How To Make A Roadmap For Young Changemakers

How To Make A Roadmap For Young Changemakers

Do you remember when you were 12 years old? I do. I was on a mission, convinced that I could change the world around me. In 2013, together with my sister Isabel, I started a movement in Bali because I saw a problem that I thought had an easy solution. We wanted to do something about the growing problem of plastic pollution on our home island of Bali, Indonesia. Now, when I first started, I had never heard of the word “changemaker” or “activist.” Related article – How to talk to subconscious mind to success life.

Today, I introduce myself as a full-time changemaker and movement builder. But it was not always delivered with such confidence. There is this saying, “If I only knew back then what I know today.” Sounds familiar, right? I started full of passion and excitement, believing that I would achieve this change of making Bali plastic-bag-free before summer was over and the school year started. And everywhere I went, I was met with, “so cute, so inspirational.” And yes, I guess two little girls and a bunch of friends trying to make a difference is pretty special. But you know what? Cute wasn’t really what I was going for.


I slowly learned to build a team, to gather evidence, create campaigns, develop a movement, to stage beach cleanups collect signatures, speak in public and meet politicians. The more I learned, the more I wanted things to change. Passion quickly turned into obsession, and when change didn’t happen as quickly as I expected, at 14 years old, frustration settled deep in my soul. And soon after that, in my first years of high school, I experienced my first burnout. But having said that, I wouldn’t have changed a thing, especially because in 2019, Bali finally did ban single-use plastic bags. My peers and I created our own learning journey outside of the traditional curriculum and classroom. Related article – Wake up to new life – Powerful motivational speech.

Building our own guidance and frameworks that could share with us what the next step should be, how to continue building the momentum we needed to achieve the change we wanted to see. I went through a lot of life lessons very quickly. And yet there are things that I wish someone could have told me earlier, back when I was starting. First, change does not happen as quickly as summer vacation. It takes a long time, and that is not always easy to accept. But that is why it is essential to create a clear goal with a timeline.

Also, it takes a lot of people. Listen and be open to learn, but stay true to the mission. And it would have also been so helpful to know how to navigate collaborations with businesses and politicians. Someone has to address the elephant in the room. And finally, it’s ok to take a break and step back for a second. There are many of us on the front lines who will continue the work while you rest and recharge. Today, many of us are getting involved at a younger and younger age.

16-year-olds, 15, 14, 10-year-olds are out on the front lines, missing school, drafting manifestos, organizing demonstrations, bringing governments and corporations to court, refusing to wait until we are older to start making a difference. But being a changemaker is not something anybody has on their bucket list. It isn’t something kids aspire to become when they grow up. It’s something that just happens. Something activates you. An experience, an injustice that takes place, big or small, local or global. And then there is almost no choice but to get involved. In the last few years, I have spent more time in other students’ classrooms than in my own, sharing principles of leadership, sustainability and changemaker skills.  Related – How To Become Words More Powerful.

I can say with confidence that young people are aching for skills and knowledge that will allow them to act effectively today. Real change can start in the classroom, but the classroom has an increasingly distant relationship with reality. I think it is high time to ensure that what we learn in the classrooms reflect what is happening outside of them. And to ensure that every single student in every corner of the world has at least one hour a day of mandatory lessons about the climate crisis, the 17 SDGs and about any sustainable innovations, about the realities of today’s world. From kindergarten through to graduation. And I mean mandatory.


I strongly believe that every young person can be a changemaker. But often they need help knowing where and how to start. And while we wait for the classrooms to adapt, once again, my peers and I create our own learning journey. That is when I started a network called the Circle of Youth within YOUTHTOPIA, a platform for young changemakers to learn from each other. We need role models and positive stories with an impact, real-life examples of how we can take action and we need to see this from people our age. I wish I would have known refugee educator Mohamad Al Jounde from Syria, tree planter and entrepreneur Felix Finkbeiner from Germany, or gender equality activist Faye Simanjuntak from Indonesia when I was 12 years old.

I wish that I could have been able to jump on a call with them and share ideas and experiences. Now, I have to add that with the rise in youth engagement, a new scary trend has also set in. The best way to describe it is maybe to refer to the word “greenwashing.” You all know it. It’s the process of conveying a false impression about the climate friendliness of a company product or actions. What I see happening a lot at the moment is something I would call “youthwashing.” You don’t want to know the emails and approaches we get on a daily basis from companies that want to use us for anything that sounds good or just to tick off a box. Read – How to stop negative thoughts cycling – exercises for mind.

Associating one’s brand with youth climate activists seems to be good for business, although the intention rarely extends to being good for climate too. So to the companies youthwashing, I want to say, instead of inviting youth for the photo ops and the applause, offer us a seat during the brainstorming meetings, during the internal workshops with no audience. Maybe invite us to one of your board meetings and ask us for some reverse mentoring sessions. You might be surprised.

I look back at the last 10 years and see an intense journey from a young cute girl to a changemaker. For the next decade, I see a whole generation that is rising, leading by example and taking action. Youth activism is more than an inspiration. We are serious about change. Please share this article with others.

This article based on a speech of Activist – Melati Wijsen

HowNHowTo.Com Team

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