What does it mean to be human? Let 50 young people tell you.

This morning, I curled up with a cup of tea and read 31 amazing stories of young people working to make this world a better place. I couldn’t be more proud of the Youth in Landscapes journey we went on together in December in Paris and where life will take all these incredible young people next.

The impact of this program goes far beyond the usual metrics ($ invested, # businesses started) but deeper to the core of how human beings need to work together, resolve differences and realise when they are working towards the same goal. I believe this is the fundamental issue we face in today’s world, which seems to be actively trying to divide and control us.

2016 will be my last year as coordinator of the Global Landscapes Forum’s youth program. It’s time for me to take a step back and let others from the community forge the next steps. It’s been a hellava ride and I’m grateful for all the wisdom, support and guidance that all of you – young and older – have given me, which has made me a better person and a better leader. I’ve learnt to listen more than I speak, to take the time to mentor others, to get comfortable not knowing, and to act with empathy and compassion even when it is super hard to.

To finish, I’d like to share some of my fave quotes from the 2015 innovators that illustrate why it’s so important we keep supporting our young people. You can read all their stories in the link attached to this post.

“As my time came to pitch, I realized that it was not just the toolkit I was pitching on that stage but it was all of our struggles in the past 4 days, every detail we had discussed, every disagreement and compromise we had made, every laugh we shared and the bits of our lives that we shared with each other.” – Noor Nasir

“While I passed through the hustle and bustle of Kampala Taxi park, being asked whether I was going to the various destinations in Uganda, I felt like telling everyone that, “No, I’m going to Paris, and I’m part of a team that will develop a solution which you will most likely see here back home.”Daphne Nansambu

“He is that guy who knows more about your country than you do and you find yourself arguing with him just to prove to yourself that you know more, but end up accepting the harsh fact that you don’t.” Minase Tamrat

“Although we all had our individual qualities, experience and knowledge, we also had this thing in common, you don’t have in common with a lot of my peers back home.” – Daan Jochem Groot

“As people who spoke different languages and idioms, we found it difficult to communicate efficiently and build consensus. Not one of us spoke English as a first language. Understanding the “challenge” was a challenge in itself as each of us had a different view of it…All it took was understanding that underneath the babel like chaos, we all spoke the same language. A language of landscapes that despite all our different nationalities and backgrounds, we agreed to what the problems of working in landscapes related professions are…By learning about landscape issues at the global level, I also realized how my work could contribute to it.”Prakriti Mukerjee

“Realizing that the process was not working, on the next day we decided to practice active listening and took turns being the facilitator and note-taker to ensure focused and fruitful discussion. This helped us realize that a lot of times we were arguing over semantics and actually shared common viewpoints.” – Thuy Phung

“It gave me the experience of writing up a transformative proposal, pitching to esteemed specialists, coordinating different ideas into a realistic yet transformative solution.” – Praiya Praja

“I got the satisfaction of being able to work on something of such importance and relevance, charging my motivational batteries.” – Pieter Van De Sype

“Listen twice as much as you speak. The stories shared by my team members of their respective landscape issues helped me to better understand the issues on the ground in different nations.” Jhannel Tomlinson

“One youth from the audience approached a few of us after the pitching and asked how he may get involved and actually stressed that being only 19 as he is, he is still wondering if he may make the cut. This was another source of motivation; knowing your efforts have motivated others and triggered a wish for them to also be involved in the initiative.” – Tamanda Chabvuta

“And now, whenever I may feel fear to face a difficult situation or problem, I will remember that once I found the courage to speak in front of more than 300 people and a panel of experts. And also, if someone says “it is difficult” I have this story to tell him or her.” – Estefania Ruiz Martinez

The Youth in Landscapes Initiative unites young innovators (aged 18 – 35) to develop real-world solutions to land use challenges in partnership with organisations working on the ground. Read more at https://community.globallandscapesforum.org/youth-in-landscapes/