Youth-led innovation for a world in transition: launching the 2018 Youth Solutions Report’s Call for Submissions

The following is the official announcement, made on behalf of SDSN Youth, of the call for submissions to the 2018 edition of the Youth Solutions Report. You can learn more at http://www.youthsolutions.report.

We are in the midst of an era of unprecedented transformation. Be it in the context of the rapid modifications of the global economy, in the difficulties our societies face in coping with massive technological and other societal changes, or in the dramatic ways in which our ecosystems are adapting and reacting to increased anthropogenic pressures, the world is calling for solutions that can embark us upon a trajectory of sustainable development.

Yet, worryingly, we seem to have lost the notion that it is young people who are the best positioned to analyze and solve this sort of novel challenges. Young men and women between the ages of 15 and 30 today represent the best-educated generation ever; are more intelligent than the average of the adult population, and are far more knowledgeable about new technologies. In addition, and mainly as a consequence of these other characteristics, younger generations also have a grasp of uncertainty and complexity that other age groups often lack. On the one hand, this leads to a better understanding of the synergies and trade-offs involved in addressing the cross-sectoral challenges enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the other, it allows young people to think of institutional arrangements and innovations that confront the many forms of path dependency which exist in international organizations, governments, and businesses and usually lead to inefficient, inequitable and unsustainable outcomes.

For the first time in history, young people from different countries and regions often share the same objectives and grievances, usually linked with the negative impacts of globalization and poor governance, and are increasingly part of a common culture as well. This goes beyond the usual notion that “all young people are idealistic”, even though idealism itself is everything but a negative word, in the context of the major challenges we are facing. Rather, it speaks of the incredible, untapped potential of 1.8 billion global citizens who largely hold the same ideas about how to transform our societies for the better through innovative forms of problem-solving along the four dimensions of sustainable development.

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At SDSN Youth, we believe that failing to partner with young innovators and change-makers would represent the biggest waste of human capital in the history of mankind. This is why we are proud to announce that we will be launching the second edition of our Youth Solutions Report in July 2018.

Like its 2017 predecessor, this year’s Report also seeks to identify and celebrate 50 youth-led solutions that are succesfully contributing towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in business, charity, education and research. However, the new Report comes with a wider scope and greater ambitions, aiming to inform the policies and actions of all stakeholders through in-depth research and analysis, with a view to substantially increase the support that young innovators receive in their countries and communities.

In 2017, with the first edition of the Youth Solutions Report, we offered young innovators the opportunity to present their solutions and take part in international conferences and events, including the UN High-Level Political Forum, the International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD), EXPO 2017 Astana, COP23, the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, and UNLEASH Lab 2017. We also helped youth-led solutions become more visible online, not just through our media channels but also with collaborations with websites and media outlets including National Geographic, Impakter, Virgin Unite, and Connect4Climate, among others. Lastly, we shared funding and mentoring opportunities, matched innovators with interested experts and supporters, and launched the first edition of our Investment Readiness Program in collaboration with Babele.co in January 2018.

With this year’s Report, we are confident that we will significantly build on our past successes, establish new meaningful partnerships with UN Agencies, NGOs, companies and media outlets, and overall step up our support to youth-led initiatives in their quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through holistic and innovative approaches.

“Young people not only have a stake because they will be the ones implementing the SDGs and because their well-being will depend on achieving them. They also have a stake because they are part of the most educated generation in the history of the world, and through their skills, creativity, and enthusiasm they are uniquely positioned to deliver transformative change across multiple sectors of society.”

Submissions to the 2018 Youth Solutions Report are open until April 30, 2018, at this link.  For more information, contact us at solutions@sdsnyouth.org

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EULawSD Webinar with Guido Schmidt-Traub

On March 1st, in my position of Programme Manager for the the Jean Monnet Module on European Union Law and Sustainable Development (EULawSD), I had the pleasure of hosting the first session of our EULawSD Webinar Series 2018 on YouTube.

