SERES is a non-profit organization, founded in 2009, that works with marginalized and at-risk youth, at the forefront of climate change in Central America, training them to be agents of change, social entrepreneurs and leaders in sustainability capable of building more resilient and prosperous communities. Internationally recognized after receiving the UNESCO-Japan Prize for Education for Sustainable Development in 2015, SERES is one of the world's leading organizations working to combat climate change, by cultivating and catalyzing young leaders who take action at the local, regional, national and international level.
Our mission is to cultivate and catalyze young leaders to build more just and sustainable communities in Central America.
Our vision is that the SERES experience inspires millions to contribute personally and meaningfully toward the transformation of our systems, societies and cultures to create a world full of well-being.
- Training and capacity building: We take a holistic approach to developing youth leaders, through the development of hard skills (financial literacy, digital literacy, etc.) and soft skills (leadership skills, creativity, agency, attitudes and qualities), through which we are fully fostering, global citizens. This is achieved through a series of 3 leadership training programs offered by local facilitators (alumni) in their native language and Spanish, using an experiential learning approach, cultivating critical thinking, self-efficacy, peace-building and system transformation.
- Resource centers: Our physical spaces provide a safe haven with a substantial community of support and services from non-profit organizations, local authorities and businesses, to youth leaders to achieve their vision of a good life in their communities. Young people are welcome to use the space to develop their projects and community action plans, access resources, receive mentoring sessions, workshops, and participate in community initiatives. This is a living community center and the possibilities are endless, there is no established recipe for how this space works and responds to the needs of the communities.
- Coaching and mentoring: We train and support mentors within the communities in which we work and who are under-represented in our society. This is done by facilitating virtual and face-to-face mentoring sessions, using techniques such as appreciative inquiry, deep listening, and systems transformation theory, among others.
- Local, regional and global networks: We promote and foster organic networks of young leaders generating changes that become social movements connected by transformative action. We support a stronger system focused on youth-led community development. Young people create their own internal support network between communities, regions and countries, using social networks and face-to-face meetings. We hold quarterly meetings to open dialogues and connect the SERES network to international spaces so that their voices are represented whilst exchanging experiences and cultivating learning.
- Youth-led development projects: We continuously support our community leaders through specific workshops to deepen the results of their action plans. We harness the best ideas and make small grants to youth groups to maximize the impact of their action plans. We offer a project-based learning approach so that young people can identify problems, brainstorm solutions and create a community project to tackle the problem, connecting them to the SDGs.
- El Activate Community Congress: A 3-day community congress, bringing together young people from all of our communities to think and empower. We foster a culture of environmental awareness and sustainability through collaboration and shared leadership to help young people develop a community vision and critical thinking on pressing socio-environmental issues.
- Youth Sustainability Summit :A 5-day camp that attracts young change agents from Guatemala and El Salvador along with peers, mentors, community partner organizations and trainers for a networking and practical skills development event.
- Catalysts: An intensive 7-day residential program to train young leaders to be highly effective facilitators of community change processes by providing them with the tools for transformation.
The recently published Global Climate Risk Index (2016) reconfirmed the fact that, in general, the least developed countries and the poorest regions of the world are the most vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change. This trend is true for Central America, where the four poorest countries in the region - Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras (World Bank, 2013) - are among the top fifteen in the world in long-term climate risk (Global Index of Climate Risk, 2016). In these countries, already plagued by overwhelming social, environmental and economic problems, the increasing pressure of climate change puts stability, peace and prosperity at great risk, exacerbating conditions that already cause many children and young people to migrate without official authorization (Martin & Herzberg, 2014). In 2014, this condition triggered what the president of the United States, Barack Obama, called at the time "an urgent humanitarian situation." More than 70,000 children and unaccompanied minors arrived at the border between the United States and Mexico, more than 70% of whom came from the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (Department of Homeland Security, 2014).
Fleeing crime, violence, and the lack of educational and economic opportunities (Hanson, 2016), this wave of young immigrants represents a demographic for whom contemplating a future at home is contemplating a hopeless future. This demographic is not insignificant. With more than 50% of the population under 25 years of age (UN World Population Outlook, 2015), and more than one in five adolescents neither attending school nor working (International Labor Organization, 2013), there are more than a million young people who face circumstances similar to those who have already made the difficult decision to migrate to the United States (World Bank, 2016).
According to UNICEF, climate change in the coming years will increasingly be the cause of large-scale migrations of people that will be led in most cases by young people more willing to take risks (Martin et al., 2014). Proactive action to develop regional solutions that invest in opportunities for young people while building climate resilience is essential to give young people a reason not to migrate. Without this, the United States and Central America, this unique region of intertwined lives, economies, food crops and cultures, will end up facing a tragic humanitarian crisis in the years to come.
Young leaders in SERES are involved in creating local solutions for the community problems they identify, with transformative leadership that influences sustainable development for their communities. Some of these results are as follows:
- 100% of the young people who have participated in a process with SERES have applied the new leadership skills and capacities through their community action plans, which has allowed the involvement of local leaders in the necessary community solutions.
- 71% of young people have served in a position where they have been elected by their community, many of them in local community councils such as COCODEs and ADESCOs, and in informal leadership positions in their community (at school, church, and their neighborhood). These young people are changing the status quo, bringing a vision of change of sustainable development and resilience to their communities.
- In the last 5 years, SERES has reached more than 2,500 young people from rural communities in Guatemala and El Salvador, facilitated more than 220 transformative leadership processes for sustainability, promoted 155 youth groups or collectives carrying out 300 community actions that have benefited more than 43,000 people.
We have a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation program designed to assess the direct and indirect impact of our work, as well as establish a circular feedback path to continue developing programs that respond to the needs and desires of partner communities. The metrics are published through an online Dashboard, to promote the transparency and impact of what we intend to do.
At each point of contact we have designed pre and post surveys that seek to measure and evaluate the progress of the different objectives of the organization, in addition to complementing with in-depth surveys and focus groups to be carried out once a year to obtain results and points for improvement that allow to be integrated to analyze and collect qualitative results of the process.
Size and/or structure
The organization has grown in the last 5 years, increasing the number of people working in the different regions and in 2019 we adopted a new organizational structure called Teal, focused on self-management, fullness and evolutionary process.
Our leadership programs were updated in 2016 with changes in the curriculum, in 2018 we started a new project based on consultations with young people from the SERES network and the first ConeXpacio, resource center and youth services were inaugurated for young people in Tecpán Guatemala and now we have a second in Uspantán Quiche. The Resilience Farm project in El Rodeo Escuintla changed due to the eruption of the Volcán de Fuego in 2018, now it is a center of resources and services for the community with a focus on sustainable agriculture and community enterprises.
When we started the organization, our scope was very open, making it difficult to follow up with young people in the process. In 2016, the geographic areas of scope for Guatemala and El Salvador were prioritized.
Opening of a new youth resource center (ConeXpacio) in El Salvador.
Launching of all the prioritized areas of the virtual Youth Leading Transformation program.
Provide education, training and skills development to 1,500 young men and women from 7 municipalities in Guatemala and El Salvador, supporting them to be responsible members of society who actively contribute to the construction of more just and sustainable communities.
Development and implementation of the 2 community initiatives for income generation: Casa Maya and Finca La Resiliencia.
Guarantee the financial sustainability of the organization as well as the financial independence of the established ConeXpacios.
Build a movement of 100 emerging community leaders who are catalyzing new projects, companies and investment opportunities that will contribute to building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable communities in Guatemala and El Salvador.