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Just Say Yes

How I found myself face-to-face with our future leaders


By Benjamin Taylor, Bachelor of Arts


I came back to university this year- in my third different degree. Straight out of school, and the year following, I’d forced myself into courses that weren’t a good fit. I’d become disillusioned with the process- submitting assessments, sitting through lectures and poring over readings, for subjects I just wasn’t interested in.


I went away and focused on my creative outlets. Books, music, acting. I still do them all, and I’m still actively chasing a career in all of them.


Searching - scouring - for the right word, the right gesture, the right note, forces you to look inwards, and lean on your instincts. To stop lying to yourself.


In my free time, I would engage with everything happening in the world. News, books, podcasts, documentaries, films. I’d always had an insatiable appetite to learn. But I had nothing to show for it.


When the pandemic hit, the entertainment and arts industries were crippled overnight. No auditions, no shows. I could still write, and I did. But the thought kept creeping in- we’ll be shut down for a long time.


Would there ever be a better time to study online?


I was lured back. A new degree- International Relations and Social Justice, minor in Journalism. And I had that experience from the creative world with me. Go for it.


An email popped up one day for the Global Leadership Program. The values and interests of the program aligned with my own. Why not take every opportunity to get the most out of your studies? Yes.

Another email came, of the various opportunities the Program passes through to students. A ‘Young Changemaker’s Challenge’, from the Greater Sydney Commission, stood out. Put forward a proposal, an initiative, the form of a video. Okay, yes.


I thought about it. What would make a difference to our city? What could we implement? Had anything stood out to me, in the wash of the pandemic?

From the Young Changemaker's Challenge, Greater Sydney Commission

At different times, during outbreaks, we’d been forced to remain in our own local areas. Walking tracks had been flooded with families and households. Sporting fields had been filled with small groups of people, using open spaces for exercise, or freedom.


Were we getting the most out of our sporting fields- in ‘normal’ times? Weekend sport was a central part of my childhood, as it is for many other Australians. I learnt many of my life-lessons around teams, at the fields. How could we make the most of them, as transmissive vectors into the household? How could we use the infrastructure and institutions of community sport to lead and involve those very same communities?

From the Young Changemaker's Challenge, Greater Sydney Commission


I put together Green Grassroots- aligning community sporting clubs with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As I saw it, local clubs could align with the SDGs. They could play their part in promoting the values the Goals hoped to share across the world. The UN requires those aligning with the SDGs to put forward a plan of how they are going to action the values. How would the clubs do it? - Placards attached to the publicly-visible clubhouses, giving easy directions on how to improve recycling and sustainability. Featuring both the club and the UN SDG logo. Directions children and families can take home.

- A streamlining of the clubs’ supply lines, for their canteens. Focusing on re-using the swathes of weekend waste via technology, turning it into sell-able merchandise.

From Young Changemaker's Challenge, Greater Sydney Commission

Yes?


Yes. I was lucky enough to be chosen as a finalist. The Commission facilitated two mentor sessions, with professionals in sustainability fields. This experience was invaluable. Here I was discussing my own idea with people who had dedicated their lives to cleaning up the world. They helped refine the idea, and prepare me for the pitch.


The finalist presentations were forced online, with an outbreak. The day itself was no less inspiring. Young people from all across the city had come together to present initiatives on housing, employment and growth, and sustainability. There were our future leaders- encouraged on by a senior panel of judges. YES.


Lack of young, diverse representation in positions of leadership had left me disheartened about our future. As a nation, and as an international community. My experience with the Young Changemaker’s Challenge went a long way to changing that. The future are coming. Given the chance, they will lead us into a cleaner, brighter future.


Green Grassroots didn’t win. But the experience had been valuable enough. It couldn’t have come if I didn’t say yes again, to studying. If I didn’t say yes, to putting forward an initiative.


One of the Commission panelists liked the idea so much, they connected with me afterwards. To help bring the idea to life. Yes.