For the last 6 years, I have had the pleasure of attending several Rural Youth Europe events.
During those years I have met many amazing people, and gotten to know several organisations similar to my own. Even though Young Farmers and 4H have different organisational structures, different activities and competitions we embrace the rural life.
My organisation, 4H in Norway recently suffered some major cuts in the national budget and we lost all of our office space, which means we are now facing a big change in our organisational structure and services. Our membership numbers are declining, and sponsors are revising their contracts.
Last summer I attended the General Assembly of Rural Youth Europe, and when we reported our membership numbers most of the organisations also faced lower numbers than the years before. It made me realize that we in 4H are not alone in our struggles; it is a common challenge.
My newsfeed on Facebook is filled with articles, petitions and posts from dedicated volunteers and officers from organisations all over Europe. NFYFC are discussing whether to raise their levy or not, and the Welsh YFC organisation just did some amazing lobbying and petition-work to keep their core funding after a proposed cut.
Situations like these can often feel like a crisis, but most of our organisations have faced many
challenges before, and we adapt. Coming from the countryside, we know how to make quick
changes, read situational cues and work hard when needed.
As a farmer, my father’s favourite webpage is the Norwegian equivalent of Weather.com, especially in harvest time. We want to be prepared, so we know how to act. However, sometimes you cannot predict the weather, and a sudden rain shower appears. In those situations, my dad is grateful for the other farmers around who help each other out to get the harvest in. It is a community.
Just like harvest time, all our members want what is best for our organisations, and they work hard to get it. We are lucky to have so many amazing members, and during RYEurope-events, I am reminded of why I am still a committed member of my own organisation; it brings joy, knowledge and life lasting friendships. I want all of our membership numbers to increase, and to do that I think it is important to reflect on what we want our organisations to be. 4H in Norway is no longer just an agricultural club for farmers, but a place where everybody who is interested in rural life and community can join.
I think one question a lot of the member organisations in Rural Youth Europe are facing is;
“what is our core identity?”. It is a difficult, but imperative question. Through the Rural Youth Europe network, I think I have learned more about my own organisation by getting to know to
their organisations, and that is an important aspect of the Rural Youth Europe umbrella.
“You can’t know where you are going unless you first know where you are”.
Gunvor from Norway
(In the picture: the Norwegian delegation at the Rally in Ireland 2013. Gunvor in the blue dress. )