The Possibilists Directory

Changemakers in Europe

From climate change to racial justice, young changemakers in Europe are rallying for a just, sustainable and equitable future. Often pioneers in their sector, these young and ambitious entrepreneurs are applying fresh ways of thinking to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The Possibilists Europe is a report about their impact, needs and challenges.

The three key elements of this report

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Europe in Focus
The study includes 200 respondents from 32 European countries. The most represented countries in the sample are Germany (18%), the UK (14%), Spain (9%), France (8,5%), Romania (8%) and the Netherlands (6%).
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Changemakers who are being marginalized
This report also puts a spotlight on the challenges and needs young changemakers who are being marginalized. We urge people in positions of power to create a fully inclusive and equitable social innovation ecosystem.
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Challenges AND Recommendations
Social entrepreneurship is a difficult undertaking. We therefore present concrete recommendations for specific actions that policy makers, funders and society can take to better support social innovators.

See an executive summary of the report, press release, visuals and more here


This special European edition of The Possibilists is supported by:

What changemakers in Europe work on and why

When asked to think about their work within the SDG framework, the three main focus areas are:

SDG 4
Quality education
58%
SDG 10
Reduced inequalities
42%
SDG 3
Good health and well-being
35%

Distribution across SDGs

Key Finding 1:

Our study found that most young social innovators focus on educa­tion, seeing it as major lever for reducing inequalities and creating change.

Rachita-Saraogi_the-Possibilists
Rachita Saraogi
“The education system needs to provide opportunities for girls in their formative years and make a difference in their own lives.”

What they work on and why

The 3 main motivators for their work are to:

    85%
    Mobilize and empower others for changemaking
    74%
    Contribute to pressing global issues
    69%
    Do something for their community

Main motivation for developing the initiative

Very strong motivation
Somewhat strong motivation
Neutral
Limited motivation
Very limited motivation
Key Finding 2:

Young social innovators are not primarily driven by their own employment needs and wishes, but rather by an intrinsic desire to improve the lives of others on a global and local scale.

Jan-Stassen_the-Possibilists
Jan Stassen
“I hope that we are just the “early adopters”. My hope would be that all of us develop the ambition to co-shape the future. The future doesn’t happen to us, we are active agents and co-pilots on this massive and beautiful planet that we call home. So, I’m playing my part in co-shaping and hope more people will, too.”

Young changemakers are resilient, innovative and intrinsically motivated to change the world. But at what cost?

Young changemakers are sacrificing their personal finances and well-being to make a change in the world. The situation demands urgent attention.

Jonathan Funke
Tip Me Germany

The key challenges young change­makers face are

Lack of personal financial security Juggling various responsibilities and being stretchedthin High risk of burnout
Lack of personal financial security Juggling various responsibilities and being stretched thin High risk of burnout

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key challenges.

Key challenge 1

Financial Insecurity

Only 19% of young changemakers in Europe can cover all of their necessary expenses by working on their initiative. While this proportion is low, it is twice as high as what changemakers around the world report, as the global average is only 9%.

58% of young European changemakers cannot compensate themselves at all or can only pay themselves a small token amount, compared to 66% at the global level. This figure is higher for respondents under 20 (78%) and in the first half of their twenties (77%) and for those who lead an initiative in the start-up stage (77%). This goes to show that the youngest social innovators with initiatives in the early stages are the most vulnerable to financial difficulty.

Changemaker: Binta Jammeh

Because we work not purely for the money, but to drive social impact and to drive positive change, I get the impression that we aren’t supposed to care about money, that we’re supposed to work ourselves into the ground for meager pay and constantly stress out trying to fundraise. It took me a while to remove myself from this line of thinking and to better align myself with a mindset of knowing my worth.

Binta Jammeh_The Possibilists
Binta Jammeh
Campaign Accelerator France
“Binta Jammen is a core member of Campaign Accelerator, where she works with European and nation-wide institutions, NGOs, and social movements to help them grow their impact through citizen mobilization, community organizing, and inclusive / equitable governance.”

