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The Kofi Annan Changemakers: An Intergenerational Dialogue for Impact

Kofi Annan believed in the importance of youth leadership. ‘Young people”, he said “should be at the forefront of global change and innovation.’ At the Kofi Annan Foundation, we aim to facilitate youth engagement and ensure that young people’s voices are heard. The Kofi Annan Changemakers (KACM) Initiative, launched in 2021, offers 12 young leaders the opportunity to interact with and build confidence around well-established leaders and international experts during a 12-month intergenerational dialogue for impact.

Our first cohort of Kofi Annan Changemakers will complete their programme in June 2022. The young leaders convened in Geneva at the end of 2021 for a face-to-face module on leadership, resilience, negotiations, and forging consensus, and to fine-tune their project and pitching skills.

“The programme wasn’t just about improving our skills to enhance our projects, it also given us the platform to meet new people that could help us in our changemaking work.”
Junbert, Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021

Kofi Annan Changemakers 2021 in Geneva. From left to right: Abdul, Irene, Sharon, Zeinorin, Lourence, Leon, Chmba, Lakshwin, Sophiyat, Junbert.

Helping youth extend their impact

Designed to help young changemakers around the world connect with more senior leaders, the KACM initiative reflects on their individual goals and gives these young people an opportunity to scale up the impact of their work.

The programme focuses on young changemakers committed to improving the lives of their communities and peers. From defending children’s rights to tackling climate change or fighting for food security, the young leaders work across many fields.

These future leaders are working toward the Sustainable Development Goals locally, and our aim is to help them scale up their work, beyond the scope of their own projects.

“In many ways, I felt I was dealing with a future leader; an excellent orator and someone who gives thought to many aspects of development that can be improved in his society.”
– Mohandas Panicker, Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021 mentor

A one-of-a-kind programme

Each year, 12 young leaders from around the world – and all under the age of 30 – are selected from dozens of nominations.

Kofi Annan Changemakers 2021 in Geneva

Kofi Annan Changemakers 2021 in Geneva

Through dialogue and interaction, the changemakers learn from the experience of experts and gain insights into Kofi Annan’s unique leadership and values – directly from some of his most trusted advisors. The young leaders take part in two immersive modules – one held virtually and the other one held in person in Geneva – each filled with presentations from high-level leaders, intergenerational dialogue, and in-depth discussions.

During the programme, the changemakers also participate in practical workshops, meet with established leaders, and learn useful professional skills. During their meetings with international organizations, they can gain further support for their individual projects.

The changemakers keep in touch through a WhatsApp group, allowing them to bond with fellow young leaders and share advice as they each develop their projects.

An intergenerational dialogue with impact

Part of what makes the KACM initiative unique is the pairing of the changemakers with experts in their field of work.

Each changemaker is matched with a mentor to guide them on areas including how to plan, pitch and scale up their project and how best to use the seed grant received during the programme.

The mentorship seeks to benefit both changemakers and mentors through dynamic, inspiring, and authentic dialogue and the sharing of experience.

“The key word of our relationship is sharing.”
René Kirszbaum, Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021 mentor

The mentors benefit by learning from and working side by side with their mentees, gaining insight into issues that young people are facing today and discovering the potential of youth as key agents for development and peace.

The changemakers discussed various issues with their mentors, not only about their work but also about personal challenges and how to enhance their competencies.

“My mentor’s expertise in development work not only helped to sharpen my proposal writing skills, but also taught me how to negotiate and be assertive.”
– Sharon, Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021

Kofi Annan Changemakers 2021 and their mentors

Kofi Annan Changemakers 2021 and their mentors

Empowering youth

The mission of the Kofi Annan Changemakers initiative is to elevate the voices of young people, empower them and foster their desire to make a positive change – in their communities and globally.

The changemakers gain valuable insight into Kofi Annan’s leadership style, build their confidence, and develop a network of experts interested in supporting them with their projects.

“The program completely exceeded my expectations. The speakers, facilitators and topics discussed were very relevant to my work and goals and I overall enjoyed being a comfortable space and being able to ask questions.”
– Sophiyat, Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021

As a participant in the programme, the young leaders learn valuable skills and knowledge from high-level leaders and can connect with fellow changemakers from across the globe, who might be working in different areas, but face similar challenges.

“It made me realize that I’m worth a lot more than I have ever imagined myself to be. The fear that the world doesn’t appreciate our work as young people, it has helped me see there are people who greatly appreciate my contribution to the world.”
– Irene, Kofi Annan Changemaker 2021

2021 Kofi Annan Changemakers.

2021 Kofi Annan Changemakers graphic. Author: Kathryn Gichini

The next edition: Kofi Annan Changemakers 2022

At the Foundation, we believe in the power of youth to change the world. Do YOU want to be part of our next cohort? Then find an organization that is willing to nominate you! Or do you know someone your organization has worked with who would be perfect for the Kofi Annan Changemakers 2022 programme? Then send us a nomination!

Interested to learn more about the Kofi Annan Changemakers 2021? Read more about them and their work.


This initiative is supported by Ambassador Jenö Staehelin and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. It is undertaken in partnership with the Greycells Association of Former International Civil Servants for Development and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union and le Centre d’Accueil de la Genève Internationale (CAGI).