When it comes to complex challenges like climate change, poverty, and the future of work, it can often feel like the people who will be most impacted by these issues — younger generations — are left out of decision-making conversations on them. This is a challenge that many leaders are already aware of, and in the past, we’ve covered ways to integrate youth engagement into organizations, discussed youth involvement in tackling the Sustainable Development Goals, and asked nonprofit governance to nominate rising young leaders.
However, aside from encouraging established organizations to bring more youth to the table, we also want to highlight organizations for youth and by youth — so we’ve highlighted four youth-led initiatives that are currently changing the game in Canada, each tackle pressing problems in different areas.
Youth Climate Lab
Since the youth-led organization first launched in May 2017, the Ottawa-based Youth Climate Lab has worked with over 30 partners around the world to design and pilot projects that support and accelerate youth-led policy, projects, and business ideas that push action on climate change.
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Youth Climate Lab helps youth-led initiatives gain a step up by connecting them to funders, mentors, and partners, as well as providing training in areas like entrepreneurship and design thinking. Past Youth Climate Lab-supported projects have seen university and college students across Canada engaged in consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals; launched competitions to bring youth’s sustainable growth solutions “from idea to business plan”; and brought together cohorts to develop skills around climate change policy and projects.
Several of Youth Climate Lab’s leaders have already been named in Top 30 Under 30 and Top 25 Under 25 lists in 2019, and as their list of innovative projects expands, that’s a trend that’s sure to continue.
Canadian Roots Exchange
For young people in Canada, one route to reconciliation lies in Canadian Roots Exchange — a community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth focused on creating honest, respectful, and understanding relationships together.
Canadian Roots Exchange has collaborated with Indigenous communities to create over 50 experiential education exchanges since 2009, where host communities bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth together to build face-to-face relationships. The organization has also built out Youth Reconciliation Initiative teams in 12 communities across the country, connecting over 150 young leaders with the training, resources, and relationships they need to work towards national reconciliation.
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Reconciliation lies at the heart of Canada’s path to progress, and organizations like Canadian Roots Exchange help encourage younger generations to take an active role in repairing relations.
Based in Montreal and Toronto, Resource Movement is a network of over 125 young people in Canada working towards the redistribution of wealth, land, and power. Resource Movement members are generally aged 18-40 and share the experience of “having more than they need” when it comes to wealth and class privilege, as well as a strong desire to support social justice movements.
Resource Movement started with the question, “How can young people in Canada with wealth and class privilege support social movements that are fighting for deep systemic change?” And that’s precisely what Resource Movement has explored: in the four years it has been running, the organization has hosted multiple educational workshops and conferences, identified networks of allies, advocated for systemic change within philanthropy, and organized campaigns that have redistributed over $150,000 in wealth to social justice movements.
In order to reach a truly equitable society, there needs to be a redistribution of power and wealth — making it all the more important for leaders take initiative in this space as they grow to lead a new generations of corporations, organizations, and governments.
Toronto-based MakerKids wants to help children have “transformative experiences” around technology early on by making science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects fun. MakerKids’ award-winning programs take subjects that can sometimes be scary for children and makes them engaging and inviting, while infusing values and mindsets into children’s work.
MakerKids gets children involved in coding, robotics, and programming, and has core values that help determine how programs are run: from making environmentally friendly designs and enjoying an idea-sharing culture to pledging to only making “things that help.” And with MakerKids children reporting increases in self-confidence, social skills, creativity, and computer skills, this makerspace for children is clearly meeting more than one goal for the next generation’s education.
Who else should we know about?
Of course, these are only four of many youth-led initiatives leading the way — and we’re curious to hear about more. Know of an innovative youth-led initiative in Canada? Chime in on social media @FutureofGood.