Building a better world starts with sustainable leadership

Taking part in the Young Global Pioneers Program was a life-changing opportunity – it empowered me to make a difference and inspire others.

By Thabang Maake (guest post)

Earlier this year I was chosen together with 24 young people from around the world to take part in the Young Global Pioneers (YGP) Talent Network. I am a 24-year-old student from the Mamelodi Pretoria SOS Children’s Village programme in South Africa, and was nominated by educational and community organizations to take part in the YGP program.

YGP is a non-profit organization based in Denmark that works to spark global curiosity, empathy and aspiration in young people aged between 19 and 25 through building intercultural skills and creating global youth networks. In addition, its learning program – a three-week intensive trip – plays a big part in achieving this.

I have recently returned from the intensive three-week learning journey, where I travelled through Tanzania and Zanzibar with 24 great young minds from 15 countries. During our travels, we connected with different cultures while learning about the history, opportunities and challenges faced in the regions we visited. We met local entrepreneurs and business leaders and discussed thought-provoking subjects like the value of circular economies, how to develop emotional intelligence and why practicing innovative reflective thinking is important for sustainable leadership.

My experience – the people I have met and all I have learned – has made me realise there is more to life than money. In fact, money can’t make the world a better place. It can’t end the violation of women’s rights in certain countries; it can’t give every person a safe platform to freely share their opinions; and it can’t bring respect. However, education can. Education can help develop responsible and sustainable leaders who are likely to prioritise equality; show empathy to cultures and traditions; and respect and value diversity. It’s these behaviours, that through education, can help drive change and make the greatest impacts.

In South Africa, we often chase wealth instead of education. I don’t believe many of us value education as seriously as some other countries do. I see many people who have money but are poor in life, and others who have no money but are rich in life. Here are three of the most valuable learnings I took away with me from the YGP program that will help me become a responsible and sustainable leader:

Change starts with you

If you want to see change in the world, you must make a move. Dream big and as Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Develop your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence impacts our daily lives, the way we behave and the way we interact with others. High emotional intelligence helps us to relate better to others and can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Live for your community

Living isn’t just about doing for yourself, but what you do for others as well. A community is not a community without people, and as soon as we realize we are not just living for ourselves but for the whole community the better we become.

How will I make a difference?

If we look at the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations Development Programme, sustainable leadership is critical for countries to reach the goals by 2030. The goals represent every aspect of life on the planet today, from poverty and education to global warming, gender equality and social justice. Learning and putting into practice are two different things. I know it is not going to be easy for me to play my part in helping to change the world, but my first step is to positively influence my peers through the New Lovelife Trust and SOS Children’s Village.

I chose to share this photo of me (below) because it represents the power in each of us to achieve sustainable change by taking one small step. Whoever you are, wherever you are, change starts with you.

My most memorable moment of the trip was representing my country in front of 24 other young people from around the world. Just being able to take part in the learning journey is a memory that will last a lifetime – and I will always be grateful to those who made it possible for me to be part of the experience.


Thabang Maake:

Thabang is currently studying Public Administration and Communications at the University of South Africa. He was one of 25 young people selected globally to take part in the Young Global Pioneers (YGP) Talent Network 2018. Run by a Danish non-profit organization, YGP is designed for young people aged between 19 and 25 and aims to spark global curiosity, empathy and aspiration in the next generation – while enhancing intercultural skills and creating global youth networks. CA Technologies sponsored Thabang to take part in the YGP Talent Network 2018.

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