• The Davos Lab Millennial Manifesto provides principles to guide youth activism in a post-COVID world marked by greater examples of systemic inequalities.
  • It offers a way forward to create a more inclusive world.
  • Read the report "Davos Labs: Youth Recovery Plan" here.

The long-term ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have unmasked and widened global inequities across health, education, the economy, the environment and more. The cascading crises also amplified the need for courageous leadership that drives collective, global action towards systemic change.

As the Global Shapers Community reflects on our 10-year anniversary, we believe that our generation and the next generation must work together to leave behind a world better, more equitable and more inclusive than the one we inherited.

Youth activism has given rise to global movements that sway public opinion and pressure political and economical systems to operate more inclusively. The protests in social media and in the streets call for action to address our existential environmental crisis and include historically oppressed communities, including people of color, women, indigenous people and others.

At the same time, civil unrest is fueled by high levels of distrust in our capacity to change. More young people hold faith in governance by a system of artificial intelligence than by a fellow human being. Yet, we need to use these most human and community-centered principles as a compass when navigating the complex paths ahead.

The new report from the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community, "Davos Lab: Youth Recovery Plan," makes our generational challenge clear: How do we upskill an entire generation to create a society that is fit for the future, in a way that brings the economy back into balance with nature, built around an infrastructure of wellbeing, and that makes racial, gender, digital access, and intergenerational parity the norm?

The next question is for 1.8 billion young people: What will it take to unleash the energy and passion of youth leaders and activists to dismantle inequitable systems and work together to build this more inclusive future?

Image: World Economic Forum Davos Labs

Advocating for a more inclusive world

To mount the response required to usher in this new world, the Millennial Manifesto team - a component of the Davos Lab - held dialogues on what a matured form of youth activism could look like. Through a process that engaged diverse Global Shapers from every continent, some of the world's most impactful social entrepreneurs, and experienced grassroots activists, the purpose of the dialogues was to devise principles to guide young people as they advocate for a more inclusive post-COVID period.

Two critical questions guided these dialogues: What are the barriers that have hindered progress? And, what key values, principles and practices will enable us to foster long-lasting systemic impact for the next decade?

As part of the Millennial Manifesto design process, we took time to harvest learnings from the Global Shapers Community over the past 10 years, we focused on the the timeless principles from role models we admire, we were inspired by insights shared by teenage change-makers, we reflected on existing coalitions and calls to action, we drew on the pitfalls of well-intended youth movements borne out of the 2008 financial crisis (e.g. the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring), and we engaged in conversations with seasoned leaders through Catalyst 2030.

6 principles to guide youth activism

The Davos Lab Millennial Manifesto is an attempt to redefine youth activism’s parameters and efficacy in a post-COVID world marked by greater examples of systemic inequalities. This Millennial Manifesto acts as a guiding North Star for our community of more than 10,000 young leaders in nearly 450 cities around the world, by providing timeless principles to sharpen their activism into their later years.

What is a Global Shaper?

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people under the age of 30 who are working together to drive dialogue, action and change to address local, regional and global challenges.

The community spans more than 8,000 young people in 165 countries and territories.

Teams of Shapers form hubs in cities where they self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. The focus of the projects are wide-ranging, from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities.

Examples of projects include Water for Life, a effort by the Cartagena Hub that provides families with water filters that remove biological toxins from the water supply and combat preventable diseases in the region, and Creativity Lab from the Yerevan Hub, which features activities for children ages 7 to 9 to boost creative thinking.

Each Shaper also commits personally and professionally to take action to preserve our planet.

The six principles are:

1. We will create space for intergenerational dialogue. We will listen and learn from one another – past, present and future. We will respect the global context and that all parts of the world co-exist. We will share learnings to avoid replication. We will test, iterate and improve our approach to become better leaders and ancestors.

2. We will ask big questions to advance bold solutions. We will take time to learn why structures are the way they are and to know our communities’ histories, before we take action. We will recognize that co-creation begins with consultation to understand systems. We will make decision making information accessible to be truly inclusive.

3. We will pursue systems change and collective action. We will build bridges within and across communities to strengthen the structures that work and dismantle those that don’t. We will set ambitious goals and move from talk to action. We will focus on local changes that can lead to global transformations and celebrate our progress.

4. We will make space for diverse lived experiences. We will build authentic relationships with communities most impacted by inequities and injustices. We will acknowledge why we care about issues and who we are in relation to them. We will join forces, share power and make decisions in open and transparent ways.

5. We will embrace uncomfortable conversations. We will surrender our privilege and give everyone a seat at the table. We will engage to listen, understand and co-create solutions. We will create brave spaces for ideas to be heard, questioned and challenged. We will recognize the complex intersectionality of social change.

6. We will care for ourselves, others and our ecosystem. We will be kind and considerate. We will practice self- and community-care. We will safeguard mental health and well-being. We will find balance between patience and impatience. We will be authentic, vulnerable and radically inclusive. We will protect our planet and common future.

We invite leaders and movements who share our vision for a more inclusive future to join us in living into these values and working together to drive a more equitable recovery.