Activating Global Citizenship

Building the next generation of global citizens for the Global Goals

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The Challenge

In September 2015, one of the most remarkable events in human history took place. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or simply the Global Goals, they were signed by all 193 world leaders at the United Nation’s General Assembly. They commit to end extreme poverty, avert catastrophic climate change, tackle inequality and ensure no one is left behind before their 2030 deadline. Young people engaged more than any other group in the process of defining the priorities within the 17 Goals and 169 different targets. 75% of the 10 million people who participated in the UN’s ‘My World’ survey, which told leaders what citizens wanted to prioritize, were under 30

Much of the excitement and engagement by young people around the world in support of the Goals has dissipated since 2015. Making the lofty Global Goals relevant to young people’s lives is challenging. Amina J. Mohammed, the United Nation’s Deputy Secretary General, has highlighted this as an urgent priority: “I think the biggest challenge is keeping the momentum to achieve the SDGs. We had an incredible process over four years of developing them, it was very inclusive. Now we're seeing that much more needs to be done to deliver them, especially at the local level. Keeping the momentum, taking the SDGs from the United Nations into countries and leveraging the potential of young people to get them on the agenda is very important.”

More than ever before young people have the tools and skills, afforded by technology and connectivity, to learn about, connect with and take action on the issues that affect them. But the Global Goals will only be reached if the voices, skills and ideas of youth are part of the global effort to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Different models to engage and empower youth are having huge success in different parts of the world. However, there is very limited data to show which are working, where and why. Evidence of what should be funded and scaled in this field is hard to come by. Disparate initiatives don’t necessarily add up to more than the sum of their parts.

How can young people most effectively give back to their communities to deliver more sustained positive impacts and create wider virtuous circles of development? By doing this they are contributing to the Global Goals – even though many aren’t aware of these Goals that their governments have signed up to. What are the most effective ways to positively engage youth who care about the future of the planet they will inherit, but want to take action, now, in their communities, and beyond?

Young people, who are making a positive contribution to issues in their communities, increasingly see themselves as being both citizens of where they are from, but also as citizens of the world, or global citizens. A global citizen is “someone who is aware of, and understands, the wider world – and their place in it.”5 They care about issues that affect their communities, but don’t stop there. They care about the linkages and lessons that relate their efforts with those of others in different contexts. They want to share insights and experiences to ensure their collective efforts go beyond their immediate surroundings. For global citizens, caring about issues that affect them is not enough. Their efforts go beyond awareness raising and help achieve positive, tangible change whether in behavior, perceptions, policies, or some combination of all three.

What we are looking for

We are seeking innovators to devise and demonstrate ways to positively engage young people (under the age of 30) in Global Citizenship at scale and in depth.

A young person’s personal interaction with a social cause can easily turn into lifelong commitment. Youth who have had positive experiences in contributing to, for example, the struggle to end disease, tackle gender inequality or educate young people, close at hand, are likely to make sustained contributions to that cause. Flying young people around the world to see first-hand different challenges facing different groups achieves deep engagement, but is not scalable. At the other end of the spectrum is engagement that requires little effort but has little lasting impact on the person involved. This engagement has scale, but not depth.

This challenge is about testing and implementing concepts and strategies to engage young people in efforts that will reduce inequality related to the first six Global Goals:


  • Goal 1: No poverty
  • Goal 2: Zero hunger
  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being
  • Goal 4: Quality education
  • Goal 5: Gender equality
  • Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Investigators are invited to propose innovative and creative solutions that uses new knowledge to positively engage young people in one or more of these goals in both scale and depth. The focus can be local, but to support Global Citizenship for the Global Goals they must also link in a clear way to efforts elsewhere – at a regional, national or global level. The initial phase, which would be funded under this initiative, must demonstrate a path to a more sustainable and scalable program. It must collect quantitative data to inform decision making for follow-on funding.

New data, evidence and approaches generated through the Challenge would relate to both scale and depth in terms of positive youth engagement in activities where the benefits accrue to people other than the actor and their immediate associates (with an emphasis on people in less advantaged social positions). Applicants are encouraged to define how their proposal achieves this, what is most important to measure and where on the spectrum of scale and depth they are deciding to focus. What the most effective forms of engagement are will vary depending on their context.

In terms of how to measure the effectiveness of positive engagement, scale, or total reach, could be measured by the total number of youth involved, online and offline, who are made aware of an issue. This must then link to the positive change it helps create, in terms of behavior, for example. Depth could be measured by the types engagement young people undertake. This could be through volunteering or organizing events, or using sports or creativity to involve youth in decisions that affect them in partnership with community leaders. These are illustrative examples. Investigators should make the case for what they believe will have the most positive, sustained impact, why this is the case, and how their proposal will help achieve this.

In terms of how to measure the effectiveness of positive engagement, scale, or total reach, could be measured by the total number of youth involved, online and offline, who are made aware of an issue. This must then link to the positive change it helps create, in terms of behavior, for example. Depth could be measured by the types engagement young people undertake. This could be through volunteering or organizing events, or using sports or creativity to involve youth in decisions that affect them in partnership with community leaders. These are illustrative examples. Investigators should make the case for what they believe will have the most positive, sustained impact, why this is the case, and how their proposal will help achieve this.

What we will consider funding:

Proposals that

  • Address the Challenge by showing how they will lead to actions taken by young people that will positively impact one or more of the first six Global Goals.
  • Outline concepts that have the potential to be scaled up.
  • Focus on learning and gathering data and evidence about how to do positively engage youth by doing that effectively, rather than trying to go for scale or solely developing research.
  • Have the potential for scale and depth at reasonable costs.
  • Focus on a specific geography or community, but should link to efforts beyond that locality.<
  • There are no geographic constraints as to where in the world proposals should be focused.
  • Are entirely online and technology-based, or blended technology and face-to-face, or predominantly offline, with limited use of technology.
  • Explain how the activities proposed will lead to the results expected, based wherever possible on experience and data
  • Show how the proposed concept or program could in the future achieve the scale and depth of engagement with a clear set of measurements at the pilot stage.
  • Describe the innovative approach captured by the concept. The initial pilot project must test the concept at some minimal scale that produces data upon which decisions for future funding could be made.

What we will not consider funding:

Proposals that

  • Require more funds than the US$100,000, or more than 12-18 months to demonstrate success
  • Lack a robust implementation plan or organisation.
  • Lack a complete, coherent design for how it will work.
  • Don’t focus on Global Goals other than 1 – 6 (these may be subject of future challenges).
  • Do not address the challenge.
  • Have no capacity for scale in the future.
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