The outstanding work undertaken by the student-founded Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth (SDSN Youth) over the past three years has been acknowledged with an unexpected US $1 million in philanthropic funding for the initiative.
The significant funding injection has seen Sam Loni, one of SDSN Youth’s founders and former Monash student, relocate to the USA to become the full-time Global Coordinator for SDSN Youth. Sam had been leading SDSN Youth in an honorary capacity for almost three years whilst based at Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) and is now working out of the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network Secretariat in New York City.
The funding from Human Act, a Danish-based global development organisation, was announced by the organisation’s Founder and CEO, Djaffar Shalchi, at the SDSN Leadership Council meeting (in September 2017) in New York.
Mr Shalchi caught the entire room by surprise when he offered SDSN Youth one million US dollars at the conclusion of Sam’s presentation on the initiative’s activities and progress. When Mr Shalchi made the announcement, the room fell silent, then erupted into cheers and applause.
“I never imagined anything like this happening and I don’t think anyone else in the room did either” said Sam, who previously studied Political Science and International Relations at Monash. “We were all speechless and extremely shocked, and incredibly grateful”.
Chair of Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Professor John Thwaites said it was a real credit to Sam and the others in SDSN Youth to receive such substantial philanthropic funding.
“It’s very significant that a major philanthropist has put his support behind a global youth movement to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, said Professor Thwaites who is also Co-Chair of the Leadership Council of the Global Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
“This is an initiative that started at Monash and grew across Australia and then across the world. The funding demonstrates just how Monash is making a real difference on the world stage and also highlights that the passion and skills of young people are going to be a key factor in whether we successfully implement these goals,” he said.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by world leaders in 2015 and aim to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure equality and prosperity for all by 2030.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched SDSN in 2012 to mobilise global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical problem-solving for sustainable development, including the design and implementation of the SDGs. Monash, through MSDI, hosts the SDSN regional network for the Australia/Pacific region.
SDSN Youth educates young people about the Sustainable Development Goals and provides opportunities for them to pioneer innovative solutions to address the world's biggest challenges. Since its launch, it has grown to encompass a team of over 140 young volunteers from over 30 countries, with a wide range of programs that have engaged tens of thousands of young people around the world. The significant funding will allow SDSN Youth to expand their work.
“This funding means everything because it shows that all the effort that I and the other co-founders and all these young people from all around the world have put in, is not only being recognised, but being invested in,” Sam said.
“It shows that we are being seen as a pivotal part of what these goals are trying to achieve and it recognises the importance of the youth empowerment movement and our ability to make a difference.”
Sam said the money will be used to turn many of its pilot programs into much larger scale projects.
“This $1 million ensures that SDSN Youth lives on and can sustain itself for years to come and ensure the programs and initiatives have the impact they were designed to have.”