“Sometimes, just believing in someone is the best way to help”
During the first edition of the Young Changemaker of the Year award in Finland, Mari Tikkanen was one of the mentors that supported the You Tell Me collective to grow and develop their social initiative, making their voices heard in wider professional networks.
Today, as we launch the second edition of the award, we had the pleasure to talk to Mari Tikkanen and learn more about the outcomes from this mentoring programme:
You have worked together with Ashoka to support inspiring young changemakers. What would you say this engagement has brought you, from a personal & professional perspective?
Mari Tikkanen: I have really enjoyed engaging with the young changemakers through this programme. I have been energized by their commitment and impressed by their focus and ambition. I have also learned a lot from them. I didn’t really have a good understanding of some of the very real, acute aspects of the climate crisis that I have come to learn about through the collective, particularly about the impact of the construction industry. It has awakened me in many ways.
We have as a result also taken bigger steps within Scope to bring this to the fore of our own work, for example in designing climate smart health facilities in Asia and Africa.
What are the things that motivate you to continue this engagement? Are there specific tools or advice you hope to pass on to our young changemakers based on your experience?
Mari Tikkanen: I have worked in the social impact space for 25 years, and it can be quite tough.
I feel fortunate to have had one person in particular through this time who I have been able to lean on, who believed in the work, who spurred me on when I felt like giving up.
Sharing tools and experiences is all very well, that’s useful for sure, but sometimes just believing in someone is the best way to help. So I guess I hope I can be there in that way for someone in their changemaking journey.
What common denominators have you seen among young changemakers working on solving societal challenges? Are there skills you think are especially important for them?
Mari Tikkanen: I think most changemakers have a strong reaction to injustice or a wish to right a wrong. Given most unresolved issues don’t have clear solutions, it helps to have a creative mindset and be comfortable navigating new territory.
Being able to break down huge goals into pragmatic steps is also critical for progression.
Lastly, given its hard work and an uphill battle most of the time, you need a healthy dose of self-belief and stubbornness, as well as some good old sisu (perseverance) and resilience to keep going!
What would you tell a young person who wants to solve a problem they care about in their community but don’t know where to begin?
Mari Tikkanen: Just start, every endeavor ever launched begins small, with plans drawn up at the kitchen table, all good ideas grow through wobbly, unsure first steps… I would also advise to talk to people and to ask lots of questions:
Do you see the world is different today from the world you grew up in? If yes, do you see new possibilities for young people to pave the way towards systems change?
Mari Tikkanen: Yes, in many ways it’s so much better. On the whole, millions more people can live healthier, dignified, more fulfilling lives. Advancements have been made in upholding more people’s human rights and in addressing racial, gender or sexual discrimination. But it's not enough, of course. We are far from where we should and could be, people's rights are trampled on daily, many communities face increasing hardship, our consumption is unsustainable, climate change is very real and scary.
The list is long, and my generation hasn’t done enough, we need young people to lead the way in tackling these very complex issues, and our job is really just to help where we can, share what we know, open doors and get out of the way.
Ashoka’s award for Young Changemakers 2022
We are excited to launch the 2022 edition of the Young Changemaker of the Year Award, in which Mari Tikkanen will be also part of the mentorship programme.
Want to apply?
If you are interested in this award, apply yourself and/or nominate a candidate.