Joseph Matalon Discusses Systems Change, Locally Led Development, and Investing in Youth

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Joseph Matalon Discusses Systems Change, Locally Led Development, and Investing in Youth

What values and passions have guided your professional life and how do those align with IYF’s values, vision, and mission?

Growing up, I was inculcated with the value—and imperative—of public service. As an IYF Board Member for going on twelve years—and now as Board Chair—I believe the role of the board of directors is to serve the organization and its people, to support them in whatever way possible to maximize the impact IYF can have throughout the world.

Perhaps my greatest passions are youth policy, youth development, and the potential of public-private partnerships. In fact, it was while I was involved with the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) that I first became involved with IYF—as a local partner implementing the OBRA program (2009-2011). It was that experience with IYF that inspired the PSOJ, in 2011, to launch a $10 million program called Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE), which focused on at-risk youth in Jamaica ages 15-29 and was designed collaboratively by a panel of stakeholders and local development experts drawn from the membership. Ultimately, YUTE was brought under the aegis of our organization ICD Group Holdings, merging it with our MultiCare Foundation to become the MultiCare Youth Foundation. I believe that my own organization's values align closely with those of IYF. Both organizations are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young people, our own teams, our communities, and the environments in which we operate.

What role can and should the private sector play in youth development, and why is investing in young people important from a business perspective?

One thing the pandemic has brought into much sharper relief is the growing income and wealth gaps that exist around the world, and of course, whenever there is an economic downturn, young people suffer the most. More than ever before, the private sector can, should, and must be integral to youth development programming. I like to describe it as enlightened self-interest—it’s smart from a business perspective because the success of our own commercial endeavors depends on economic growth and development, upon the availability of human capital with the skills and values that will create engaged, productive members of society, the community, and the economy. It is also imperative that the private sector collaborates with local agencies to intervene where at-risk youth are vulnerable to the enticements of gang membership and violent crime; so that we also sustain a safe and secure environment, which is so prominent among the factors that private sector actors assess in the investment decision-making process.

Why is locally led development, and developing the capacity of local partner organizations, important to the work IYF does around the world?

If our ambition is systems change, then there is no question that involvement with local partners, and the development of their capacity, is essential if we hope to change those local systems that serve youth and which in turn will allow us to scale our impact. One of the great things that IYF has always done is to include in their partnerships an element of local-partner capacity development. By ensuring that local partners are equipped to continue the work after IYF’s role has ended, this is what will allow us to multiply our impact exponentially and sustain it far into the future.

In fact, I’ve seen it with our own organization, the MultiCare Youth Foundation. Over the years, we have benefited from a wealth of advice and support from IYF, and other international partners, to the extent that today we are described as partners of choice in the youth development space locally. I also saw the value of local partner development during IYF’s long-running YouthActionNet (2006-2020) initiative which, through the Global Laureate Fellowship, developed the capacities of over 3,000 young social entrepreneurs who founded their own NGOs to make change in their local environments. Locally led development, and developing the capacity of local partners, is an important part of how impact is scaled. It’s axiomatic for me—in our approaches to working on the ground, it is critical that we localize and have local partners that are trusted and capable because that’s what impels the work we do, not only when we are there, but also the work that continues after we are gone.

private sector capacity building