The Power of Youth-Led Changemaking

July 16th, 2020

Thomas Jekel

Thomas is of German-Congolese origin and has been called a social leader, serial-entrepreneur, ChangeMaker, coach, motivational speaker, author, adventurer and digital nomad. 

He is passionate about creating projects aimed at tackling social or ecological challenges and inspiring people, especially the Youth, to believe in themselves, get from ‘victim’ into ‘creator’ mode, develop a positive outlook and change their circumstances. 


Tell us a little bit about your work with Mr. Ali and the YES network. 

When I read about Ali’s work, I felt like that was the answer or the solution to what I was looking for; which was to know and understand what is scalable and what is not in educational systems. And that solution was to give every young person the opportunity to create their own idealized selves and to generate social and economic means. So from that very moment I knew I wanted to talk to him. 

He was generous enough to invite me to Pakistan to follow him around, meet students and see the projects that they’re doing. My hope for coming to Pakistan was to understand the system better but also to document my experience and share it with people from other countries and other regions.  On top of letting me follow him around, he copied all the documents, resources and presentations to my hard drive and his generosity opened it all for me. 

I asked him how I can support him, and he kindly asked if I could help him write a book. That is how we worked together to write “YES: Youth-led Changemaking” which is a combination of his and my experiences. You could then say I started my own changemaking project and became a cheerleader for what Ali was doing. 

What, in your opinion, are the gaps in the current education system and how does the concept of changemaking fill those gaps ?

Without being an expert on it and entirely based on my own experience, I feel like the current education system is all about putting in, putting in, putting in with very little application, just repetition and reproduction. There’s no real application and application in a way that adds value to the society. 

The problem, therefore, lies in the fact that people don’t fully understand how and where they can  generate real value. If they know, they’ll also be curious and interested to know how they could contribute. So that is one thing. 

The other thing missing is really understanding our minds, our thoughts, how to deal with anxiety, fear,  anger, and practicing to work with it to find a balanced and peaceful inner self. For me, youth led change-making and activation comes together with these other things. So, for example, if a young person is being shown trust, only then will they run up against limiting beliefs and stresses to create value. 

What made you believe in the power of youth?

There are alot of young people! That’s one. So there’s a lot of energy and power. 

Secondly, oftentimes, the perceived risk is much lower in young people than in older people. They don’t feel the time pressure as seriously as older people do and they’re also free from a lot of responsibilities. This means that there’s a lot of room for experimentation.  

Imagine, I spent 13 years of my life in school, learning how to read and write and do maths. Imagine how long of a time it is. If during those 13 years, I had practiced change-making even once or twice a year,  I can only imagine how secure I would have felt. Imagine having 16 changemaking projects even more leaving school. 

So if young people can learn how to read and write only by practice, they can also learn changemaking. For this reason, there’s a need to instill in people the idea that everyone can bring change and everyone can become a changemaker. 

What did you learn about young people through your visit to Pakistan?

My impression is that the innate ability to be excited and passionate and to be able to develop something meaningful is present in every human being. Maybe we don’t see it. So from my very limited universe, I did not see everything. Before coming to pakistan I was like what would a young person in a rural pakistan be doing? 

This is because in Germany I was thinking about online businesses, online shops, digital agencies, so when I came to Pakistan, I got to witness the amazing projects that young people were doing and that developed in me the trust that a young person can really be a changemaker anywhere. We can not predict what a young person can do in Germany, or Norway or South Africa or Somalia because they are the experts of their lives and their community and so they will know how to conserve there. 

I can only trust and by trusting, I can be blessed by seeing the immense genius that the young people are. 

Why do you think people should buy the book, “Changemaking Intelligence”? 

People should buy and read the book because it’s very consumable. It’s brief, it’s entertaining, it’s colourful. I think It’s just very inviting and it inspires all;  whether you’re an educator or a student. If you’re an educator, it will move you to take the first step. If you’re a student, it will motivate you to believe in your power of generating value.

 It’s a book written in such form and length that you can read it again and again, and with such books you must read them again and again until they  become second nature to you. It’s a great source of motivation for all and everyone must read it.