I really enjoyed being a part of this panel with a diverse group of womxn doing important and impactful work in communities. My main takeaway from the panel discussion was that even though our approaches to public engagement are different, the message is essentially the same. Collaborative engagement with a goal of empowerment is really important, since programs and initiatives in civil society exist to strengthen groups and communities to eventually stand on their own feet. Even though ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society, the concept of right and wrong has changed over time and has historically been defined by groups in positions of power and influence. Ethics, in itself is not universal, it can differ from place to place, and context to context.
My experience being engaged as a young black woman and engaging other youth in various initiatives and programs has taught me that we cannot make assumptions that we understand the needs of all youth just because we are youth ourselves or because we are around youth. For us to ethically engage, we need to center the voices of the youth we are serving and give them the opportunity to be involved in creating and delivering events, programs or initiatives that directly involve them. It is important that our work with youth, whether in the Global South or Global North, involves supporting them to develop their own leadership potential so that they can leave our initiatives and programs feeling empowered to make a difference. When dealing with diverse youth, some of whom might face multiple barriers due to intersecting identities and challenging socio-economic situations, we need to ensure that we are reducing barriers to engagement. This could involve covering transportation costs, covering food costs if they are attending an event, or compensating them financially if they have demonstrated good work when volunteering or engaging with your organization. When engaging young people of different backgrounds, abilities and gender, we also need to consider making the event or space inclusive and accommodating. This could be done through having diverse images and stories of youth on our website and platforms. It could involve hiring staff who reflect the youth we are trying to serve, so that youth can see themselves in our organization and can feel comfortable approaching our staff.