Hear directly from participant Mr. Kenneth Kwok, whose mission is to "embolden the reputation and representation of youth-led innovation to rest of the world."
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Youth should play a crucial role in addressing both current and future global challenges, and they need to acquire the skills necessary to meaningfully contribute to the recovery efforts post-COVID-19, support each other during these challenging times, and accelerate the role of technology in leading and scaling the recovery efforts. This requires institutions to enable youth to co-construct fruitful futures.
Today, more than 40% of the world’s population is under 25 years old. The future of the planet and humanity and their sustainability lies in their hands. Investing in youth equity, health, and education is key to achieving an inclusive, innovative and impactful world for present and future generations, the youth need to be involved in all decisions concerning their education and their future, and this starts by empowering all their voices to be heard, respected and integrated.
Through our BRIDGE principle, KIDsforSDGs advance the intersectionality of innovation, inclusion and impact to support youth-led SDG action:
- Belonging. Provide a safe and welcoming space and give power of voice and a sense of belonging.
- Respect. Respectful behaviour in our pursuit of excellence and learning.
- Innovation. Strengthen and scale our impact through innovative practices.
- Diversity. Honour and model diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Generosity. Encourage a culture of generosity of spirit.
- Empathy. Inspire a culture of passion and understanding on a global scale.
KIDsforSDGs and its youth ambassadors across Asia are excited to support the launch of the Youth Empowerment Circle initiative by #LearningPlanet. Here are some of our collective thoughts on how to support!
What is your vision of youth empowerment? Why is it important to create a Youth Empowerment circle today?
Justin Cheng, a student at Diocesan Boys’ School and Co-Founder of VIVA Forum Initiative Hong Kong, explains this best. According to Justin, “youth empowerment should integrate not only gaining first-hand experience of local issues but also through heated discussions with fellow changemakers to ignite change and consider the SDGs.” Addressing the need to act in a collective manner to recover strong and better from COVID-19, he adds: “especially in trying times, it is more critical to branch out to incorporate perspectives and tackle issues in tandem.”
Another SDG advocate and student at KGV School Hong Kong, Arthur Cheung, concurs: “Youth empowerment is a more important aspect of society than ever due to the countless increasingly prominent global issues that cast a shadow over the prospect of pleasant and sustainable living conditions for us as a global community. Thus, the youth are the very backbone of our planet’s future as they have the potential to establish a framework for how we can become responsible action-oriented global citizens who are able to work towards a better future – and alleviate these global environmental crises that we face today.”
Indeed, what COVID-19 has shown all of us is that we need to systemically establish and deepen the dialogue around youth rights, education, physical health and mental wellbeing, and every other factor that influences their potential to thrive. We as adults need to think outside of the box and apply a bottom-up approach to youth programs and initiatives.
What should be the priorities of this circle, in your view?
Priorities of the Youth Empowerment Circle are best answered by youth. However, if I may have a say, it would be breaking the glass ceiling, removing barriers of entry, and de-stigmatizing stereotypes around youth.
Jason Qiu, a student at Island School and founder of Carbon Neutral in Hong Kong believes that "innovative practices should be applied on a sustainable future, particularly on protecting environmental ecosystems. This circle should prioritize strengthening an individual’s mindset and values in order for them to take charge and lead the next generation to a more equitable and regenerative future.”
We need to collectively identify innovative practices to amplify the voice of the youth at scale and get them engaged at all levels.
What are some ideal outcomes of the circle?
According to Aden Wong, student at International Christian School Hong Kong and who is currently designing his “Exercises for Elderlies” program as his SDG action, “my vision is about young people, irrespective of race or gender, being given the resources and opportunities to upskill, not just to better our lives but also to help address issues that will affect our future. It is about youth contribution and taking up our share of responsibilities.” With as much confidence as a junior high student can embrace, he further adds, “We are tomorrow’s leaders. If we are not empowered today, we will be ill-prepared to cope with many of the world’s issues we shall be facing. As such, the ideal outcomes of this circle should be about investing in youth with resources, tools, and life skills that would be affordable, available, and accessible for the fast-changing world we live in.”
I fully concur with Aden. As a society, we need to highlight youth and their genuine talents and value and redirect their incredible energy towards decision-making and system change.
In summary, to scale impact in a sustainable manner, we must connect like-minded communities with shared causes. Following the notion of a middle ground institution, this will notably be achieved by forging strong bonds with leading institutions, networks of social entrepreneurs, foundations, governmental organizations, academia, impact investors, and more. KIDsforSDGs, Young Changemaker Incubator, and our other youth initiatives will support the Youth Empowerment Circle and facilitate youth-focused organizations to meet, share resources and advance meaningful collaborations towards youth engagement and action at both grassroots and global levels.
About the Author
As Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Capital and KIDsforSDGs, Mr. Kenneth Kwok has one core mission: to embolden the reputation and representation of youth-led innovation to rest of the world. He is the first member from Hong Kong and China to have been elected to the UpLink Innovators community - the World Economic Forum's SDG focused platform - and he has also been appointed as the first Engagement Champion for UpLink. He is a session contributor at Davos Agenda 2021 on the topic of "Accelerating Grassroots Innovation". He is also a member of the Global Innovators community. Kenneth is a Young SDG Advocate whose focus is on the intersectionality of #impact, #innovation and #inclusion.
Through a hybrid for-profit and non-profit circular model, he wishes to advance multi-stakeholder ownership towards financial and social justice, equality and well-being. Kenneth is particularly passionate about the advancement of SDG 4: Quality Education. Through KIDsforSDGs, he has built a leading community of young global changemakers in Asia through his engagements with the Forum itself, World Humanitarian Forum (where he serves on the Youth Council), InterPride (where he sits on the Board as VP of Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion), Asian Development Bank, Geneva Tsinghua Institute, iGEM Community, UNLEASH, UNITE 2030, YOUNGA, SDG Labs and more. A firm believer in intergenerational learning, Kenneth's goal is to empower Hong Kong to become Asia's hub in Education for Sustainable Development.