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5/28/24

10 Social Impact Solutions Spotlighted at Global Citizen NOW

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This month I got to attend Global Citizen NOW in New York City, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience! Not only did I have the opportunity to hear from some celebrities I admire, like Padma Laxmi, Michelle Yeoh, and Hugh Jackman, but I also got to learn from Changemakers of all generations, dedicated to improving the quality of life for all. Each session was short, but skipped through the fluff and went straight to the heart of the issues and the solutions, going through the who, what, where, when, why, how, and why now. This format, intermixed with musical and dance performances, the Global Citizen Award Ceremony, and surprise Biscoff cookies taped under my chair, undoubtedly kept me on my toes. I walked away with an overwhelming reassurance that my voice matters and there are incredibly talented people making significant contributions with their heart and soul to liberate our planet and people.

The introduction video shared messages that prepared me for the program ahead:

  • Scope and pace matter.
  • Accountability and delivery are key.
  • Human made [problems] can be human corrected.
  • We need to help frontline voices.
  • Your voice is the most important thing you have because even if you can speak to one person, you are influencing some kind of change.
  • It’s up to all of us.
  • There are more than enough resources on this planet.
  • The youth are leading the way by increasing our participation, making our voices heard, finding ways to connect with people on a more human level, leveraging technology, and working with our communities. We are not just talking, but actively seeking ways to take action, and taking it!

After the inspiring video, we turned our heads to the opening panel, during which Hugh Evans, Co-Founder and CEO of Global Citizen, outlined the 3 priority areas for Global Citizen NOW NYC 2024:

  1. A breakthrough for the planet by securing an additional one billion dollars to reforest the Amazon.
  2. Investment in Africa. Many G20 nations have not been keeping their promises and now is the time for them to follow through so that the 75 of the world’s poorest countries have access to cheap lines of credit so they can ultimately be debt-free and not shackled by the burdens that often hold people back.
  3. Raising $600 million for Education Cannot Wait so that every child in a conflict and crisis zone does not miss out on a year of quality education.

Global Citizen is driving urgent action to tackle the world’s greatest challenges and end extreme poverty within our lifetime. During this inspiring event, I learned about numerous social impact solutions, which were once ideas but have since turned into urgent action. The following is a list of just 10 of these solutions, each one accompanied by a call to action.

1. Vote, hold polluters accountable, and act on your commitments. During the first panel, “World at a Crossroads: Act Today to Save Tomorrow,” H.E. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, shared about the devastating impacts of climate change on Antigua and Barbuda, especially the relocation of Barbudan residents to Antigua in 2017 due to Hurricane Irma. However, he zoomed out, explaining that this experience is not limited to small island states, since “most countries have coastal communities…in threat.” He continued, “collective action of all of humanity [is required] to address this existential threat…and each of us must be committed to addressing this issue by reducing our emissions, by holding the large polluters accountable,...protect[ing] our planet in the interest of all of our civilization and preserv[ing] our common humanity.” He asks leaders to “show greater commitment, adopt new technologies to increase the transition to renewables, ensure we don’t exceed the 1.5 degrees threshold, show responsibility…and liberate themselves from fossil fuel organizations and lobbyists. He asks voters to hold their leaders accountable to the phase out of fossil fuels. I share this sentiment because I have gone to the last three COPs with my peers and have grown tired of the commitment announcements by leaders without meaningful follow through. One step I will take this year is to vote in the U.S. presidential election and encourage others to vote as well.

Call to Action:  Check out HeadCount, a non-profit organization committed to enhancing voter registration and engagement, and their latest registration initiative, 'I am a voter.'

