Elly Savatia: Mobilizing young changemakers through the SDGs in Kenya and Nigeria
Elly’s venture at a glance:
Innovate4SDGs Initiative educates, advocates, and offers a platform to mobilize young people around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Through an alternative curriculum to Kenya’s traditional education, the venture enables young people to further their global citizenship and problem-solving skills to prepare them to be changemaker working towards achieving the SDGs.
The venture hosts open discussions, debates, design thinking sessions, and networking with other peers for a variety of backgrounds to achieve these goals.
Since the summer of 2019, Innovate4SDGs has impacted over 3000 students.
Amplifying the energy of young people, Elly confidently believes in the capacity of his generation to design and shape their future for a more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable world. The focus of his venture is deeply rooted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as Elly recognizes these goals are not meant for one country or organization to achieve, but rather a global effort where everyone is a powerful contributor. Elly’s story illustrates the importance of teamwork as he recognizes the fundamental value and role young people can play to accomplish the SDGs.
Elly's Changemaker Journey
Fascinated by electronics growing up, Elly Savatia remembers pulling apart electronics to understand how the devices operated. Elly distinctly recalls learning about the word “innovation” for this first time when he was 13 years old, which ignited him to pursue his curiosity of technology at home and throughout primary school. This innate inquisitiveness later earned him the title of the best student in Science and Innovation at his school.
Elly, never feeling satisfied with traditional education, sought out experiential learning opportunities throughout high school to find like-minded peers and engage in real world problem-solving. As Chairman of his school’s Science Club, Elly learned about and entered an Innovate Kenya Competition. His project, a novel robotic and inclusive mobility solution for wheelchair users, earned him a spot as a finalist in a national Bootcamp. This Bootcamp introduced Elly to design thinking and innovation for social good, which mirrored his design to increase wheelchair accessibility in buildings in Nairobi. Back at his high school, Elly joined a club that exposed him to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which connected his individual interest for technology to a global movement.
A tipping point came when Elly participated in the Climate Action Project, a global, student-centered program involving 250 schools across 69 countries. Elly and his peers dived into SDG No. 13, Climate Action and brought conversations about climate change into their classrooms. Partnering with the British Council, Elly and his friends participated in environmental talks at the embassy and planted trees in front of their school. Altogether, these enriching experiences in school encouraged Elly to start his own venture and take a gap year after high school to materialize his passion in international development.
However, Elly was frustrated by the lack of public knowledge around the SDGs and assumption that only the UN or national governments could take action to achieve these goals. He says, “the sustainable development goals are an undeniably a concrete plan to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world and the process of attaining them starts with knowing them for the good of everyone and involving everyone” to achieve the goals.” So, Elly enrolled in an online course about teaching the Sustainable Development Goals, which lead to his venture, Innovate4SGDs Initiative. The goal of the venture is to foster a culture of young changemaking to achieve the SDGs.
By mobilizing his peers on What’s App, Elly rallied together a team of enthusiastic teenagers to research the SDGs online and strategize how to bring this knowledge into classrooms. His team of five other young people are instrumental to the venture, co-leading an on and offline network of young people to learn about pressing challenges and strategize solutions in light of the SDGs. By hosting discussions, debates, design thinking sessions, and networking opportunities, the team enables “students with global citizenship skills and problems solving skills to prepare them to be changemakers” for fair and sustainable development.
Last March, the team eagerly partnered with Dr. Ken Silburn, a global expert in STEM education, to introduce STEM education to students in marginalized communities across Nairobi's public schools. Since the summer of 2019, Innovate4SGDs Initiative has impacted over 3,000 students in both Kenya and Nigeria, 70% of who did not know what the SDGs were prior to the initiative.
Elly harnesses the power of changemaking, saying that “through the small acts of global citizenship, we will transform our world into a much better place for humanity where young people actively involved in shaping the kind of future of Africa we want.” Amplified by the energy and capabilities of young people across Africa and the world, Elly’s message to his peers is to “not wait for tomorrow and not to wait for permission to take action to the problems we see in our communities, but let us do what we can today and right now.”
Elly did not wait until he graduated high school to be a changemaker, but rather consciously sought out opportunities to explore his passion in technology, while subconsciously harnessing his changemaking power.