Updated: Jul 18
Written by Kenneth Kwok, Global Schools Advocate from Hong Kong and Founder of KIDsforSDGs
In an era characterised as a “polycrisis”, we are in dire need of solutions to tackle the root causes of global risks. Our youth are facing geo-economic confrontation, the cost of living crisis, the erosion of social cohesion, and a failure to mitigate climate change.impacting their trust and optimism in how the world is governed.
What's more, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has already recognized the importance of promoting the social and solidarity economy. In 2022, a week before the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum in April, they proposed a resolution that stated the need for "a deeper, more ambitious, transformative and integrated response to global risks".This approach offers contributions and options for these solutions by working across sectors and underlining the primacy of people and social purpose over capital in the distribution and use of profits and assets. When the resolution was finally adopted earlier this year, it aligned with the efforts of the UN Taskforce on the Social and Solidarity Economy, which concludes that this sector has the power to advance all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 4, “Quality Education”.
Following the efforts of the UN, youth globally also have, starting with grassroots movements, formed new projects and partnerships to ensure their voices are heard and amplified, and this trend will increase over time. Their mission is straightforward: they aim to transform the social and solidarity economy into a blueprint for their generation’s collective growth - so that all can share the benefits. But, How exactly can youth play their role in unlocking the full potential of the social economy? As a Global Schools Program (GSP) Advocate, I have witnessed the power of collective ambition, resilience, and commitment in youth to driving systems change. Here are five lessons I've learned from advocates and students and examples of the possible initiatives that can be implemented.
Young people are gifted with open minds, and they are bringing their energy, ideas, and courage to some of the most complex and important challenges facing the human family. They often understand better than older generations that we can transcend our cultural differences in order to reach our shared goals. As such, creating connections through dialogue is a great strength of modern youth culture, and social media, in particular, has been used to empower youth and raise awareness. To this end, the team behind the launch of the ASPIRE 2030 campaign has created a platform where youth globally can review and reflect on each other’s successes and draw inspiration to advance local impact through the Agenda 2030 Framework.
Youth are not the future. Like you and me, they are the here and now. After being inspired, youth naturally like to “find their tribe” in order to create a plan for action. They understand the urgency surrounding the many global issues facing them, and they want to spearhead action now. At Systems Change Summit, mentorship and other non-financial resources are provided to youth on how to create their own platforms for starting a movement. Youth are trained to create meetings that are well-planned, have clear goals, involve all members, and have a strong focus on taking action. More importantly, working alongside adults, they lead by example in involving youth at every stage of the planning and execution.
Research is fundamental to advances in human society. It emerges from our innate desire as human beings to seek to improve our lives and control the world around us. Youth appreciate the need for us to continually improve our understanding and our insight: simply put, we have to know how things work (or don’t work) in order to find different ways to use them or make them more efficient. In this context, the mission of Catalysing Research Institute is to establish a global community of young researchers who are seeking to share their research outcomes with each other to maximise limited resources and accelerate the timetable for design and prototyping.
The benefits of collaborative education are widely covered, and for youth to succeed in the modern-day world, developing higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills are key to long-term growth. The Global Schools Program itself is a fertile ground for this type of education, as learners seek to resort to their own collective wisdom as a community, and encourage them to understand and value their peers’ resourcefulness and give proper credit to them. This point was further demonstrated by the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum 2023, where outside of the main plenaries, over 150 small group consultations and side events took place to facilitate collaborative learning and doing.
Building consensus on priorities is critical to the success of a transformation, and this is a cornerstone to impactful youth mobilization. In addition, focusing on winning real, immediate, concrete improvements in people’s lives through short-term, attainable goals, as well as giving people a sense of their own power by promoting self-confidence of the organization and its individual members, are two supporting pillars for true mobilization. Started initially as a platform for enabling youth to determine their own destinies, Forum of the Future is an example of joint intergenerational and intercultural action to advance and achieve the SDGs. By connecting people, knowledge, and culture, underpinned by a shared desire for change, mobilisation is activated.
The passing of the UN resolution is a good start, and youth acknowledges this landmark moment as a recognition of a new mindset that prosperity does not have to be prioritised over people and the planet. Our world is at an inflection point, and as a GSP Advocate, my colleagues and I are ready to lead and be led by youth and drive intergenerational action. So let us, as the Global Schools Program community, continue to foster and facilitate their journey in education for sustainable development, tackle the root causes of global risks, and transform the world into a fairer, greener, and more sustainable place.