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SEWF 2021: youths, a vital force for change

by Mirabelle Morah / September 2021

“It is my strong belief that young people today aren’t just the changemakers of the future, they are often changing the world today. Each one of our participants demonstrated that power and demonstrated how they are making a change in today’s world”.  – Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, SAP.

On 27 September, the Social Enterprise World Forum held its first-ever online SEWF Youth Forum in partnership with Common Good Solutions and Partner, Social Shifters. Designed with the assistance of the SEWF Youth Advisory Group and for young people working in social enterprise, the importance of encouraging as many young social entrepreneurs as possible can not be overemphasized, hence the Youth Forum was designed to connect and inspire young social entrepreneurs under 30, from anywhere across the world.

SEWF Youth Forum MCs
SEWF Youth Forum MCs (L-R) Mirabelle Morah, Sarah Roberts

Exceeding our initial expectation of 600 participants, over 1,600 changemakers took part in the Youth Forum with attendees from different corners of the globe, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Mexico, Turkey, Canada, Zambia, Philippines, Pakistan, Iran, Australia, the UK etc. Young changemakers had the chance to interact with each other in Hopin chat rooms where the event was hosted and had the opportunity to attend ‘networking’ sessions, where they were matched via video with another young changemaker for 3 minutes at a time to share ideas and swap details.

Social Shifters Global Innovation Challenge

In the lead-up to this year’s SEWF Youth Forum, SEWF partner Social Shifters held the Social Shifters Global Innovation Challenge, designed to support the early-stage and innovative solutions of entrants aged 18–30, with support for 5 regional winners and an award of $10,000 for the overall global winner. 

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Tegan Samija, Communications Lead at Social Shifters commented on the campaign: “We were getting lots of feedback from our Shifters community that people were finding it difficult to get funding for their idea. They felt like they were stuck in a loop – they needed to be at a more advanced stage to get funding, except they couldn’t grow to that stage without funding. We wanted to change this, so we launched the Challenge”. Entrants were asked to share their business ideas to solve some of the most complex social and environmental challenges faced in society today. The competition closed on 16 July, with judging culminating in the announcement of the Regional winners and overall Global Winner of the competition at the Youth Forum. Read on to find out which inspiring business ideas were awarded $2,500.

Innovation Challenge Winners announced

  • The Sub-Saharan Africa winner: Kawilab Energy. Kawilab provides the last-mile distribution of clean cooking technologies in Kenya coupled with an innovative pay-as-you-go model to help underserved communities access life-saving, clean cooking products. 
  • Europe and Central Asia’s winner was Yaldi, a Scotland based game-developer using the power of their interactive video game, ‘Wholesome: Out and About’, to inspire children and adults alike to get outside and learn how to forage, cook and interact with the natural environment to lead more sustainable lives. 
  • The Middle Eastern and North African winner:, an enterprise using advanced technology to assist with recruitment for clinical trials, removing bottlenecks and ensuring that trials can be organised and medical research advanced faster. 
  • The regional winner from The Americas: Carbon Attack Attract. CAA aims to reduce greenhouse gases through the use of an affordable, biodegradable, carbon capture filter that removes harmful emissions from motor vehicles. 
  • The Asia Pacific winner: Belift Green Beans. Belift helps small Indonesian coffee farmers obtain living wage income by increasing coffee farming yields and opening up opportunities for Indonesian coffee farmers. 
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Elena Hoge

The 2021 Global Innovation Winner, taking home the $10,000 prize was Yaldi Games with their game, “Wholesome: Out and About.” Yaldi is a startup game developer with a mission to create meaningful entertainment that goes beyond digital. With support from SAP and the Global Innovation Challenge award, Yaldi will be bringing to market Wholesome, a pioneering video game that will create meaningful screen time and inspire players to go outside, feel connected to nature, and be happier. 

SEWF 2021 (28-29 September)

Beyond the Youth Forum, one of our goals for the SEWF 2021 event was to reflect the variety of innovative youths and ideas hailing from around the world. Diversity is essential to our programming and this year, not only did we aim to have 50% of our speakers identifying as female, non-binary or trans, we also aimed to have 30% of our SEWF 2021 speakers aged under 30, hailing from a wide range of geographies and sectors. 

Partner Stream: How can we all better support young changemakers?
Partner Stream: How can we all better support young changemakers?

Speaking at SEWF 2021 on how to better support young changemakers, Jess Teutonico, Executive Director of We Are Family Foundation emphasised the “need to change the rubric on how funders allocate funding in order for young changemakers to create real change”. 

“Young people bring that different perspective. Valuing the diversity of that is incredibly important. Part of it is designing resources that allow young people to access those opportunities”, said Matthew Goldsworthy, SEWF Youth speaker and Founder of Youth Arts New Zealand. 

“It is my strong belief that young people today aren’t just the changemakers of the future, they are often changing the world today. Each one of our participants demonstrated that power and demonstrated how they are making a change in today’s world”. Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, SAP.

The SEWF 2021 programme featured incredible young speakers under 30 including Arthur Lima, founder of AfroSaude, a health-tech for the Afro-Brazilian Population; Carly Mohammed, helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurs start and grow businesses in Australia to Riana Shah, founder of EthixAI, an initiative that alleviates algorithmic bias to undo systemic racism in tech.

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Youth challenges and solutions

A poll taken during the panel on how we can better support young changemakers revealed that burnout, not being taken seriously and self-doubt were some of the highest-ranking challenges which young SEWF attendees faced. Hence the Youth Forum featured masterclasses and sessions about tackling mental wellbeing and burnout and building a movement for change, so as to give young social entrepreneurs the resources, information, connections and support they need to thrive in the social enterprise sector.

“We are in good hands with the young people who attended today”, expressed Chloe Donatelli, Consultant at Common Good Solutions.

 And as one of the Youth Forum MCs, Sarah Roberts further affirmed, indeed young people are a vital force for change”. At SEWF, we are proud to support the efforts of young people running social enterprises in different parts of the globe.

Co-authored by Beth Whitelaw.

Mirabelle Morah is the community and communications manager at SEWF