Launch of the 2018 Youth Solutions Report

Once again, I had the opportunity of serving as the editor of the Youth Solutions Report, the flagship initiative of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth.

I am particularly proud of this 2018 edition, which was presented during a launch event in New York on July 16th. Like its 2017 predecessor, the new Report showcases 50 youth-led innovations that are successfully contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and seeks to provide them with a platform for increased visibility, access to funding, and expert advice. At the same time, however, the Report significantly expands on our previous efforts. Through in-depth research and analysis, the publication specifically focuses on the challenges facing young people within larger innovation systems and in the context of a rapidly changing economic landscape, providing timely recommendations for stakeholders including governments, businesses, acceleration programs, academia, and civil society.

With high-level contributions including that of Mariana Mazzucato, Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, and endorsements from the likes of Paul Polman and Forest Whitaker, among others, I am sure that the Report will provide a lot of interesting inputs for policy-makers, investors and everyone seeking to understand how to harness youth skills in support of the SDGs.

You can read the Report at http://www.youthsolutions.report.

Media InquiriesFor media inquiries please contact solutions@sdsnyouth.org. The social media kit for the launch of the Youth Solutions Report can be downloaded here.
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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

Field Dispatch from COP23

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A few days ago, I joined the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn. This was the shortest trip among my three COP participations, but on 9 November I had the opportunity to moderate a great side-event co-hosted by SDSN Youth on how public and private actors can invest more effectively in youth-led innovation on climate and energy. It was incredibly interesting to join many young innovators and high-level experts from the Green Climate Fund, the Climate Markets and Investments Association, the SDG Action Campaign and the Government of Canada to explore the gaps in innovation systems that prevent brilliant projects from reaching their optimal scale. Huge thanks to all involved, and vinaka vakalevu to Fiji for bringing their call for global climate action to Germany! You can read the summary of the side-event on SDSN Youth’s website (here).

On a side note, I also had the fortuitous privilege of sitting next to Dënesųłiné Chief François Paulette on my flight to Bonn. To discuss the struggle of the First Nation peoples of Canada against tar sands with him was nothing short of incredible. As it usually happens during COPs, it’s the encounters you have, often with stories so radically diverse from yours, that leave a mark.

In particular, meeting Chief Paulette made me appreciate once again the UNFCCC process and its ability to create an inclusive forum for all voices to be heard and respected. It might not be ideal when negotiations stall (and this year there is indeed much to be unhappy about), but the ever-increasing role played at COPs by non-state and civil society actors is encouraging. It confirms that the climate change regime constitutes the first successful attempt at creating a truly universal movement to protect our global public goods.

  • For an analysis of the key outcomes of COP23, read this report from Carbon Brief.

P.S. I am happy to announce that this blog was recently identified by Feedspot, a popular content reader, as one of the Top 100 Environmental Law blogs on the internet. You can find the full list here.

 

Interview for #Faces4Change

A few months ago I was interviewed by UN Environment Cities and Lifestyles as part of their #Faces4Change Project, aimed at showcasing stories of young professionals integrating the #SDGs into their work and daily lifestyle.

The result is an informal chat that you can now read here, in the campaign’s website, together with anecdotes from other brilliant young innovators and leaders from around the world: http://faces4change.org/stories/piselli.html.

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.

Youth, the SDGs and the Food Sustainability Index

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On December 1, I was honored to be invited to take part in the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition, hosted by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BFCN) at Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy.

There, I had the opportunity to join Peter Bakker (CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development), Hilal Elver (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) and Rosie Boycott (Chair of London Food Policy) in a panel discussion on the launch of the first-ever Food Sustainability Index (FSI), a joint publication by BCFN and The Economist Intelligence Unit which ranks countries according to the sustainability of their food systems across the pillars of food waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. In line with the work that is being undertaken at the UN level on a robust indicator framework to monitor the implementation of the SDGs, the FSI represents a helpful, if perfectible, tool to assist and empower communities, including young people, to take action to transform their agricultural and food systems for sustainable development. You can read more about it here.

At the event, which among many others was co-organized by the the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, I also joined my colleagues and fellow SDSN Youth delegates Andrea Zucca (National Representative for Italy), Fabrizio Saladini (Regional Representative for the Mediterranean) and Michela Magni (Project Officer, Solutions Initiatives) to celebrate and connect with youth solutions presented at the annual BCFN YES!, a competition for young researchers in the food and agricultural sectors.

Throughout the world, young farmers, young entrepreneurs, young leaders in rural communities are taking the lead to achieve SDG2 and positively impact their countries and regions. It is crucial that we recognize them not only as a key demographic for policy-makers to target, but also as exceptional problem-solvers and active contributors to the implementation of the food and agriculture-related targets of the 2030 Agenda.

  • You can watch the panel discussion on the launch of the Food Sustainability Index here (the panel starts at 53:07).
  • You can also watch the highlights of the 2016 edition of the BCFN Young Earth Solutions competition here.