A Closer Look

Ronan-O-Dalaigh_the-Possibilists
Rónán Ó Dálaigh

Location

Ireland

Initiative

Thriftify

Thriftify is the online charity shop that connects ethical sources of used goods with consumers who care. Each year the charity retail sector receives over 3 billion used garments - by enabling this sector to sell online, they are aiming to disrupt the fashion industry for the better.

Tell us about your funding journey – how has it impacted you and or your work?

Funding has been our biggest struggle. We barely got by on small grants and awards for 2-3 years before we were able to raise capital. This came at a great personal and financial cost to our founders – including lost income, lost time in being able to purchase a home and raise families. There isn’t enough funding for early stage ideas. If we had gotten more funding early on, there is no doubt that our impact would be much larger than it is today.

Key challenge 2

Multiple Simultaneous Responsibili­ties

Yes
No

78% of young changemakers have other ongoing professional commitments in addition to their initiatives.

Work, studies, volunteering and activism. These are all common simultaneous pursuits for today’s youth. Young social innovators want to be engaged in their communities, while continuously learning and growing as individuals. Many work and study at the same time, and hold various volunteer positions. That said, their overachiever tendencies are also rooted in their financial strife and the need to supplement their income in order to cover their living costs. The tensions between this urge to learn and contribute and the need to provide for themselves take a significant toll on their overall well-being, as they find themselves stretched thin and struggling to find a healthy balance. Additionally, societal expectations around youth are starting to normalize this juggling act that increases pressure on them to perform.

Key challenge 3

Prone to
Burnout

Level of burnout during the entire time of working on the initiative

61% of respondents report having felt completely burned out, even being in need of help, or having had one or more symptoms of burnout.

 

78% of young social innovators in the study reported needing support in increasing their well-being.

Changemaker: Mélanie Marcel

“The impact of stress has been immense. I have suffered a loss in my productivity and creativity. I notice myself feeling hopeless and when it all becomes too much, sometimes I just want to stop trying to save the world and go live in the woods!"

Melanie Marcel_The Possibilists
Mélina Marcel
“SoScience specializes in responsible research, namely how to use science and technology to answer social and environmental issues. We work with research institutes and major industries to improve their research practices and allow the civil society to have a more active role in science valorization.”

For young social innovators who self-identify as part of a marginalized group these challenges are amplified

Underrepresented Individuals in Focus

The discrimination criteria upon which over a quarter of our respondents recognize themselves as members of marginalized groups are gender, sexual orientation (LGBTQIA+), being young, having a refugee or migrant background, belonging to a specific race or ethnicity, and/or their religious affiliation. Young social innovators also feel marginalized based on their limited financial resources, on coming from a non-academic background and being the first generation to access education in their family. Health is also an element that makes them feel vulnerable, either due to physical disability or due to mental health issues. Coming from the youth care system, for instance orphanages, was also mentioned as a source of marginalization.

The gender pay gap is present, even in the social impact sector. Women are 15% less likely to be able to compensate themselves financially than their male counterparts. European men, aged 31-35, enjoy the highest levels of financial security when compared to their global peers.

Burnout levels are higher among women (65%), compared to those of men (52%). Additionally, young social innovators who identify as belonging to a marginalized group perceive a greater risk of burnout than their peers (62% vs 52%) and are more likely to have suffered from it (65% vs 58%).

Social entrepreneurs who identify as underrepresented also feel less connected to local support networks. Instead, they feel more represented and more anchored in international networks. This highlights the need to further develop and strengthen local support networks, while also maintaining the high levels of trust in international communities.

Changemaker: Binta Jammeh

People have questioned the validity of my work, or if exceptionally-produced work was capable of being put together by “someone like me.” From meeting with funders to pitches and presentations of my work, I have been met with comments that remind me that I operate in spaces where representation of black women is limited.

