Component 3 of the ACED Program Notes Youth Impacts from its Neighborhood Development Activities

The Aqaba Community and Economic Development (ACED) Program is designed to benefit the people and businesses of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone. Component 3 of the program focuses on enhanced community development and works to accomplish this using tools for participatory development, civil society capacity building, and workforce development. In one particular community initiative, the Neighborhood Development Activity, youth engagement has turned out to be a recurring theme.

The Neighborhood Development Activity (NDA) is based on a participatory methodology to increase citizen involvement in the development process. The NDA mobilizes the community to increase participation among Neighborhood residents and to improve two-way communication between citizens and local government entities. Through surveys and neighborhood wide meetings, the citizens voice their most pressing needs and select a group of active leaders from their neighborhood to translate those needs into projects and work with local government to implement those projects.

The process seeks to incorporate all citizens regardless of gender, age or other factors, and youth have become deeply involved in the activities of the first Aqaba neighborhood mobilized. In Sharqia neighborhood, youth volunteers assembled to raise initial awareness of the NDA throughout their neighborhood and to conduct a survey to determine key challenges to residents and nascent leaders among the population. One of those youth volunteers was also trained in facilitation skills and used those new skills to help in the organization and logistics of the first neighborhood wide meeting.

At the neighborhood wide meeting, a neighborhood enhancement team was selected to represent the neighborhood and follow the process through completion of the first community prioritized project. One young man was selected to represent his neighborhood on the team and it is clear that youth and student issues have become an area of focus for this neighborhood. After reviewing the neighborhoods strengths and defining a vision of their neighborhood, the team proposed and voted on several potential projects to help achieve that vision. Two of the team’s three top priority projects were focused on students: improving the safety of students crossing a busy street to get to their public school, and raising awareness of the dangers of drugs and smoking.

Once again, neighborhood youth volunteers hit the streets surveying neighborhood residents to find out which of the three projects was their highest priority and an activity that they would be willing to contribute to. The results showed that the team accurately assessed the needs of the neighborhood – and that youth issues are a top concern of their fellow citizens. The project to improve the safe street crossing in front of the school received the most support and about 90% of those voting for this project also promised to contribute in cash or in kind to this project.

With this first project in the design stage with engineers from the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, the neighborhood enhancement team has continued to push for additional support to neighborhood youth. They are now working with the Ministry of Education to help select 9th and 10th graders from the neighborhood for a limited number of spaces available at the American Village English Access Summer Program organized with the support of the US Embassy’s Regional English Language Office.

In addition to engaging youth on the NDA, the ACED Program has other initiatives that benefit and focus on youth. As part of capacity building for Aqaba-based Civil Society Organizations, one training session covers recruiting of new members with a focus on increasing youth involvement in volunteer activities. The ACED Program is also supporting workforce development activities that will have a significant focus on youth just entering the workforce. Through work to improve the effectiveness of Aqaba’s Local Community Development Directorate (LCDD), the ACED Program has provided assistance in the creation of coordinated action plans for stakeholders within several social sectors. The ‘youth’ action plan includes input and activities from LCDD, the Aqaba Higher Council of Youth, Aqaba youth centers, and Aqaba-based NGOs with youth programs.