The EULawSD Webinar Series complements the activities of the EULawSD Jean Monnet Module, which is coordinated by Prof. Riccardo Pavoni (Department of Law, University of Siena) and co-funded by the European Commission for the period 2017-2020. Each webinar is aimed at fostering a lively public debate on the role of the European Union as a key actor in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and offers all interested citizens the opportunity to engage with leading experts and practitioners in the fields of European Union law and governance, sustainability science, international economics, and many more.

EULawSD’s first guest was Dr. Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).  One of the world’s leading experts on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda, Dr. Schmidt-Traub engaged with the audience to discuss the current trends and scenarios for their implementation in the European context, the challenges of financing and monitoring of progress, and the role that the European Union can play in the achieving sustainable development in third countries. I wish to thank him deeply for his participation in the webinar, which can be watched on EULawSD’s YouTube Channel.

For more information on the future project activities of the EULawSD Module, visit http://www.eulawsd.org.

Jean Monnet Module proposal selected by the European Commission

Exciting news! The European Commission’s Education, Audiovisuals and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) has selected a Jean Monnet Module proposal I wrote with Prof. Riccardo Pavoni (University of Siena) for co-funding under the Erasmus+ Programme (Call EAC/A03/2016).

Among the 833 proposals received by the EACEA for Jean Monnet teaching and research activities, 141 were selected for funding. The project activities will now be hosted by the Department of Law of the University of Siena and implemented over the course of three years.

EULawSD seeks to explore the ever-expanding corpus of European Union Law relating to sustainable development, with an emphasis on its interactions with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. The module will consist of an annual 40-hour course primarily aimed at students of the Single Cycle Degree Programme in Law at the University of Siena, but also open to students from the Political Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences departments. The course will be complemented, on an annual basis, by a keynote opening lecture, a final expert roundtable, a dedicated website, and a series of webinars.

I am honored to be a co-recipient of such a prestigious grant, among the hundreds of applications received by the EACEA, and I look forward to my involvement as manager of the module’s activities despite my distance from Siena.

The full list of selected proposals can be found here.

New Policy Brief from SDSN Youth

I am happy to announce the publication of a new joint Policy Brief by UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth and The Social Investment Consultancy on “Supporting youth-led innovation to achieve the SDGs”, which I co-authored.

The Brief, presented on 17 July 2017 at the United Nations‘ High-level Political Forum in New York, outlines a series of opportunities for action by all stakeholders to leverage youth skills and solutions in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Among its repeated references to the importance of partnerships for sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda emphasizes the role of children and young people as “critical agents for change” and encourages the UN Major Groups (including the UN Major Group on Children and Youth) to participate in the review of, and report on their contribution to the achievement of the SDGs.

In order to move beyond statements of principles, however, it remains essential to assess the real extent to which young people worldwide are delivering solutions to sustainable development challenges at all levels, as well as to investigate (and learn how to overcome) the barriers preventing young innovators and problem-solvers from implementing their projects and bringing them to scale.”

You can download the publication at http://www.youthsolutions.report/publications/. Please direct any inquiries to solutions@sdsnyouth.org.

SDSN Youth launches Youth Solutions Report

This article is adapted from the preface of first edition of the Youth Solutions Report. It was also published in SDSN Youth’s blog. Dario Piselli is the Project Leader for Solutions Initiatives of SDSN Youth and the editor-in-chief of the Youth Solutions Report.

On 31 January 2017, SDSN Youth, the global youth division of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), will officially launch the first edition of the Youth Solutions Report at the annual United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum (taking place on 30-31 January in New York). The Youth Solutions Report bears the fruits of a year-long process in which SDSN Youth, in partnership with Ashoka, PANORAMA (managed by IUCN and GIZ), Sustainia, The Resolution Project, and many other supporters, sourced youth-led solutions across all countries and regions to showcase the innovative approach that young people are taking in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the help of a high-level Advisory Panel comprising world-leading experts in different disciplines, the Report identifies 50 youth-led projects, including entrepreneurial ventures, educational programs, research activities, and charity initiatives, and provides them with a platform that addresses the difficulties that young innovators face in securing funding, building capacity, communicating their experience and scaling their efforts. Covering an international spectrum, encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving and showcasing solutions from a broad range of fields and sectors, the Report closely aligns with the 17 SDGs and 169 targets that will shape the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda from Youth Needs to Youth Skills

When ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development‘ was agreed at the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, there was widespread agreement on the fact that the international community’s progress towards a sustainable future should be a matter of utmost importance for all inhabitants of this planet, but particularly for younger generations.