2. Allocate and free up funding for the most vulnerable countries. Last year, Global Citizen launched their ‘Power Our Planet’ campaign urging governments, polluters, and banks to address climate change and allocate funding for critical needs. Then in Paris in June, NGOs, governments, and global leaders introduced a new debt pause option for disaster-affected countries that has freed up billions of dollars in funding for small island developing states facing natural disasters like hurricanes. This year the campaign aims to unlock resources for African economic development and Global Citizen, in partnership with Bridgewater Associates, will hold an economic summit in Côte D’Ivoire in October. "We need multilateral development banks and G20 countries to implement reform proposals, extending debt pause clauses and tapping into additional sources of funding to deliver for the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” said Global Citizen CEO and Co-Founder Hugh Evans.

Call to Action: Join this effort to help unlock critical funding, and increase support for the poorest countries. Whether you are a world leader, artist, philanthropist, or private sector leader, your advocacy is crucial. For more information on the Power Our Planet campaign, please reach out to:

3. Use music as a tool to eradicate global poverty. Shain Shapiro, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Music Ecosystems, made a significant announcement of the launch of extensive research aimed at exploring how music and its ecosystem can be used on a global scale to fight against extreme poverty. “Together with Global Citizen and Universal Music Group, and partners at the United Nations, we are launching a vision today... to see how music can be a tool to eradicate global poverty,” said Shapiro.

Call to Action: Read their full report here.

4. Support indigenous leaders. The final two panels of the summit drew attention to climate action, with prominent voices from Brazil, including Puyr Tembé, the Pará State Secretary of Indigenous Peoples, Anitta, Brazilian artist and activist, Alain-Richard Donwahi, COP15 President, and Mauro O’de Almeida, Pará State Secretary of the Environment. They underscored the critical importance of indigenous involvement in shaping climate policy and environmental protection. “We need each one of you to join this movement and to come together — let's support Indigenous Peoples because they are the best guardians of our planet,” said Tembé. With their passion and words, they established a feeling of optimism ahead of COP30 in Belém, Brazil, and demonstrated the urgency to protect critical ecosystems like the amazon rainforest. Anitta sounded like a broken record saying, “we want to see the environment doing well, to see the planet doing well, even if that means the rich people are not going to be as rich... let's make sure the platforms are obligated to show [climate] content to everybody.” Yet, we still have a ways to go! However, with the momentum already building around COP30, I have hope that a sustainable future is possible.

Call to Action: Watch one of the panels here.

These next six solutions come from the Global Citizen Prize 2024 Awardees and the Cisco Youth Leadership Award Recipient. I was incredibly moved by the impact they have each had in their communities and worldwide despite having limited resources, and often working in tough conditions. Please take a moment to read their extended stories at the links provided to learn from their immensely inspiring journeys.  

5. Use science and recycled plastic to tackle water scarcity.

Cisco Youth Leadership Award recipient: Ricardo Enrique Alba Torres, CEO & Co-Founder of Eko Group H2O+, from Colombia

  • Ricardo is a 29-year-old environmental engineer from Bogotá, Colombia and CEO and Co-Founder of the social enterprise Eko Group H2O+. Through this social enterprise, Ricardo provides environmentally sustainable technologies to address global water access issues. His expertise has impacted over 150 communities, benefiting over 15,000 active users with 350 Ekomuros H2O+ tanks installed across Colombia and LATAM, and reaching over 85,000 indirect beneficiaries. The tank’s ability to alleviate water scarcity and aid the environment is two-fold: first by producing a tank that provides access to water for those who most need it, and then by recycling single-use plastic products. Ricardo's commitment to environmental sustainability and social impact underscores his powerful leadership in tackling one of the world's most pressing challenges. Learn more about Ricardo and his solution here.
  • “I think that it’s super important to believe in yourself.  I learned this important part from my father because all his life he was an entrepreneur with new ideas and inventions. I think that he believed, and I learned that from my father — believe in yourself and be confident.”

