The “Young Leaders Forum” (YLF) is one of the oldest projects implemented by FES Afghanistan. FES has trained more than 300 outstanding young Afghans from all walks of life. Most of its’ alumni are highly successful community leaders in and outside of Afghanistan, working for the government, parliament and local authorities, in the private sector, have founded and led nongovernmental organizations or enrich Afghanistan’s society through arts, sports and journalism. FES strives to empower young people taking responsibility in civil society and encourages civil engagement, responsible leadership and good governance.
In 2020, FES Afghanistan continues to work on capacity development of 30 motivated young individuals for a one-year Young Leader’s Program. YLF 2020 members will benefit from capacity building programs, dialogues with politicians, roundtable discussions on vital issues of the day, a tour outside the country to learn more about political structures of neighboring countries and knowledge sharing sessions to learn from one another. Since 2004, when the first generation of young leaders had been formed by FES Afghanistan, YLF has become a well-known network that many Afghans of the younger generation aspire to be part of one day to have a chance of learning leadership in practice, to get the opportunity to encounter different views and approaches and to learn more about tolerance.
Young Leaders Forum (YLF) 2020 Candidates’ Assessment
As the interest in the program is high yet seats limited, we took efforts to ensure full transparency and fairness in the process. From the first to the last step, applicants were assessed, reviewed, interviewed and observed independently by multiple juries with different backgrounds, who put their evaluations in writing and in accordance with a fixed-point system.
Step One: Motivation, Experience and Essay Assignments
The YLF 2020 call opened on 1st of January 2020 for about 3 weeks until 21st of January. During this time, FES received almost 500 applications from Afghan youths who were excited and motivated to practice leadership and become leaders in their community. In two rounds of reviews, FES Staff reviewed over 220 complete applications and shortlisted around 60 applicants to attend interviews and group working sessions in early March. At the heart of this process lay four essay questions that candidates were supposed to address: Is there a meaningful way to include Afghans under the age of 18 into political decision-making processes? Should the Afghan government make compromises to achieve peace with the Taliban? To achieve social justice and equality, should special emphasis be put on the provinces? In many surveys, corruption is the biggest complaint of the people. How do we solve this issue? Soon, we will publish the responses that our new YLF generation gave to these questions on this website as well!
Step Two: Getting to know the Person behind the Application
On March 6 and 7, 2020 FES Afghanistan held two assessment days in Kabul to finalize recruiting for the YLF 2020 program. All 60 shortlisted candidates were invited for an individual interview session, conducted by a diverse jury of FES Staff, YLF Alumni and high-level members of the FES network. For those, who couldn’t come in person, FES arranged interviews per Skype as well. Candidates responded to questions regarding their interests, career, skills etc. and were asked to discuss professional questions regarding societal issues, politics, economics and current status of Afghanistan. Our aim was to explore each candidate’s understanding of the program and its opportunities, individual needs and expectations and their view on Afghan society, current developments and a path for a better future they could actively help shaping.
Step Three: There is no 'i' in team but there is in win.
Our definition of leadership, that guides our views on YLF as well, is that only good team players can be great leaders. Only the ones that listen to others can guide the way. And those who uplift others are going to be most effective in achieving their goals. This is why the last step for the candidates was a group working exercise, where competitors had to work together and constructively towards a joint outcome. Learning to accept others and see their perspectives even in a situation of rivalry is key to critical thinking and inclusive leadership but also time management and presentation skills were required. Again, we challenged them on tough questions like “Will Corona Virus improve Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbors or make them worse?” or “With the US preparing to leave, will China be Afghanistan’s new best friend?” and where deeply impressed by the creativity and teamwork shown by the candidates.
After all these steps and with the great help of more than a dozen voluntary jury members, FES Afghanistan has now selected 17 women and 13 men to join the YLF 2020 program, a diverse group and fantastic force of talent, drive and optimism for the future of Afghanistan!