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Shaping a fairer world through innovating for SDGs

Within the span of just a few decades, the term sustainability has made an extraordinary rise to fame as it has become one of the defining features of the 21st-century reality. Today, the term sustainability encompasses a whole paradigm shift to our understanding of the world and our place within it. This new paradigm of sustainability is set to have a fundamental effect on how we manage and design systems in the 21st century as it will affect all aspects of our economy.

The gap in knowledge and understanding of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in our societies has fostered differing opinions towards embracing sustainability. This hinders quite a lot of development and the fight to combat climate change. Youths have therefore taken up the mandate to address this gap effectively.

Elly Savatia – the founder of Innovate4SDGs Initiative is a motivated young Kenyan youth who is passionate about disseminating knowledge on SDGs to young people. He explains more about his organization.

Tell us a little more about your organization

Innovate4SDGs Initiative is a young and youth-led organization in addressing Kenya’s current information gap of SDGs. We are passionate about equipping and engaging young people with knowledge on UN SDGs as well as activating interest towards innovation for global goals to solve pressing challenges. We aim to empower youth and shape them into leaders of a fairer world, through open discussions, debates, design thinking sessions, networking and connecting peers from a variety of backgrounds to come together and form a circle of innovators. We have also increased the theme of promoting gender-sensitive STEM education where we are targeting to expose this STEM knowledge to schools specifically from marginalized communities.

What was your drive to venture into the field sustainability?

According to a report by MK-Africa and Trends and Insights for Africa (TIFA), the average awareness for the 17 SDGs among university students who only make up a fraction stands at 45 % compared to the 54 percent average recorded globally making this to be of great concern. Some people think the SDGs are complex, others think they are simple. As such taking time to grasp them is not normal and lack of interest comes in.

I got interested in SDGs in 2018 after I championed my school to participate in a global climate action project. A few months later I found myself among the few countable students taking part in an innovation project competition. There seemed to be some lack of interest in my peers. During that period, I conducted a short informal survey amongst my colleagues in school. I came to the conclusion that there’s inadequate information about global goals. From this, I learnt to rethink my life choices and I was faced with a diversity of ideas that challenged. What kind of Africa do we want??? This pushed me to take action and start a volunteer-based initiative called Innovate 4 SDGs initiative.

What is your biggest concern about our ability as a country to create a more sustainable world?

To me, a sustainable world means the need to live in the present in ways that do not jeopardize the future. The sustainable development goals are undeniably a concrete plan to improve and save the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. An effective journey towards attaining them will simply start with knowing them and communicating their importance for the good of everyone hereby involving everyone in the process of achieving them. Our country’s challenges will get easier and better solved if everyone takes action ‘leaving no one behind.’

How have you managed to embed sustainable thinking within your organization?

Through an alternative curriculum, different from the traditional one in Kenya, we are empowering students with global citizenship and problem-solving skills to prepare them to be change makers through innovating and helping them raise their voices towards a fairer world and sustainable development.

We educate, advocate, and create a platform mobilizing young people to connect, collaborate and integrate their ideas and perspectives towards the implementation of the SDGs. We aim to empower youth and shape them into leaders of a fairer world.

Through a six-week program in selected primary and high school in Nairobi where students, through open discussions, debates and design thinking sessions are made aware of the SDGs. We also have an online community of young leaders aimed at networking and connecting peers from a variety of backgrounds where we hold meaningful online discussions on current issues with relation to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

Share highlights of projects that your organization has engaged in.

Innovate 4 SDGs initiative was launched in mid-February 2019, We started engaging in talks with students, encouraging creativity and achievable acts. Our goal has always been to prepare them to be global citizens who have the vision and will to advance humanity the knowledge to ensure sustainable development and peace through innovating tangible solutions to local problems.

In March 2019, we had the opportunity to partner with globally renowned STEM expert Dr. Ken Silburn who is Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize 2017 Top 10 finalist. On his trip to Kenya, we collaborated on STEM Outreach programs where we visited several public schools in Nairobi and Kibera area. This campaign ended up inspiring thousands of high school students to have the desire of pursuing STEM courses in future.

What factors do you consider when proposing a sustainability initiative or campaign?

Our area of concern is how we can influence this generation to innovate and act towards attaining global goals. Addressing the knowledge gap on SDGs and informing the young people with the required skills to undertake will contribute to a more sustainable world. Involving young people is paramount in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. Most problems we face root from the failure to provide appropriate opportunities for the youth who make a large population in our continent could have enormous significance. Young people have the potential to convert the little they have into meaningful products to even employ themselves and create more job opportunities for other unemployed youth.

Who supports the projects in your organization?

We look forward to collaborating with other academic programs, institutions or organizations pushing the sustainability agenda. So far, we have not secured any partnership yet. This indeed has been and will continue being a learning experience. My team has been instrumental a lot especially when it comes to giving moral support. We have been collaborating coming up with ideas, weighing the options presented and making decisions. We have also worked together to mobilize our online community on WhatsApp and Facebook who have kept our conversations and online discussions active. Every Friday evening, there is a topic on a pressing challenge which is discussed in our online space.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced as an organization towards sustainability?

First, accessing expert advice with regards to long term planning and ensuring an effective sustainable model has also been a challenge.

Secondly, ensuring a steady flow of funds has been a challenge towards executing some activities since most of our activities have been a voluntary challenge.

In addition, another important step we are looking forward to moving towards is the involvement and participation of key stakeholders in program development such as the United Nations who have been actively impacting the world of SDGs.

What is the one piece of advice you would offer to others seeking to create change in the sustainable world?

As I have just started this movement to amplify this energy and capabilities of youth in materializing the Sustainable Development Goals. Rather than just having a dream myself, I would like to create a dream community around me and give permission to young people to change the world in solidarity. A number of young people are almost giving up on their dreams and some are probably not confident of their future thus engaging in other activities such as crime and drugs. My dream is that young people everywhere in the world would become aware of opportunities and become active change-makers in designing and shaping the future of this world. I believe that it is time for young people to stand up champion the SDGs, and have a say towards kind of “FUTURE OF AFRICA WE WANT”. If not now, when? If not here, where?  If not today, when?  If not, you who will???