Binta Jammeh_The Possibilists
Binta Jammeh
France
“In France, I have seen how difficult it is to fund and support social movements and ventures that are founded by marginalized people with lived experience of their causes, only to turn around and see funding has been given to ventures that work in the same field, but don’t have a single person on their team with lived experience or knowledge of the issue.”

Recommendations from the changemakers

Binta Jammeh_The Possibilists
Binta Jammeh
Campaign Accelerator France
"If we want to tackle systemic barriers that impact access to funding, access to growth and learning opportunities, access to influential networks, and so much more, we have to start with understanding just how people have been excluded and impacted by them."
Ingi Mehus_The Possibilists
Ingi Mehus
Pocket Stories Netherlands
"I would like to see more diverse role models and more open discussion around this. I think it’s important to show that leaders, founders and entrepreneurs come from all ages, races, backgrounds and genders.”
Alex Holmes_The Possibilists
Alex Holmes
"A big barrier that I see is that some organizations and funders don’t appreciate youth/age and don’t recognize informal education. I would love to see more of the empathetic, compassionate and ground breaking funders who are less about the pressure of targets, metrics and more about innovation, and believing in you to test things and learn and share those learnings.”
Natalia Bialobrzewska_The Possibilists
Natalia Bialobrzewska
"Having small, trust-based local networks for women to discuss the issues, learn from one another and expand the access to opportunities could have a significant impact to decrease the barriers that women face.”
Viviane Ogou Corbi_The Possibilsts Europe
Viviane Ogou Corbi
Training, technical support and finance. These three things are fundamental for us to generate employment for ourselves and others, and to give a step up to the communities that historically were marginalized and oppressed. Community is also important, but when you’re stretched so thin, it can be hard to foster. And lastly, I would wish for leadership training, so that I may reach my full potential and help others to do the same.
Melanie Marcel_The Possibilists
Mélina Marcel
"I also think visibility and access to decision makers is super important. Visibility is especially important when working with underrepresented individuals, as they often struggle to be heard and seen in all spaces. This could be achieved through connections to media, speaking opportunities or launching a program together to push the specific brand/business of these people."

Whats needed: For Social Innovators

A strong personal network
and access to thought-leaders.

The most relevant personal needs for young social innovators relate to skills, knowledge, networking and visibility. Respondents consider the following to be the top three important factors: connections with relevant people (93%), mentoring from more senior changemakers and from advisors (89%), gaining recognition, visibility and credibility for their work (89%).

Personal financial resources. 87% of respondents said that financial resources for them personally would be one of the most important factors for success.

Skills development and peer-to-peer learning.
European young changemakers value the development of specific skills for the initiative (84%) and peer-to-peer learning at the international (81%) and local level (79%).

Whats needed: For Initiatives

Financial stability of the initiative and general well-being of the team.
93% of respondents report ensuring the financial health of the initiative as one of the most pressing needs. Young changemakers also value the general well-being of the team as important (92%).

Increasing the impact of the initiative.
Most of respondents consider important needs ensuring the quality of services (92%), increasing the impact and scaling (92%), and increasing their capacity to describe the impact (90%) of their initiative.

Credibility and access to resources and connections.
89% of respondents said that gaining recognition, visibility and legitimacy and access to funding – perhaps as a result of legitimacy – was very important for their initiative. 88% stated that collaboration with other projects was an important need for success, and 87% said access to specific knowledge and skill development were very important for the overall success of their venture.

So how can we support Possibilists to go from surviving to really thriving?

Recommen­dations

In order to improve the lives of changemakers, strengthen their ventures and further develop the change-making ecosystem, we urge funders and policy makers to consider the following:

1. (Funders) Ensure the personal financial stability of young social innovators.

Ensuring the personal financial security of young social innovators is critical. Although they enjoy slightly higher financial stability compared to their global peers, young changemakers in Europe still face high levels of demand and low levels of financial security. Young social innovators who identify as members of marginalized groups, additionally, are in need of basic resources, including food and financial security, housing, education and digital access. We should offer concrete funding opportunities and perhaps even living stipends for some.

