Earlier this year, I wrote a piece that put a spotlight on the many great unsung events in the history of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation. It was indeed inspiring as it was invaluable in creating a framework that would help guide our work in the coming years ahead.
If one looks closely at each of the milestones that the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation had undergone throughout the decades, the driving force behind the initiative has always been about “change” – transforming people’s lives and improving the world for the better.
Our Founder Harry Morgan set out to change the perceptions people from different backgrounds had about each other by “bridging people, cultures, and spaces.” Years later, our concert tours used the soft power of music to promote unity between nations. Today, our flagship program called The Youth Assembly provides a unique platform for young people who want to change the world.
Over the span of 60 years, a Theory of Change has thus emerged, which will be the foundation that we will build upon. This theory is comprised of three pillars:
Young people working together is the foundational component of our Theory of Change. We have witnessed the impact first-hand throughout our programs such as The Youth Assembly and want to increase opportunities both in number, global reach, and time. “Bring people together so they can make a difference”, as Harry Morgan said, has always been and will continue to be central to our purpose.
Education is core to our Theory of Change. As we bring young people together, we believe it must be done in meaningful ways that provide them with the tools, skills, and knowledge to understand the challenges they face and learn about ways to take action and make an impact. We want our Friendship Ambassadors (FA) Community to become a learning community that always strives to reach greater heights of knowledge and understanding.
Youth taking action and making an impact is our primary goal. We can cite numerous examples of where individuals have achieved this, however, we see the greatest potential in the FA Community as a whole. The passion, talent, and technology are there to grow this impact exponentially. We recognize the power of harnessing the passion of the FA community, which today consists of thousands of individuals who have taken part in our programs and share our values. It is our goal, therefore, to provide ways for our community to learn and grow together and to act and make a positive impact.
With our Theory of Change in place, we are now moving toward its application in the real world. The world is faced with challenges that if not addressed now will be near impossible to overcome. We have identified four areas where we feel youth must have a critical voice and involvement:
Human development focuses on improving the lives of all people and giving them more freedom and opportunities to live lives with dignity. Even today, 1 out of 10 people live below the international poverty line making it impossible to choose the life they want to live. In order to enable today’s youth to enjoy the same opportunities as their parents, responsible consumption and production are vital for a healthy, prosperous, equitable, and sustainable world. Youth play a pivotal role in driving forward sustainable human development in their communities and at the global stage. As a society, we need to do more to mobilize stakeholders to support youth as they affect change through meaningful action and impact.
Years ago and even more recently, we have seen catastrophic results from environmental degradation. An estimated 4.2 million deaths occur each year due to air pollution, with 91% of the world’s population living in areas where pollution exceeds WHO guideline limits. A significant hope lies in young people, who are increasingly growing up aware and conscious of these challenges and are often willing to adapt their lifestyles and choices to be more sustainable for the planet.
New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Biotechnology, and Robotics hold tremendous potential for addressing today’s problems. However, these and others will be fundamentally disruptive forces that will change how we work and live. In addition, their impact will have very different implications for the developed and developing a world which must be considered. We need to balance the pace of change with deep consideration of the ethical and societal implications. These are particularly important issues for our youth today, who will be living and leading in what in so many ways will be a very new world.
Peace and Security
The world is still in the midst of several devastating conflicts. War and violence are not just devastating to human lives and livelihoods: they often bring economies to a standstill, wreak havoc on the environment and leave thousands as refugees, or in poverty and hunger. Young people are often disproportionately affected by armed conflict. Far-reaching consequences include not only damage to physical and mental well-being, but also extended disruption of educational and employment opportunities. Therefore, it is essential that young people are equipped with knowledge of the global conflict, and the multidimensional factors that must be addressed to achieve peace. Young people with their fresh ideas and open-mindedness must be included as participants and stakeholders if long-term peace and stability is to be maintained.
Each focus area poses underlying challenges and opportunities, but the work does not stop there. One critical and often overlooked is the interdependencies and overlap in the impact that exists among these focus areas. Understanding the cross area impact and determining ways to address problems more holistically will be a critical component of our work.