Big Brainstorm 2023

Launching a year of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals


The Big Brainstorm is an opportunity for young thinkers and activists to design their future. Supported by the United Nations Foundation, young leaders from around the world will come together to embark on a two week design sprint to explore, prototype, and launch initiatives to tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

The theme of the 2023 Big Brainstorm is “A Year of Action for the SDGs.” The upcoming second SDG Summit is an opportunity to accelerate action to solve the world’s most urgent problems, with young people at the forefront of change.

It is also a turning point to drive collective action for both people and the planet. The most successful initiatives will be spotlighted during the SDG Summit to demonstrate that meaningful progress on the 17 Global Goals is possible.

All young changemakers who engage in the Big Brainstorm will also be members of the Engine Room to Unlock the Future – a wider space for young people to forge connections, mobilize, and drive our efforts to rejuvenate the multilateral system.

Read the report

Find out more about this year’s Big Brainstorm, including speakers, Spotlight Sessions, innovations and ideas by young people, and also how you can get involved in our work to tackle some of humanity’s greatest challenges.

The Big pitch

Action Groups will pitch their final initiatives or campaigns in front of a panel of leading thinkers, activists, and policymakers for insight, guidance, and feedback. A prize will be awarded to the most creative and ambitious initiative.

Panelists Included:

Sofia Borges, Senior Vice President and Head Of The New York Office, United Nations Foundation
Alaa Murabit, Director, Program Advocacy and Communications, Gates Foundation
Nina Boel, International Board, Amnesty International
Isra Chaker, Syrian-American Civil Rights Activist

Courtney Kimmel, Vice President, Captain Planet Foundation
Oby Ezekwesili, Senior Economic Adviser at the Africa Economic Policy Development Initiative
Ulrika Modéer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, UNDP
Anna Brodowsky, Vice President Public Affairs, Essity

The event will closed with a performance from MC Millaray, an emerging 16 year old music star in Chile using her fierce lyrics to advocate for transformative change for young people and future generations. MC Millaray’s personal journey was recently featured in the New York Times.

Spotlight 1

The grand ambition to change trajectories in the second half of the SDG era

Multiple crises have hit young people the hardest. Compared to adults, young people are two times more likely to live in poverty and three times more likely to lose their job. Most young people also live in countries that are underrepresented and marginalized in global bodies, and it is only through international cooperation that we can more effectively protect their interests in the future. Halfway into the 2030 era, it’s time to change our approach and start investing in young people.

Guest speakers Included:

Laurel Patterson, Head of the SDG Integration, United Nations Development Program
H.E. Keisha McGuire, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations
Nikolai Hegertun, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
Corina Kwami, Director of Strategy, Purpose
H.E. Xolisa Mabhongo, Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations

Moderated by Inés Yábar, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow Lead

Spotlight 2

Equipping young people with the skills to thrive

After the largest disruption of education in history, many are questioning fundamental standards and inequities of the global education system. In many places of the world, lack of digital access and resources, formalistic teaching, and outdated curriculums does not prepare young students adequately for their future. Still, many young people leave school without basic knowledge in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Guest speakers Include:

Soledad Patiño, Global Skills Academy Coordinator, Section of Youth, Literacy and Skills Development,  UNESCO
Maryjacob Okwuosa, Youth Leader, The Global Partnership for Education
Jaïri Terpstra, Global Future of Work Manager – Youth
Cecilia (Thea) Soriano,
Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education
Amy Parker, Senior Learning through Play Advisor, Save the Children

Moderated by Alice Mukashyaka, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow

Spotlight 3

Preparing for the future of work

Imagine if all young people worldwide entered the workplace with the right skills, experiences, and resources. The potential for their personal development – and global progress – would be unlimited. From raising productivity and reducing inequality to creating businesses and improving communities, there’s no end to the benefits their talents and ideas could bring. However, young people today face extraordinary economic, social, and cultural challenges and demographic shifts, technological advances, and climate change which brings additional challenges.

Guest speakers Include:

Matthieu Cognac, Senior Multilateral Cooperation Advisor, International Labour Organization
Ruth Khakame, ITUC Africa Youth Chair
Sue Duke, Vice President, Head of Global Public Policy & Economic Graph, Linkedin
Mona Iddrisu, Head of youth employment and skills at Africa Center for Economic Transformation (ACET)

Moderated by Saru Duckworth, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow

Spotlight 4

Renewing multilateralism and the rising prominence of Africa

With global demographic and economic dynamics shifting, the future will be heavily concentrated in Africa. The continent will play a key role for any future efforts in global cooperation. Considering the current challenges to multilateralism, greater African leadership and innovation are needed to inspire new multilateral formats and approaches, with a focus on next and future generations.

