Saturday,28 May

09:00 - 10:30


A cohort of young, dynamic leaders from around the world, on the frontline of addressing the most challenging issues of our times such as climate change, migration, and poverty represent the groups and individuals foundations must engage with to create lasting positive change. This interactive session is designed to make participants ask themselves tough questions: Are we as foundation leaders flexible enough to respond to rapidly changing youth movements and their needs? Are we willing to step out of our comfort zones and find new ways of supporting those who are effectively building the future?

Key points raised by speakers and during discussion

Ms Riska Darmawanti spoke about her ‘water police’ project in Indonesia, the importance of access to clean water and of the need to teach people how to monitor water quality. The project has already seen success as the level of waste has been somewhat reduced in local rivers. There remain serious challenges, however, in the access to funding for such projects as the government for one is not interested in funding them. Ms Darmawanti argued that there is a need to promote a ‘multi-stakeholder platform’ and noted that small grants often prove to be more effective with youth projects.

Mr Sam Loni explained that we are all living in an ‘Anthropocene’ period in history in which the influence of human activity upon the earth and the climate has become undeniable. It is in this context that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) appear as fundamentally important and the need to implement them is now more important than ever. Youth has a particular interest in the decision as it is their future which is at stake. There is a need to act now! Mr Loni suggested 2 different ways to move forward: 1) University volunteers to go into schools and inform pupils about the SDGs 2) find the most innovative ways to ‘sell’ the SDGs to the public in general. In addition, Mr Loni mentioned that although it is fundamental to get youth involved in promoting the SDGs and in projects of this type, there is at the same time, a need to have a ‘multi-generational’ approach as well so that any approach that we do have involves both young and old people.

Next Ms Mary Ann Manahan explained that whilst it is a commonly held view that youth need to be more and more involved in future projects, there exists, at the same time, a certain mistrust which prevents this from taking place. Ms Manahan proclaimed the agency of youth as they are the actors of today, technology, she believes is important, but should not serve as a replacement for face-to-face contact.

Key points of learning

“Do we have space in our foundations to accommodate this sort of youth-led project?”

The different groups mentioned the importance of being able to refresh and that ‘youth’ need to be ‘in the driving seat’. The belief that youth will hold each other to account was considered an important factor was raised whilst others posited that mentorship is crucial arguing that after the initial grant is made the programme will need to be kept in place as part of a more long-term thinking..

“Are we able to fund youth-led projects given the risk often involved in such ventures?”

Some groups spoke of the challenges of working with youth and that organisational structures would already seem to be against this as it is certainly not easy to convince older people that they should be replaced by younger people just in the name of giving ‘youth’ more power – indeed it was argued that this would be like ‘getting the turkey to vote for Christmas’.

“Can it be said that youth already have a voice in our foundations at the moment?”

In conclusion, it was agreed that there is a certain contradiction in talking about ‘youth’ whilst not actually embracing ‘youth’ and maintaining the same people in the same positions continuing with the same type of work. Thus, it is clear that a change in attitude is needed if we are to follow through with our good intentions. There was consensus that nobody has all the answers but that we need to sit down together to discuss the way to move forward. We need to empower the next generation. Young people are the future leaders!

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