NOW participants – the who and the how for change

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It’s happening! After months of planning, the NOW journey is finally materializing. We are in the middle of selecting our participants and can’t wait to get to know the first 30 NOWers to start their Journey.

What could be a better response to our project than getting 140 applications? 140 young people who want to become the first generation of NOWers. We are truly overwhelmed by the amount of applications we have received and are extremely excited to work with all of the (soon to be) 30 selected young people. Ömer told you in one of our previous posts how we were going to reach our participants. Now, that we have about ⅔ of our participants selected, I would like to make the NOW participant selection more transparent and tell you about what worked and what didn’t.
Being able to start spreading the word that “we are accepting applications” was one of the greatest moments of our journey so far. When we realized that our crowdfunding was going to be a success and that we would get funding from the chFoundation, there was pure joy and excitement spreading from Istanbul to Rio, from Zürich to Buenos Aires, from Heidelberg to Bordeaux. Together with a growing community of NOW supporters, we knew that we are going to make the first NOW Journey happen. Starting in July, the first group of young people from Europe and beyond will attend the program and learn how to create social change.
“Wow, things went really fast for you!”, that’s the kind of reaction we received lately when we tell what has happened in the last six months. And we agree, suddenly our participants are no longer the “personas” we created at the beginning in our design thinking session. Our participants are real people now, with expectations and ideas that keep surprising and amazing us.
But the truth is, this process hasn’t been all enthusiasm and never-ending belief in our project. We have learned a lot about reaching young people with fewer opportunities in the last two months. Even if we are sure to have included at least 10 “unlikely” participants in the group, we also know that there’s still a lot more we can and want to do to diversify that group and increase our reach. The two most important learnings? A) we need more time for that and B) we need to diversify communication even more.
Making sure we include unlikely participants and a broad diversity has been one of our central criteria for participant selection. While we could always do better, the participants we have already selected come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, geographical locations (nation-wise but also bridging the urban-rural gap), different gender identities and religious beliefs. Besides that, we wanted to give away at least ½ of the slots to participants who have not yet had an opportunity related to intercultural exchanges and empowerment.

So how does the NOW application process work?
Participants reach out to us over the website or through our partner organizations. At this point some basic facts help us decide if they are applicable or not: their age and country of residence. Whomever is between 17 and 25 and lives in Europe and its neighbouring countries, could move on to the application form.
In the application form we asked applicants to share their personal story as well as their motivation to join the NOW Journey. A tricky but important questions is the one about their possible financial contributions. All participants are invited to tell us how much of the approximately 2500 Euros for the participation they can cover themselves. It is yet to early to tell you if that model is successful, we’ll keep that for a future blog post.
These questions mentioned above allowed us to put together a diverse group of participants: some grew up in the countryside, some have migrant background, some study, go to school and others have founded their own companies. You can check out the (not yet final) map of participants here. All applications are reviewed by a team of four and – where applicable – also our partner organizations from the respective countries. However, the final decision if a participant should be accepted or not is made by the whole NOW team.
At this point, we’d like to give a huge shout-out to all the organizations and individuals that helped us spread the word: THANK YOU! Without you there would be no participants. We would also like to thank each and every applicant for their time and commitment. Unfortunately, being excited about more than 140 applicants also means we’ll have to exclude more than 100 from this experience. We truly hope we’ll meet in some other occasion or other edition of the program! In the meantime, keep changing the world.