Guest speakers Include:

Landry Signé, Senior Fellow, Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution
Jawhratelkmal Kanu, Founding member, Sudanese Women Economists Association (SWEA)
Nathalie Gabala, Executive Director, Pan-African Programs Mastercard Foundation
Emmanuel Ametepey, Executive Director of Youth Advocates Ghana and Convener of the African Youth SDGs Summit
Mayowa Kuyoro, Partner, McKinsey Nigeria

Moderated by Kelechi Achinonu, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow

Spotlight 5

How innovations in technology and storytelling can help us break through

Looking into the future is always challenging, especially as progress on the Sustainable Development Goals has stagnated during the pandemic. The promise of emerging technologies and communications can help break through bureaucratic and political hurdles stalling progress and stretch our imagination to achieve ambitious progress.

Guest speakers Include:

Hilary Smith, EVP Corporate Social Responsibility, NBCUniversal
Ileri Jaiyeoba, Creative Producer, Code Red Co
Jonah Kessel, Deputy Director, Opinion Video, The New York Times
Olasumbo Olaniyi, Researcher, African Contemporary Institute of Design and African Futures Institute
Nneka Norville, Global Marketing Communications Executive, Nike

Moderated by Anita Dywaba, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow

Spotlight 6

Meeting the challenge of climate change

Despite more than three decades of global climate diplomacy efforts, a meaningful consensus about which strategies work best in response to the crisis remains elusive. Meanwhile, the likelihood of crossing the 1.5 degrees above the preindustrial levels threshold in the next five years is steadily rising, and national and global security risks induced by climate are multiplying.

Guest speakers Include:

Daniel Sherrell, Author of Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World
Shuva Raha, Head, New Initiatives at Council on Energy, Environment and Water
Jonathan Moyer, Associate Director, Pardee Center for International Futures
Indu Murthy, Head of Climate Environment and Sustainability, Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy

Moderated by Butti Almheiri, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow

Spotlight 7

Thinking, Planning and Acting for Future Generations

Unexpected crises and the pressing development needs of today tend to take center stage in political discourse, at the expense of matters of the future. 10.9 billion people are likely to be born this century, mostly in low and middle income countries, while richer countries still control and consume the overwhelming majority of global resources. Any future generations agenda must reconcile this imbalance and reimagine how the multilateral system can deliver for future generations.

Guest speakers Include:

Aarathi Krishnan, Strategic Foresight, UNDP
Maxime Stauffer, Chief Executive Officer, The Simon Institute for Long-term Governance
Eiko Tsukamoto, Senior Manager, Schmidt Futures
Cecil Abungu, Researcher, Legal Priorities Project, Cambridge

Moderated by Claudette Salinas Leyva, UN Foundation Next Generation Fellow

Action Groups

Youth-led and youth-focused initiatives will be housed under Action Groups coordinated by the UN Foundation Next Generation Fellows. Each Action Group will include 1-3 initiatives. These Action Groups are charged with a challenge to prototype initiatives to solve real-world problems facing young people, based on the primary challenges identified in Our Future Agenda.

1. Transforming education

Building on the momentum of the Transforming Education Summit, how can we encourage national and local leaders to prioritize the “right to learn”, even during a compound global crisis?

2. Jobs and economic opportunities

Young people are not equipped for a rapidly changing world. What investments must be made to propel young people into productive employment and decent work, with a focus on digital, demographic, and de-carbonization transitions that leave no one behind?

3. Climate and sustainability

In preparation for COP 28, how can we support, listen, and engage young people in decision-making discussions and processes about climate change, especially across intersectional issues on climate financing, energy security, food systems, migration, plastic pollution, and more?

4. Peace and justice

In a world fragmented by injustices and conflict, the path to true peace, justice and inclusion requires a local-to-global approach. How can we provide young people with access to justice, taking justice out of the courtroom and into the communities in which they live?

5. Future generations

There are fewer than 8 billion people currently alive, but more than 11 billion people are likely to be born during the rest of this century. How can we ensure that young people and young countries are in the driving seat in the lead up to and at the 2024 Summit of the Future?

6. Gender Equality

Multiple global crises have unraveled hard-won achievements on gender equality and significantly set progress back. How could we address compounding issues impacting girls and women and collectively identify and drive evidence-based solutions?

7. SDG Summit

Leveraging the collective action of the Unlock the Future Coalition, how can we put young people at the heart of the mobilization efforts as designers of the SDG transformation process and champions for the rights of future generations?

8. Financing for young changemakers

Youth civil society is not thriving – and in many cases, not surviving due to resourcing challenges. How can we improve the quantity, quality, and accessibility of financing for young changemakers?