1. Home
  2. Stories
  3. 10 youth movements that are changing the world

10 youth movements that are changing the world


I think we’ve all heard, and probably been offended by, the phrase “youth is wasted on the young”, but does anyone know who said it, or indeed, why?

After it bugging me for the last few years I did a bit of research and it turns out no one is actually 100% sure. It’s has been attributed to both George Bernard Shaw (an Irish writer) and Oscar Wilde (an English one), but it turns out, neither of them ever said it fully and much like Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see in the world”, it’s a misquote, and one that is more often than not totally misused. (The earliest reference I found is actually from a book published in the 1930’s which was a titled 10,000 Jokes, Toasts, & Stories!)

Seeing as it’s International Youth Day we decided to right this wrong, do some research and show the world just how amazing young people can be. Just look at these inspiring international youth movements that are having a major impact and changing the world for the better:

Global Youth Action Network

While not technically a movement itself, GYAN plays an important role as a clearinghouse for today’s youth movements! It is one of the largest networks of youth organisations ever created and connects youth-led and youth-serving organisations in more than 190 countries.

It’s known for its role in increasing youth participation within the United Nations System. In 2001 GYAN merged with TakingITGlobal, an award winning “social network for social good” that carries out its motto to “inform, inspire, and involve” through digital youth engagement, social innovation and global education programmes.

ONE Youth Ambassadors

ONE Youth Ambassadors are a dedicated team of volunteers who help electrify ONE’s campaigns across Europe. They lobby decision makers, work with the media to raise the profile of our campaigns, and encourage the public to sign petitions through online activity and local events!

Thanks to their contribution millions of pounds/dollars/euros of funding has been allocated to help the world’s poorest get the services they need to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Submissions for next years programme will open in January and application instructions will be posted here.

Sawa World believes there is a way to end extreme poverty for billions of people on our planet. The solution lies in the minds, hands and hearts of those who suffer it most.  They call them Sawa Leaders unsung heroes who have themselves been among the one billion people living on one dollar a day or less.

Their solutions are documented and shared by Sawa Youth Reporters unemployed youth in their communities who are trained by local media partners to become community reporters. The Youth Reporters produce short videos and regular updates about the practical solutions and impact of Sawa Leaders and present them throughout their region and through local media. This allows other impoverished people to feel inspired and to replicate the solutions in their own communities!


With over 40 million members from 223 countries around the world, the Scouts is the largest youth movement in the world. It is a voluntary non-political educational movement for young people, open to all without distinction of gender, origin, race or creed. Scouting offers young people the opportunity to develop their full emotional, intellectual, physical, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible global citizens, and as members of their local, national and international communities. There are National Scout Organisations all over the world. To become a youth member or an adult volunteer go here.

Voluntary Service Overseas

VSO is a predominantly youth lead organisation with a vision for a “world without poverty“. Its mission is to bring people from around the world together to fight poverty. VSO recruits students and professionals to work as volunteers, living and working alongside local populations in developing countries. Founded in 1958, VSO has so far sent over 50,000 volunteers to over 140 developing countries, doing important work and impacting thousands of lives! If you want to volunteer, sign-up here.

World Youth Alliance

With over a million members (youth under 30), the World Youth Alliance promotes the dignity of every human being and works to build a global culture that supports social and economic development, human rights, global health and education. They do this by speaking at the UN, OAS, EU and other important international and regional organisations, as well as through providing training programmes, and organising global campaigns, regional events, internships, camps and festivals. You can join the network here.

Global Citizen

Global Citizen is a community of people out to change the world. They believe 1 billion people living in extreme poverty is unfair and unjust and that we have the power to do something about it. Global Citizen brings their community stories and actions that help fight extreme poverty and inequality. Even cooler? Global Citizens earn points with every action they take and can earn crazy awesome rewards, like seeing Florence + The Machine or Ed Sheeran LIVE! You can become a Global Citizen or learn more about their movement here.


Founded in 2013 this new organisation has grown significantly over the last two years and already received a tonne of media attention for its campaigning!

Working on issues as diverse as the need for South Africa to create a “unifying identity”, the importance of indigenous languages amongst the youth, the National Development Plan 2030, galvanising the youth-vote in the 2014 National General Elections and speaking out against the abuse of women and children, this organisation is a hive of youth activity. To find out more check out their website today!

Restless Development

Restless Development puts young people at the front of change and development. In fact, they are totally youth-led! They know that young people are most affected by problems facing the world and that with their positive power and capabilities, young people have the power to change the world. Restless Development’s training programmes seek to build a stronger youth sector and generation of leaders to lead development around the world. They work in 10 countries around the world. You can learn more about their work here.

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is an international service organisation that sends Americans abroad to help address the needs of people worldwide. Since being established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, over 200,000 men and women have served in 139 countries, ranging from the Fiji to Zimbabwe. The volunteers work on issues such as health education and new technologies in their communities for two years – ultimately learning about leadership, relationship building and what it means to be a global citizen. Learn more about their programmes here.

Do you know any other youth movements we should give a shout out to? Then leave your suggestions in the comments below!