Across the Goals and targets included in the Agenda, a close look at the available data (which is, unfortunately, often missing or incomplete) reveals the unique toll that poverty, war, lack of opportunities, social exclusion, climate change and environmental degradation are taking on young people worldwide.

The primary issue that comes to mind is, of course, unemployment. In 2016, the International Labour Organization estimated that the global unemployment rate for youth has reached 13.1 percent, three times the adult unemployment rate and affecting young women more than men in almost all regions of the world. In addition, it is especially worrying that up to two thirds of youth in developing economies are currently without work, not studying, or engaged in irregular or informal employment, thereby fueling the risk of social unrest and further affecting the likelihood of conflict and migration.

Aside from the direct threat of unemployment, however, there are multiple, equally important dimensions to the challenges faced by young people in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Notwithstanding vast improvements in education and health since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, for example, the number of children and adolescents who are not in school is on the rise, whilst more than 2.6 young people aged 10-24 continue to die each year, mostly due to preventable causes. Today, more than 600 million youth live in fragile and conflict-affected territories, and the number of young people forcibly displaced by conflicts and disasters has skyrocketed since it was last measured in 2011, when it was already high at 14 million. Access to financial and social assets and business development services, which are crucial to helping youth make their own economic decisions and get out of poverty, remains an arduous tasks, and environmental change now threatens to directly erode youth livelihoods or aggravate the impact of other factors, such as health and work opportunities, in many countries.

On the one hand, the 2030 Agenda emphasized the need to address some of these daunting challenges, including unemployment, access to education and health care, and general lack of opportunities for the full realization of young people’s rights and capabilities. Moreover, it identified children and young women and men as critical agents for change, and lauded their ‘infinite capacities for activism in the creation of a better world’.

Why are youth-led solutions crucial to achieving the SDGs?

Yet, when describing the situation facing young people, who currently comprise one fourth of the global population, one aspect continues to be largely overlooked: the incredible potential of mobilizing and supporting their active contribution, rather than just discussing about their needs and problems. Young people not only have a stake because they will be the ones implementing the SDGs and because their well-being will depend on achieving them, but also (and especially) because they are part of the most educated generation in the history of the world, and through their skills, creativity, and enthusiasm they are uniquely positioned to deliver transformative change across multiple sectors of society. Globally, it has been estimated that young people are 1.6 times more likely than older adults to become entrepreneurs, have higher literacy rates, and are more networked than the global population as a whole. In fact, in the world’s least developed countries, young people are nearly three times more likely than the general population to be using the internet.

In other words, ranging from entrepreneurship to volunteering, scientific research, educational initiatives and all sorts of innovative endeavours, young people are already playing a major role in pushing our countries towards sustainable development. To name but a few, in this Report the founders of Liter of Light are shown bringing over 750,000 affordable solar lights to 15 countries; the talented team behind BenBen operates a Blockchain-based land registry that facilitates secure land transactions to encourage investments and transparent land resource management; FinFighters run a citizen shark science program to collect genetic data and information from Moroccan fishing ports and market; and the group running the SHAPE project uses mobile technology to promote citizens’ e-participation in their city’s public life.

This is why, now more than ever, the efforts of young people should be celebrated and showcased at all relevant levels. This is also why we believe it is crucial to bridge the gap that still exists between these youth-led solutions and those stakeholders, including businesses, governments, and fellow citizens, who could further empower, support and invest in them, once they know more about the incredible impact that youth are having across their communities and regions.

