their cities.
Empowering young people to participate meaningfully in city-creation not only ensures that their voices are reflected in the public realm, but also helps them develop confidence in their ability to effect change in the environments around them.
Fundación mi Sangre (FMS) channels these benefits to build social transformation and a culture of peace in Colombia, strengthening the capacity of young people to be catalyzers of change through empowerment and leadership. Within the S²Cities programme, FMS functions as the Local Capacity Building and Youth Safety Innovation Partner in the pilot city of Envigado, Colombia.
In this interview, Project Coordinator Juanita Gómez Molina talks about Fundación Mi Sangre’s work in youth engagement and its impact on communities in Colombia, along with what excites her the most about the S²Cities programme.
Sharon Sabu (SS): What is Fundación Mi Sangre’s role in the S²Cities programme?
Juanita Gómez Molina (JGM): Fundación Mi Sangre is the organization in charge of implementing the S²Cities programme in Envigado, developing capacity-building workshops for young people, and communicating with the city’s social entities, the private sector, and the public sector.
SS: What do you expect to achieve through your contributions to the programme?
(JGM): As an organization, our main contribution is to leverage our experience of 15+ years of working with young people, implementing methodologies that empower them as agents of change in their communities. In addition, these programs are aimed at improving young people’s understanding of a region, as well as its problems and needs, so that they can develop initiatives of mobilization and impact that contribute to the welfare, safety, and coexistence of the city of Envigado.
Likewise, we also expect to amplify the voices of young people in the region and build relationships with other actors to generate synergies.
SS: How do you plan to achieve your goals?
(JGM): Our plan of action is based on the ‘Unite to Build’ methodology of Fundación Mi Sangre, which consists of a quick and intensive experience of meetings inspired by Otto Scharmer’s Theory U (2017).
In this process, representatives of various sectors of the city observe, reflect, and recognize the challenges of security and coexistence in their region, and work towards co-creating their solution, until they can propose an intervention for the problem they seek to transform. This, in addition to being a process of communication and co-creation among diverse actors, also helps develop local capacities.
SS: How do you conceptualize and carry out your projects?
(JGM): Our projects are designed based on our Theory of Change. We carry out a conscious and creative visualization exercise of a possible and probable future. We first project what it is that we want to achieve and how it would be possible to change realities and co-construct by first observing and analyzing the context as well as our capabilities. Subsequently, we identify the milestones and conditions necessary to achieve this objective.
This process is collaborative, in which we seek to collaborate with each other and with various external actors to build together, achieve sustainable change and amplify them.
SS: Could you talk about some notable projects that you have undertaken in the past, related to your role at S²Cities?
(JGM): The first one that comes to my mind is the Fundación Mi Sangre Fellowship. A project that was first launched in 2020, it invites young leaders who actively work on causes related to peacebuilding initiatives and trains them to strengthen their impact.
In 2020, 44 young people were selected to participate in this experience, and in 2021 a group of 112 formed the second and third cohort – at the national level and in the Urabá sub-region – created for the purpose of combating gender-based violence.
As a result, the 2021 cohort helped lead and create 44 mobilization initiatives for systemic change, which have impacted 3,100 people throughout the country.
In 2014, the foundation also created a national network as a sustainability strategy for young people with high-impact initiatives that are part of the foundation’s processes. This is a collaborative ecosystem that connects young people and strengthens their capacities for social mobilization and political advocacy to achieve systemic change.
SS: What inspired you to join Mi Sangre? What do you love the most about working at the organisation?
(JGM): I was inspired to work at FMS by its history of building capacities for creating a culture of peace in Colombia. I was also drawn by the organization’s vision of bringing together different people and sectors to unite and cooperate instead of creating divisions and separation in society.
My favourite things about working with Mi Sangre are that I can be in touch with the realities in my country and meet incredible people who are also inspired to make a difference in society. I also enjoy the culture of the foundation, its acceptance of diversity, and its social sense.
SS: What excites you the most about the S²Cities programme?