As inspiring as the Global Goals are in their ambition and altruism, they can also be daunting. The magnitude and complexity of the problems they address is significant, to say the least. This is why young people have such an important role to play. Their unabashed determination, along with their creativity, vision, and sense of urgency – not to mention, their tech savviness – is critical to the progress needed on these 17 goals between now and the 2030 deadline.
Take our Generation17 young leaders. In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, these changemakers from Argentina to Ukraine have discovered how to turn their passions into something much bigger – solutions that scale beyond their communities and contribute to the Global Goals. That’s the essence of Generation17, Samsung’s partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
These leaders are also eager to inspire others and to share what they know. Here, they share five ways to make a difference.
1. Humanize the problem
Tafara Makaza, 25, creator of the ridesharing and employment apps Tuverl and Fixa, Zimbabwe:
I always try to view technology in the context of the ordinary African person and what they need.
Look at Goal 1: No poverty. That's a big phrase, but what does it mean exactly? I look at Zimbabwe and look at the poor people and ask, “What's the root of that problem?” or maybe, “Why don't they have jobs?” From there you can see maybe it’s because they don't have access to certain services or certain technology that could enable them.
So, I always feel like it's our job to figure out how to contextualize these big problems and break them down into small problems that we can tackle. Because wherever you have the biggest problems, you have the biggest opportunities.
2. Tap every resource
Yejin Choi, 27, creator of the educational app DoBrain, South Korea:
I faced a lot of challenges when I first created my app. I wasn’t a technician or developer, so it was hard to build DoBrain. I failed a lot and made many mistakes early on. But I started connecting with people who had the skills I didn’t have – developers, designers, and technicians. They had the same vision as me and believed education changes the world. Together, we’ve built something amazing.
I think everyone can find a way to use their own abilities to help other people and to solve even just one problem. Everyone can be a hero.
Daniel Calarco, 23, founder of the youth-empowerment nonprofit Observatório Internacional da Juventude (International Youth Watch), Brazil:
I think everyone must remember that the goal is to make things better, not to save the world. To stay motivated, I remind myself that I cannot do everything, but that I can mobilize people to work with me. We have to do the most we can with the resources available to us. Every person and every contribution counts.
3. Celebrate common ground
Máximo Mazzocco, 31, founder of the environmental nonprofit Eco House, Argentina:
I grew up seeing waste and trash all around me and wondering how we could do it better. I realized that if we want to do it better, we have to do it differently. And to make a difference, we have to work together. We must find what we have in common and start from there.
Once you start, people notice and get involved. Then you can think bigger. You can say, “Okay, I'm not alone. It's not only this street we can help, but we can change the whole city. We can change the country.” Little actions taken by many people can make a big change.
4. Empathize with your audience
Shomy Chowdhury, 26, co-founder of the global nonprofit Awareness 360, Bangladesh:
When we gave a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) training session to sex workers, we introduced some games and quizzes, and we played Bengali music that they liked. They welcomed us with all their hearts, and it was just so beautiful. A crucial part of driving change is making everyone feel comfortable so they can be their authentic selves.
Sadya Touré, 23, founder of the women-empowerment organization Mali Musso, Mali:
Anyone challenging the status quo is going to face resistance. In my experience, it was difficult to talk about inequality and women’s rights with leaders in some of Africa’s villages. That wasn’t a topic they historically prioritized or were open to discussing. You have to respect their boundaries, but it’s still possible to make change. For us, we said we wanted to talk about a health issue. That was important to them, so they let us come in and educate the girls.
5. Take that first step
Yurii Romashko, 28, co-founder of the think tank Institute of Analysis and Advocacy (IAA), Ukraine:
I don't like to use the word “problem,” because a problem is a task. I prefer “challenges.” Challenges motivate me. I see a challenge in front of me, and I start. I tell myself the first step has the potential to change public policy and change people’s ways of thinking.
Nadine Khaouli, 25, co-founder of the families-outreach initiative Kafe be Kafak (Hand in Hand), Lebanon:
There are a lot of messages in the world, but the most important one is to believe in yourself. Take the first step towards real change in your communities, because nothing is impossible. Just be patient, and work to enhance your skills to take the steps toward change.
Generation17 is Samsung’s initiative in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that aims to harness technology to elevate the voices of young leaders around the globe who are working to achieve the Global Goals over the next 10 years. Established by the United Nations in 2015, the Global Goals - or Sustainable Development Goals - provide a framework to address pressing global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change and peace and justice, and build a better future for all by 2030.