By launching the Youth Solutions Report, we aim to give further voice to young leaders and innovators, by allowing them to communicate their undertakings, forge new partnerships and ultimately be the driving force behind the 2030 Agenda. Whether you are a policymaker, an impact investor, a philanthropist or a young individual yourself, we strongly encourage you to be part of this exciting initiative, not only by learning more about the 50 Solutions and Ideas that are included in the Report, but most importantly through your active support to youth solutions.

In 2017, SDSN Youth will use the Youth Solutions Report as the first step of a comprehensive, long-term strategy that will allow young changemakers to have access to multiple opportunities for funding, technical assistance, mentoring, and networking. We look forward to engaging with existing and new partners on joint events, actions and programs that create these opportunities, and to do that we need the widest possible support at all relevant levels.

Let’s make sure that the untapped potential of youth is finally mobilized to meet the challenge of sustainable development.

The challenges of global health reform in the 21st century

This brief article was originally written for the newsletter of the Global Health Centre of the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Its aim is to introduce the second year of the research project on “How to Break the Gridlock in Global Health Governance”, on which I am working as one of the two principal investigators.

When looking at the changing landscape of global health over the course of the last two decades, it appears evident that the significant progress and breakthroughs that have occurred in this relatively short period of time have also left a number of issues unaddressed.

On the one hand, the three Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) relating to health have remained unmet, despite huge improvements in low- and middle-income countries with respect to infectious diseases as well as reproductive, maternal and child health. On the other, the emergence of new (and often unprecedented) health threats, such as those represented by the shifting burden of disease and mortality towards non-communicable diseases, more severe outbreaks and pandemics, and increasing risks associated with climate change and environmental degradation (link), poses troubling questions over the capability of the global health system to deal with the ever increasing interconnectedness and complexity characterising the field.

In this context, a central challenge to make the global health system fit for the 21st century is that of understanding what kind of role governance has played in some of the major achievements, and in particular what has made specific advancements possible; why certain solutions were chosen over others; and whether those solutions can now provide valuable insights into how to deal with emerging issues.

From such perspective, it can be argued that global health governance has witnessed a significant degree of institutional innovation and political agency, both within and beyond the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multilateral agencies, and WHO itself has demonstrated to be capable of organizational learning in the aftermath of health crises such as SARS and H1N1.

At the same time, however, two major concerns remain. First, these developments have been mainly driven by cosmopolitan moments which opened limited windows of opportunity for reform but left some of the structural weaknesses of the current governance architecture unaddressed. More specifically, the possibility of identifying pathways that may lead to gridlock in global health governance, while not entirely representative of the post-1990 global health landscape, certainly represents a critical alarm bell for a system which is called upon to deliver on the targets set by Sustainable Development Goal 3 while dealing with the daunting task of tackling the broader determinants of health in an increasingly interconnected world.

Secondly, as evidenced by the recent High-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which yielded a strong political declaration at the 71th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, increasing importance is attached to global health and its implications for national and international security, economic well-being, and economic and social development. In this sense, the shift of global health from sectoral issue to major topic discussed in the highest spheres of politics and governments, constitutes not only an opportunity but also an additional challenge for the global health governance system: as it creates the conditions for mobilizing action, it also requires multi-sectoral approaches to be adopted, coordination among actors to be strengthened, and increased institutional flexibility to be achieved.

At the Global Health Centre, the ongoing research project on “How to break the gridlock in global health governance”, which is currently entering its second year, is trying to provide an answer to these complex challenges and highlight potential options for reform by conducting in-depth research about how pathways to gridlock have manifested themselves across different health threats; identifying institutional changes and responses; and uncovering the causal dimensions between them. As such, the project will not only be able to provide a valuable contribution to the current understanding of how global health governance has evolved in the past two decades, but also, more importantly, describe how such gridlock has been overcome or can now be avoided.

Funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) and working with a number of different partners across academia, international organisations, civil society, and the private sector, “How to break the gridlock in global health governance” started in October 2015 and is expected to last for two years.

  • Download research summary (pdf)