6. Reinvent our health systems to attain health equity.

Andrew Ddembe, Health Lawyer, Founder and Executive Director, Mobiklinic Foundation, from Uganda

  • Andrew Ddembe is a 27-year-old health equity advocate, health lawyer, and Founder and CEO of Mobiklinic Foundation, a digital health organization that strives for improved last-mile health delivery and equitable vaccine access. Andrew founded Mobiklinic in 2018 and since then, the organization has expanded access to healthcare and vaccines in the Buikwe region of eastern Uganda, and in Busia, western Kenya. Andrew envisions scaling Mobiklinic across Africa, empowering grassroots communities through the creation, utilization, and digital empowerment of community health workers. Read Andrew’s story here.
  • "A hundred years from now, I want to be remembered for making the world a fairer place... reinventing our health systems for universal access to healthcare."

7. Invest in and transform the lives of girls and young women.

Lydia Charles Moyo, Founder and Executive Director of Her Initiative and Panda Digital, from Tanzania

  • Lydia is a 31-year-old Tanzanian feminist who is passionate about empowering girls and young women to achieve their full potential and financial freedom through strategic economic empowerment interventions. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Her Initiative, an NGO that works with and for young women and girls to break the cycle of poverty and achieve financial resilience. She also created Panda Digital, the first Swahili hybrid e-learning platform for women in Tanzania, providing access to skills, resources, and social justice through a website platform and AI-powered SMS technology. Lydia has been championing economic empowerment and technology to support young women with unleashing their full potential and fighting against gender-based violence (GBV) through economic resilience programs and technology-GBV reporting. Read about her journey here.
  • “Everything starts from a dream. The bigger the dream, the bigger the chance.”  

8. Use the power of law to secure justice for victims of land and environmental injustices.

Olivier Bahemuke Ndoole, Environmental Rights Defender and Lawyer, Co-Founder of Alerte Congolaise pour l’Environnement et les Droits de l’Homme, from Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Olivier is a 36-year-old Congolese environmental rights defender and lawyer from North Kivu, in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He has dedicated his life’s work to advocating for environmental rights, land rights, and land justice, working on climate disputes, energy transition, and the legal protection of environmental and land defenders. He pushes for transparent, accountable, and sustainable governance of land tenure regimes for the country’s lands. In 2008, he co-founded the NGO ‘’Alerte Congolaise pour l’Environnement et les Droits de l’Homme’’, through which he has actively supported and represented local communities, groups and individuals working on the environment for over 15 years. Olivier has been persecuted and faced grave danger due to his human rights work, targeted by recurring death threats and an attempted assassination, which caused him to flee his home country and go into exile for his own protection. He also has had very limited time with his family as a result. Despite these harrowing circumstances, he is hopeful and inspired to continue securing justice for the victims of land and environmental injustices in the DRC, especially at-risk and vulnerable groups like women and children. Learn more about the courageous Olivier here.
  • “You cannot put a price on this work. If death happens, it will have been worth dying for.”

9. Transform our food systems and close the gender nutrition gap.

Sophie Healy-Thow, Founder, Act4Food, Global Youth Campaigns Coordinator for the GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition), from Ireland

  • Sophie is the 26-year-old Founder of the Act4Food campaign, which catalyzes global food system transformation by putting food security at the top of every agenda and prioritizing access to sustainable agriculture and nutritious food for all people. The goal was to empower young people worldwide to advocate for a global food system that ensures equitable access to safe, affordable, and nutritious diets, while championing environmental conservation, combating climate change, and upholding human rights. Since launching in May 2021, Act4Food has garnered the support of 160,000 online and 400,000 offline pledges, fostering a global community committed to enacting meaningful change through personal actions. In addition to this campaign, Sophie is the Global Youth Campaigns Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), where she coordinates initiatives that endeavor to revolutionize food systems. Read more about her journey here.
  • "We can't do this alone. It's about working together to make it happen."