2. (Funders) Support the ventures of young social innovators to be financially stable.

Young social innovators emphasized their need for more financial stability within their organization. In addition to providing funding for early and mid-stage startups, we should rethink funding processes in order to lower the barriers of access, particularly for mid-stage organizations who find themselves struggling to attract institutional funders, and develop more useful frameworks for assessing the financial health of initiatives. In particular, we should fund projects and initiatives run by those who have direct and/or lived experience of the issues they seek to work on.

3. (Funders) Prevent burnout of young social innovators by reassessing reporting criteria and demands.

Young social innovators, particularly those who are dependent on program funding, note high levels of stress and pressure associated with accessing funding and managing reporting for funders. We must consider how funding programs and reporting criteria might be placing additional or unnecessary pressure and/or demands on young social innovators. Acknowledging that oftentimes young social innovators have multiple simultaneous or similar demands, and that they are juggling program management and reporting – and all while securing additional funding for the future – might be a first step towards remedying the stress and pressure that social innovators feel from funders.

4. (Policy Makers) Connect young social innovators with relevant decision-makers.

The future-oriented ideas and perspectives of young social innovators should be at the core of devising longterm strategies and influencing leadership at multiple levels. The wish of youth to have a voice, play a role, and achieve social change should be fostered and amplified. As an ecosystem, we need to facilitate access to decision-makers and grant young social innovators access to places of power and influence. We need to keep working to amplify the voices and credibility of young social innovators as key stakeholders and contributors. Additionally we need to give young social innovators from all backgrounds access to places of power and influence. Specific focus should be awarded to shaping decision and policy processes to become more inclusive and accessible for people from marginalized groups.

5. (Policy Makers) Leverage the strong motivation of young social innovators to make a difference.

Even in the face of crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we see young social innovators around the world stepping up with constructive solutions for new challenges. Their resilience, innovation and adaptability are vital resources for their communities and for building healthy societies in the future. The strong intrinsic motivation of the Possibilists make them incredible peers and inspirational role models for other young people, also for those who identify themselves as part of marginalized groups. We must appreciate and acknowledge this widely so that they become multipliers and continue empowering other youth to become change agents in their own communities.

6. (Policy Makers) Build upon the strong local – international connection of young social innovators.

The participants in The Possibilists study act as bridges between macro global issues and the way these manifest locally in communities of different sizes and types around the world. They can effectively communicate local challenges internationally, while at the same time translating global matters into concrete local action. Such a bridging role is possibly intensified for young changemakers who self-identify as part of marginalized groups, who show a lower connection with local communities but elevated trust in their membership in international networks. Additionally, representation and role models matter when it comes to reaching other marginalized youth. In order to make progress on reaching ambitious goals such as the SDGs, we need to better leverage the embeddedness of young social innovators in both their global and local worlds. In addition to creating international formats for networking and connection, we must also create spaces where local-specific challenges can be discussed. As a global community, we need to honor the importance of the local in driving deep and sustainable social change.

Recommen­dations

Support Networks play a vital role in improving the conditions for young changemakers. We kindly ask them to consider the following:

1. (Support Networks) Focus on the person, not just the initiative.

Young social innovators want to be seen, heard and valued as individuals. As an international support network, we must acknowledge that young social innovators can only create impact for their communities if they are thriving as individuals. Therefore the components of support programs for youth social entrepreneurship need to be adjusted to not only incorporate ways of strengthening initiatives, but to also acknowledge and provide personal-level support. The focus of our work should be fostering a life-long changemaking mindset that is not bound to the success of a specific organization or venture.

2. (Support Networks) Compensate social entrepreneurs for their time.

We must work to change our perceptions and actions regarding financial access for youth working on social change initiatives. Young changemakers deserve financial compensation for their time. Organizations who engage young social innovators as speakers or promote their work, even be it micro-engagements, should ensure they are fairly compensated for their time.

