„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


7th October 2021

What internal documents can guide your organisation?

safe space 1

YMCA/YWCA declares itself as a safe space where young people can develop harmoniously in body, mind and spirit. Y is definitely promoting this through its programmes, projects and activities. But how can these topics be regulated internally? 

YMCA Europe is promoting good governance systems as part of its Movement Strengthening work and “Organic Governance” project. Thus, we collect, describe and present best practices of internal policies, procedures, which help organisations regulate their routines in a transparent and clear way. 


First we provide the basic description of key terms with the reference to literature. 

Social inclusion is the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society—improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity (https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/social-inclusion).

From a youth perspective social inclusion is the process of individual's self-realisation within a society, acceptance and recognition of one's potential by social institutions, integration (through study, employment, volunteer work or other forms of participation) in the web of social relations in a community. It has a particular meaning to those young people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and live in precarious conditions. For them social inclusion involves breaking various barriers before acquiring their social rights as full members of society. (https://pjp-eu.coe.int/en/web/youth-partnership/social-inclusion).

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual (https://www.qcc.cuny.edu/diversity/definition.html).

The Human Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate on a wide range of grounds including ‘sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status’. The case law relating to this right has shown that the term ‘other status’ includes sexual orientation, illegitimacy, marital status, trade union membership, transsexual status and imprisonment. It can also be used to challenge discrimination on the basis of age or disability. 


There are plenty grounds for possible discrimination so we would suggest you to use “inclusion lenses” in order to ensure equal opportunities for youth in your organisations.

These are examples of questions that can guide your organisation through this process: 

  • What “vulnerable groups” of people we are working with and with whom not? Why? 
  • Have we educated leaders how to work with various “vulnerable groups” of people?
  • Have we discussed “inclusive vocabulary”, non-offensive language in your organisation?
  • Have we adjusted our programmes to be more inclusive? To be more inclusive for whom specifically? 
  • Is our physical space inclusive enough?
  • Have we run needs analysis to be aware about the needs of “vulnerable groups” in our community?
  • Do we have leaders who represent the “vulnerable groups” of people? Do we have them in the Board?
  • Have we informed youth from “vulnerable groups” that we are ready to accept them? Are you sure they know that they are fully accepted in your Y? 
  • Do the informational materials, webpage and rooms’ decoration include texts, pictures, visual signs of being opened to different target groups? 
  • When you are running programmes in a digital format, is it inclusive and accessible enough for youth? 

As you see this work should be systematic and embrace an inclusive approach at all levels: strategic, programme, governance, human resources, etc. But it should be also diverse in terms of different needs various target groups have. So, “inclusion lenses” would involve constant needs analysis, consultations and bringing adjustments to the work you are doing. 

safe space


People with disabilities’ perspective:

  • Do the entrance and toilets allow people in wheelchairs to participate?
  • Have we planned to voice all materials in case people with visual impairments participate?  
  • Have we adjusted methods of education and energisers in case people with cerebral palsy participate? 
  • Do we have conditions to employ a person with physical disabilities?

Gender perspective:

  • Do the leaders use gender-neutral language?
  • Have we discussed and elaborated an internal law about the gender approach of using bathrooms, locker rooms, camp cabins, etc.?
  • How do we ensure equal gender representation in the governing bodies, staff team, leaders’ team?

Religion perspective:

  • Are people of various religions in your community informed that they are welcomed in “Young Men’s Christian Association”? 
  • Are we adjusting the meal menu according to different religious rules?
  • Is it possible to create a “prayer room”, which can be utilized individually for a person of any religion?
  • Are we aware about the religious holidays of the employees and volunteers? 

Sexual orientation perspective:

  • Have we educated the leaders of your organisation on “Hate Speech” topic?
  • Do the leaders know correct terminology? 
  • Have we agreed to display a clear statement on zero tolerance for homophobic language in the premises?

You can find the description of possible barriers for young people and ways to overcome them in the “Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps Inclusion and Diversity Strategy”. It also depicts the importance of partnerships with those organisations who target specific groups of people and can provide expertise on inclusion. 



The internal documents promoting inclusion and non-discrimination might look differently. These can be:

  • Value Statements;
  • Practical Recommendations for Programme leaders;
  • Action plans. 

This is an example of the Action Plan from YWCA-YMCA Sweden telling what the participants and the leaders should do when they face any kind of discrimination:

This is a value statement of YMCA Canada:


Intersectionality and multiple discrimination document

  • https://www.coe.int/en/web/gender-matters/intersectionality-and-multiple-discrimination 

The project “Organic Governance and Quality Development” is supported by Erasmus+, Key Action 2 programme.

Author/Source: Olga Lukina, YMCA Europe Executive Secretary for Movement Strengthening

donate now