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Building a Generation of Change Agents

Claudia Juech — CEO and President, Cloudera Foundation
Rachel Roberts — Former Director, The Rockefeller Foundation

When Martin Luther King Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he was twenty-six years old. At twenty-four years old, Gandhi began his movement against racist pass laws in South Africa. Jane Adams started Hull House at the age of twenty-eight. The Dalai Lama led his people out of occupied Tibet into India before he was twenty. These individuals all led prominent and impactful movements and left their mark on history. What is also particularly impressive is that they did so at a young age, breaking barriers and challenging the status quo.

In a world with more young people than ever, it is critical to acknowledge their capacity to be catalysts of action and key players in realizing change.

Today’s youth are coming of age at a time of not only great social, political, and environmental challenges but also one with vast potential and opportunity to define the world’s response to those challenges through technology, innovation, civic engagement and community building.

Recognizing this, where do we start? What do young people need to find their voices and have them heard, and how are institutions and other actors across sectors best positioned to provide young people the opportunity to channel their spirit and capacity to foster positive change?

To begin such a conversation, The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center is hosting a special Thematic Residency on “Youth as Agents of Transformative Change.” From July 24th to August 9th, 2017, a select group of residents from around the world and from across sectors and disciplines will come together to tackle these questions from a range of perspectives. These residents include activists in youth-led social movements; artists exploring feminism and multiculturalism through music, composition, and fiction; academics studying education, literature, and dance; and practitioners cultivating youth talent pipelines in the private sector and thinking about the support services youth need to be successful.

The Bellagio Center Residency Program provides selected artists, academics, and practitioners from a variety of disciplines and geographies the time and space to advance their individual projects while also connecting them with a diverse cohort of accomplished and talented peers. Thematic Residencies purposefully bring together a group of residents around a shared theme, providing an opportunity to more deeply engage in one another’s work and surface new connections and perspectives. The first ever Thematic Residency at the Bellagio Center took place in 2016 and focused on the cross-cutting theme of Human Behavior.

While at the Bellagio Center, these residents will work on their individual projects and also spend time together discussing the many facets of the overarching youth theme.  In advance of their arrival at Bellagio, residents provided examples of the kinds of questions that are already top of mind, which surfaced three initial areas of interest as a starting point for discussion.

  • Connection: How are the connections young people have with one another and with their communities important for driving change? How can the unprecedented degree of technology available today expand these connections in positive ways?
  • Shifting Systems: How and where do youth have a unique ability to change the status quo? How can social, political, and economic systems best support and respond to youth as they try to build prosperous futures?
  • Action: What moves youth to action and how can they effectively realize their vision for the future?

Over the course of the residency, new questions will, of course, emerge as residents spend time together and share their work, ideas, and expertise. We look forward to sharing more as the residency begins.

The resident fellows selected for this Thematic Residency include:

Monisha Bajaj, University of San Franciso, Academic Writing Resident

Aya Chebbi, Afrika Youth Movement, Policy Fellow Resident

Henry De Sio, Ashoka, Practitioner Resident

Kiran GandhiMadame Ghandi LLC, Arts & Literary Arts Resident

Maryana Iskander, Harambee Youth Employment AcceleratorPolicy Fellow Resident

Ananya Jahanara KabirKing’s College London, Academic Writing Resident

Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau, Missing Chapter FoundationPolicy Fellow Resident

Khary Lazarre-White, The Brotherhood/Sister SolPractitioner Resident

Joshua Marquez, Composer, Arts & Literary Arts Resident

Mark McCord, Young African Leaders Network, Policy Fellow Resident

Anna Penido, Inspirare Institute, Practitioner Resident

John R. RickfordStanford University, Academic Writing Resident

Esra’a al Shafei, Majal.orgPractitioner Resident

Novuyo Tshuma, University of Houston, Arts & Literary Arts Resident

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