What a legend and young people have in common

There is a legend you may know; the story of a hummingbird whose forest catches fire. While all the animals watch helplessly as the flames ravage their home, the hummingbird fetches water, filling its tiny beak with a mere few drops at a time. At sight of what seems like a ludicrous effort, others express their scepticism: “Hummingbird, are you mad? These drops will not stop the fire from raging!’’ Undaunted, the hummingbird responds: “I know but I am doing my part’’.

This story is the guiding principle by which I intend to contribute to the Young People’s Agenda, having been appointed as a board member to this important initiative. It is also the principle by which I live and work and the driving force in my founding of the Social Change Factory; a small but mighty organization where we believe that, given opportunity and relevant education, every person has the power to positively contribute to their community, to become agents of change.

In a nutshell, Social Change Factory is an African Civic Leadership Center founded in 2014, headquartered in Dakar (Senegal), and now operating in eight other countries. Our aspiration: create a new generation of citizens, engaged, empowered and equipped with the relevant skills to live and lead in a context of rapid change and complex local, national and global issues. This context — to ensure that every young person is in school, learning, training or employment by 2030 — is the link between the aims of Young People’s Agenda and my work with African young people.

Our approach is holistic: we aim to change individuals, systems and communities by developing and delivering youth-led and youth-focused programs that promote education as well as social and professional integration by creating platforms on which youth can share their thoughts, experiences, aspirations and ideas. We’ll work to translate these into tangible data and use this data, and the outcomes of our programs, to connect youth with decision-makers to influence youth-and-data-driven policies and institutions. This will turn one hummingbird into tens of thousands, and hopefully soon into millions who can do their part together.

Africa has the largest youth population in the world. Between 2015 and 2050, the population of children under 5 years of age will increase by 51 per cent, jumping to 271 million, according to the World Bank. Over the same period, the population of adolescents is projected to grow by 83 per cent, going from 257 million to 470 million.

In the current context of inadequate education, social and economic exclusion and high youth unemployment paired with a growing market in need of a skilled labour force, it is paramount that governments, NGOs, the private sector and communities join forces to address this population shift in a systematic way. Social Change Factory strives to influence government and policy action and we are far from being alone. We are one of countless organizations and millions of individuals strong: the hummingbirds are gathering.

A group of people standing across a metal grille with the New York skyline in the background
© Tanya Bindra Young People’s Agenda youth Global Board members (l-r): Vibhu Sharma (India), Sobel Ngom (Senegal), Napoleon Garcia (El Salvador) and Ilwad Elman (Somalia) attending the Co-Creation of Solutions meeting in New York.

As I join the Young People’s Agenda board, I am particularly honoured and energized to collaborate with my peers and many influential private and public sector partners to convene communities and governments, towards unifying perspectives and agendas for a systemic approach to ensuring that every young person is given an opportunity to thrive.

The hummingbird’s story is one of duty and dedication to contribute positively to their community. Time and again, we have seen that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; in the context of sustainable community development, this means involving young people in crafting their future. After all, we are here, we are heard, we are ripe for change and ready to work for it.


Sobel Ngom, board member of Young People’s Agenda, a new global partnership to accelerate progress toward a world where all young people are in school, learning, training or employment by 2030. Sobel is Executive Director of a Senegal-based youth-led NGO, Social Change Factory and the Youth TV Program “Voix des Jeunes”, operational in five West African countries.

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