How Changemaker Communities Are Bringing Young Entrepreneurs Together
A new generation of changemakers is emerging. Supported by Ashoka ChangemakerXchange, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and the European Cultural Foundation, and hosted by Djazair Ta3mal, ImpactAimers empowers young people to kick-start careers as changemakers. Greta Rossi, social entrepreneur and co-founder of the initiative, reflects on her experience facilitating the first summit in Algiers.
My life and work changed last summer when I joined twenty other young social entrepreneurs from across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East at the Ashoka ChangemakerXchange Summit in Istanbul. I had finally found a community where I belong. No one asked me to explain who I am or why I am a changemaker; everyone accepted me as I am and allowed me to be authentic. During the five days we spent together, we dared greatly and discovered that we are the ones we have been waiting for. Together we chose not to wait for businesses or governments to address global inequality and injustice. Together we chose to tackle the apathy surrounding us towards these shared challenges. Together we chose to step up and become the next generation of changemakers striving to create a flourishing world.
The Ashoka ChangemakerXchange Summit inspired us to take new steps to realise our vision for a better future. Like so many of our predecessors and peers, we want to create a world where we can all live in harmony and with the rest of Nature. But we are not turning to technology to fix the problems of the world. We have seen the wisdom in the words of the world-renowned peace activist, Scilla Elworthy: “Inner work is a prerequisite for outer effectiveness.” Change starts within. And we have found in each other the support we need to reach in and find our best selves.
After embarking upon the first exciting steps of a collective journey of inner transformation we felt empowered to work together as agents of positive change. After just this one brief, yet powerful encounter, a few of us felt a connection strong enough to collaborate across continents on a new initiative. We aimed to recreate this same transformative experience for others with a home for changemakers, by changemakers. ImpactAimers would guide young people in exploring their passion for making change and discovering their purpose. It would then invite them to join an international network of social entrepreneurs in order to spark yet more new collaborations.
Just nine months after the Ashoka ChangemakerXchange Summit, we kicked off our first ImpactAimers camp in Algiers on February 19th 2016. Yanis Bouda, a co-founder of ImpactAimers and a leading social entrepreneur in Algeria, summarised our great hope and ‘intrepidation’: “I was very excited, but at the same time I was questioning whether we would really bring about the impact we were aiming for”. We could not have asked for a better reception though. Ingi Mehus, another co-founder of ImpactAimers and a successful social entrepreneur in the Netherlands, described the instant connection with the participants of the youth changemaker camp and the positive energy that they filled the room with: “The moment they arrived, I felt extremely confident that everything would be okay because I saw their excitement and willingness to learn anything”.
Over the next three days, we worked together with eighteen aspiring changemakers to co-create an enchanted environment. One participant described how this focus on ensuring a safe space meant that they could accept, what Margaret Wheatley has described as, an invitation to turn to one another: “I have never had the chance to know everyone or to talk as freely as I did during the ImpactAimers youth camp. This time it felt like I was surrounded by a supportive family and I didn’t face any difficulties in opening up”.
We also empowered participants to host sessions on their own interests. “I loved the concept,” exclaimed one of the young changemakers. “It was exciting to lead sessions and to share in such an environment.” Through a series of small workshops and large reflection circles, participants stepped into the unknown to engage with meaningful questions about who they are and what their life purpose is. “I always thought that I knew my next steps,” commented one of the participants, “but it turned out that the path wasn’t clear at all. The questions helped me gain a better understanding of myself.” Another participant expressed a similar breakthrough: “ImpactAimers is where I discovered myself and I became 100% sure about what I am looking for. I discovered myself again with you”.
Our shared experience at the first ImpactAimers camp exceeded all our expectations. During an emotional reflection together on the process and outcome of our collaboration, Ingi Mehus expressed our appreciation for the bridges that we had built across differences. Importantly, it offered Yanis Bouda a renewed sense of hope for the future of his country and his own work as a social entrepreneur in Algeria: “Through this camp I saw with my eyes how much focusing on the inner journey can change someone’s life and this made me want to dig deeper in my own journey”. In Algiers we recreated for others the spirit of our own experience in Istanbul. Now we know that we have each other as we reach in to discover our purpose as changemakers, we are feeling even stronger as we get ready to reach out once again with the next chapter for ImpactAimers.