Unlocking a Sustainable Future: Reflections from the Big Brainstorm

by Wambui (Ruth) Wambugu

In February, I had the pleasure of attending the second annual Big Brainstorm, which brought together young thinkers and activists from all over the world – at last count, 136 different countries. Each year there has been a different theme, this year’s being A Year of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals

I was interested in participating in the Big Brainstorm because it highlighted a key personal goal: to learn more about regional development and how I can use my reach to create further impact. It was also a chance for me to meet and engage with like-minded individuals in our quest for a more sustainable world. 

Earlier in the year, the United Nations Foundation asked young people to submit their initiatives for their chance to develop them at the Big Brainstorm. An incredible 975 ideas were submitted, but unfortunately only 24 could be selected. The good news was that many young people had similar ideas and the UN Foundation Next Generation Fellows and team worked to connect young leaders and find those that would most galvanize young people and connect them to each other.

These successful innovations were announced at the Big Kick-Off – the first virtual event of the Big Brainstorm, where I heard from and selected which Action Groups I wanted to take part in.

It was an honor being a member of the Climate and Sustainability Action Group, an educating and eye-opening choice. With climate action being a key component of the SDGs, the group brought together many young people who are passionate about environmental sustainability and decelerating climate change impacts in the fast-evolving world. 

In the two weeks of the Big Brainstorm, we worked towards designing the selected innovations in the Action Groups to tackle some of humanity’s biggest challenges, with a commitment to unlocking a better future for young people and future generations.  

I focused on the Carbon Credits Innovation. Our goal was to produce a film on the ‘Mikoko Project’, a Southern Kenyan coast community-led mangrove conservation and restoration project that I was privileged to work closely on with its leader. 

The film aims to capture the important work that the project is doing to restore the mangrove ecosystem, improve economic well-being, and develop carbon credits to offset carbon emissions as part of furthering environmental sustainability. 

As the two weeks progressed, I got more insight into what I could do as a young person to initiate and accelerate the change the world needs. A key takeaway was understanding the importance of partnerships and collaboration, and this was emphasized by many of the guest speakers during the Spotlight Sessions – Q&A sessions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and policymakers – who spoke about the necessity of multilateralism. 

The Spotlight Session ran over the two weeks on many different topics related to the Action Groups. During these sessions, I was lucky enough to hear from notable guest speakers such as Corina Kwami (Director of Strategy at Purpose), Jawhratelkmal Kanu (a founding member of the Sudanese Women Economists Association), and Nneka Norville (Global Marketing Communications Executive at Nike).

By the end of the program, I had found purpose in how I wanted to create impact and growth by bettering livelihoods, especially for the rural communities in my country and, by extension, the region. I also gained meaningful connections that will aid my knowledge and growth in the industry. 

I made an effort to highlight key notes that I took over the sessions in multiple posts and, to my surprise, they gained traction, platforming my work. I hope to use the exposure to highlight and advocate for change on a local and global scale.

In September, the United Nations will host the SDG Summit, where Heads of State and Governments from all over the world will meet to review the implementation of the SDGs. 

Following the Big Brainstorm, many of the Innovations are continuing to develop in the Engine Room, to show that meaningful progress towards the SDGs is possible at the SDG Summit, and that young people are key to that progress.

The Engine Room is open to all young people to join. It provides a space where you can contribute to the innovations, be a part of regular opportunities to hear from experts, and find out about other opportunities coming up.

I wish to encourage fellow and future participants to take a keen interest and stay committed to the specific innovations they wish to rally behind. This way, we can create clear lines of specialization, making it easier to accelerate the change we need in each sector by harnessing our innovative and creative energy wholly.

I look forward to educating more people on the challenges we face in achieving a sustainable future and the importance of collaborative efforts to accelerate solutions and make this possible. 

In taking part in the Big Brainstorm, I gained connections, practical tools, and insights that I intend to use in my personal and professional life to contribute to sustainable development networks. I look forward to what the future holds, especially using my communication skills to advance and further the implementation of the goals.

For more information on the Big Brainstorm and how you can get involved, read the report here…

Wambui (Ruth) Wambugu

I am a communications professional and an early career researcher with a demonstrated history of working in the renewable energy, clean cooking, sustainable agriculture and political sectors. I am passionate about accelerating sustainable development in the region; by working to support organizations/individuals that champion, promote and provide sustainable solutions to create tangible impact within communities.

I advocate for women and youth empowerment initiatives. I am committed to amplifying their voices through my experience in communications. I aim to create a more equitable society where every member has the opportunity to thrive by championing poverty alleviation through quality education, clean energy access, food security and gender equity.

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