3. (Support Networks) Improve the wellbeing of young social innovators.

As support networks, we must also acknowledge the wellbeing issues raised in recommendation 3 for funders and use them to inform all elements of our program design. Our support programs should offer young social change leaders concrete, context-specific wellbeing support, in the forms of resilience training, therapy/counseling, wellbeing retreats or similar (depending on the culture, place and time). As well as providing tools and resources, we recommend support networks provide safe spaces for groups to openly discuss burnout, stress and the other personal challenges social change leadership brings.

4. (Support Networks) Support the initiatives of young social innovators to develop, scale and grow.

Young social innovators emphasized their need for more support in developing quality products and services, as well as help with scaling their ventures. To meet these needs, we should offer regular trainings and interdisciplinary learning opportunities that allow young social innovators to deepen the understanding of their work and learn from other state-of-the-art solutions addressing similar challenges. We can help them scale by connecting them to like-minded peers and initiatives that complement their work, while also strengthening their global and local networks through mindful strategic partnerships.

5. (Support Networks) Reduce barriers in our own programming and support diverse young social innovators.

Systemic inequalities are one of the main barriers for social innovators and their work. We need to put an explicit focus on reducing these barriers in order to achieve real diversity, inclusion and belonging. It starts by looking at our own programming and considering what requirements or formulations might exclude certain people from feeling addressed or welcome. Once we have looked within and worked to deconstruct our own organizational biases, we can begin to look outward. In order to overcome exclusion, we must actively seek out those who are often underrepresented. This means doing outreach in marginalized communities and remote areas and address the specific needs of those who are part of these groups. Even if this requires greater organizational efforts in terms of funding and time, ensuring equitable and diverse representation among young changemakers is essential for developing effective solutions for all. Support programs should pay attention to address specific needs in terms of organizational set up and impact of their initiatives.

Recommenda­tions from the Possibilists themselves.

Who we are

Initiated by ChangemakerXchange, The Possibilists is an alliance of 16 of the world’s largest youth social innovation networks. They have a combined total reach of thousands of young changemakers, activists and startup social entrepreneurs globally. Together we deliver real insights into the lives and work of changemakers and co-create systemic solutions to improve the conditions for Possibilists everywhere.

Three steps we aim to take now

With all their passion, commitment and creativity, imagine what young changemakers could do if they were supported in really meaningful ways.
To that end we have launched the Ecosystem Solutions Initiative.

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Sourcing solutions
Step 1: Sourcing and selection
Initiatives, who offer support to young changemakers and address the key recommendations presented in The Possibilists report can submit their solutions to our global digital database.
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Giving visibility
Step 2: Repository of solutions
We create a freely accessible digital database of the best offers and connect them to thousands of young changemakers in the alliance's collective networks and beyond. This database is set to launch in February 2022.
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Connected eco-system
Step 3: Online Meet-Ups
We regularly gather the innovators behind the solutions, alliance members and young changemakers via various interactive online sessions focused on peer-learning and collective action. The first such meeting took place in November 2021 and more will follow.

Voices from around the world

Young changemakers around the world are willing to take on the world’s greatest challenges to create a better future, but they can’t do it alone. It’s time for all of us to step up!

Maria-Clara-Magalhaes_the-Possibilists
Maria Clara Magalhaes
Be.Labs Recife/Brazil
“To reach my desirable 2030 future, I must act now. The future has been entrusted to me, I need to be bold and bright. If not now, when? I do all my projects because someone needs to do it. If not me, who?”
Alhassan-Baba-Muniru_the-Possibilists
Alhassan Baba Muniru
“We have colonized the earth and we see ourselves as separate from nature - and hence we also deny climate change. These are the things that keep me up at night. I hope that our generation will be able to change some of this for the better.”
“I think we are pace setters, our job is to challenge certain things and the status quo. I believe sometimes as changemakers we may not live to see the change we strive for. Simply because our work is bigger than us.”

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