Restless Development as fiscal sponsor for the GEF Young Feminist UnConference.
In 2021, Restless Development USA received a grant for $65,000 to fund the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) Young Feminist Unconference. Eighty-eight percent of this grant was paid out directly to the Young Feminist activists leading the conference.
The Unconference was a collaboration between the B+25 Youth Task Force, National Gender Activists, youth leads of Action Coalitions, and partner organizations like Restless Development, She Decides, AGIP, and Action Aid. It was an entirely youth-led space that brought in new and existing young people to the GEF process to strategize about the Paris Forum and the following five years of advocacy. More on GEF overall here.
Restless Development USA’s role was primarily to funnel funding quickly towards their efforts. Although we participated in some of the Conference Working Groups, our Staff’s main priority was to maintain the youth-led nature of the effort. The Conference was a main stop on the Journey to GEF and UN Women and many other partners promoted the space. You can find a live stream recording of key public plenary sessions of the Conference here.
There were more than 600 people in attendance at the virtual event. The main outcomes of the conference were young activists’ commitments to their actions around GEF accountability. These commitments are far-reaching and cover things like promoting tech giants to address online digital security, financial literacy for rural women, promoting community leadership by the most marginalized, and organizing young feminist groups.
Since the Conference took place right before the Paris Forum, young activists who attended were really well prepared for and confident in their participation at GEF – and many of them used the UnConference as a space to build new and deepen existing relationships between youth organizations and youth movements. Significant thought was put into creating a space that supported both output and the process for building wellness, equity, representation, translation, access and other key values as aligned with the GEF Young Feminist Manifesto, whose principals were fed directly into each working group.
The Conference was organized at breakneck speed in a highly participatory and democratic process. This was largely because the youth sector was already so well-organized around GEF joint advocacy. The coordinating group also used the GEF Feminist Manifesto to serve as a guiding framework for defining safe space and how to encourage participation, to design and implementation of the conference. In our observation, serving as a supportive intermediary organization with a mandate to have light-touch support still maximized youth leadership and encourage real outputs and learning.