10. Take climate change to the world’s highest court.

Vishal Prasad, Campaign Director, Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), from Fiji

  • Vishal is a friend of mine, and I was elated to see him and his team receiving this award! Vishal is a 27-year-old from Suva, Fiji, serving as the Campaign Director of Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, a youth-led organization campaigning for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate change and human rights. He graduated from the University of the South Pacific, with degrees in international politics and law, and has been part of the ICJ advisory opinion movement since 2019. He is also part of the global ICJ advisory opinion movement under the World’s Youth for Climate Justice (WY4CJ). As part of the ICJ advisory opinion campaign, he has a strong focus on securing the Pacific youth demands on the protection of the rights of current and future generations from the adverse effects of climate change. Learn more about him here.
  • “Community is at the heart.”

It was uplifting to hear from each of these young leaders who are taking action NOW, making an impact NOW. We are the leaders of TODAY and I am excited to continue meeting and learning from young leaders around the world as I continue my leadership journey too.

While reading this, you may have wondered how I ended up at Global Citizen NOW in the first place. I actually discovered this event on Eventbrite when I was searching for Earth Day activities, and signed up! I went to my first Global Citizen Festival in NYC in 2015 which had an insane line-up featuring Coldplay, Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Sunidhi Chauhan, and others alongside incredible leaders like Malala Yousafzai and Ban-Ki Moon. Then, I continued to follow their work and take actions online (which is how you can win tickets to a festival). Last year, I learned that my friend reached out to one of the Co-Founders of Global Citizen, Michael Sheldrick, on instagram to meet for a coffee and since then they have become good friends. At the book talk, Michael shared this story with the audience, and during his book signing, invited young leaders like me to attend Global Citizen NOW. Be sure to check out his book, From Ideas to Impact: A Playbook for Influencing and Implementing Change in a Divided World.

The final piece of wisdom I would like to impart is the quote Michael shared during the book talk. He quoted Eleanore Roosevelt, advising that “the best way to begin is to begin.” It sounds simple, because it is. Everyday I remind myself to be a doer, someone that follows through on what they set out to do. Trying to figure out how to make an impact and actually make an impact are challenging, but I am grateful to have these opportunities to learn as I go.

Thanks for reading!

About Global Citizen (from their website)

Global Citizen is the world’s leading international advocacy organization on a mission to end extreme poverty NOW. Powered by a worldwide community of everyday activists raising their voices and taking action, the movement is amplified by campaigns and events that convene leaders in music, entertainment, public policy, media, philanthropy and the corporate sector. Over the past 10 years, $43.6 billion in commitments announced on Global Citizen platforms has been deployed, impacting nearly 1.3 billion lives. Established in Australia in 2008, Global Citizen’s team operates from New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Melbourne, Toronto, Johannesburg, Lagos and beyond. Join the movement at globalcitizen.org, download the Global Citizen app, and follow Global Citizen on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, X, and LinkedIn.

Global Citizen NOW was made possible by Authentic Brands Group, Bridgewater Associates, Cisco, Citi, Delta Air Lines, P&G and Verizon. The Global Citizen Prizes were made possible by Cisco and Citi.

Sources not linked above:

About the Author

Pooja is a global climate justice leader and the Founder and Executive Director of Youth Climate Collaborative (YCC), a global youth-led community creating a more just, inclusive, and intergenerational climate movement that activates and sustains youth. She is also a Co-founder of the Entertainment + Culture Foundation, an organization that advocates for the creative industry to decarbonize and for greater resources for climate creatives. She serves as an Advisor for Rivet, which is creating the world’s largest micro-grant fund for youth-led action, an Advisor for Penn State University's Global Youth Storytelling and Research Lab, an Alumni Committee Member of the Walking Softer Young Leaders Program and a member of the Green Leadership Trust. She is also a public speaker, judge for various youth climate grants, and co-designer of a number of climate funds and grant programs. She is an active member of YOUNGO (the children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC) and the US Youth Climate Policy Council. In November 2022, although not ultimately selected, she was double-nominated and shortlisted to serve as the North America youth climate advisor to the UN Secretary General. Learn more or reach out here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pooja-tilvawala/

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