Youth is the key to our future: Meet the winners of this year’s Young Changemaker Award

Young changemakers of the year


The third edition of the Young Changemaker of the Year award continues to grow with an increasing number of applicants, young leading social innovators who want to make this world a better place, for the good of all. Meet the winners of this year's edition below.

Today, we are delighted to announce the two winners of this year’s edition, who will embark on a journey of mentorship support and strategic coaching during the upcoming months, as part of Ashoka’s international network of changemakers:  

Panashe Kauhanen, Founder of FASHCENE and Maija Kuivalainen, All in-advocate and activator, are passionate changemakers making positive societal change in the world – displaying leadership, empathy, creativity, and the critical thinking skills necessary to identify a problem and propose a solution to it. 

Young people are the key to our future. No matter how you look at it, the ones who understand what we need in today’s society are the ones who live in it.” 

Panashe was born in Zimbabwe, raised in South Africa and grew up in Finland. He is a musician, stylist, artist of different forms, model and creative director for brands, films etc. Panashe’s main focus is fashion that he uses as his tool to promote inclusion among youth.  

As the Founder of FASHCENE, Panashe created a platform for young people aged 15-25 where everyone can show their talents in a safe and welcoming environment.  

FASHCENE is Åbo/Turku’s first ever Fashion show held annually in the city with live performances and selected designers (Independent, Students or Freelancers). Through FASHCENE, Panashe aims to give youth a voice and a platform where they may freely express themselves, without the fear of being judged for doing what they love and taking a different path to what is considered ordinary.


Through FASHCENE, Panashe and their team hope to also help young people find the hidden talents they never knew they had, as well as help them find their direction and next steps in life. As Panashe expresses: “Without fear of failure to do what they love, without the shackles of not having the right education or anything of the such.” 

Employment for those who want to join the fashion industry without a formal education and truly have the drive and passion to give it all is one of the main objectives of FASHCENE, where they aim to bring together street culture, indigenous culture and cultural history to bring them all to the spotlight in a different way –welcoming 15 to 25 year-old youth of all origins, offering something they are interested in such as Art Fashion or Music while simultaneously educating and entertaining them with the hopes of creating a brighter future. 

Despite recently launching in 2022, FASHCENE has already reached a wide impact. In Panashe’s words:

“For the first time, youth are coming together for something bigger than just themselves all orchestrated by the minds of our determined youth. It is very inspiring.” 


Maija Kuivalainen

“Love motivated me to start my journey as an advocate and global citizen. Love towards people, animals and planet. Understanding that we need to put all in to ensure a livable future for us, our children and the future generations.” 

When Maija started her changemaking journey as an advocate, she mainly influenced on individuals' behavioral change. At this day, five years later, she understands the whole picture and the urgent need for systems change as well as the key role of collaboration in all different levels. 

By All in, Maija is a person who has found a way to connect the levels of advocacy: building bridges between different actors. In 2018, Maija became a climate activist and one year later, she created the concept of her All in -idea. Soon after that, she established the Kestävä Pieksämäki group.  

As a result of good collaboration with representatives from major political parties and the Kestävä Pieksämäki-group, the city of Pieksämäki created its own climate program in June 2021. It was a pioneering work as the new climate act obliges municipalities to draw up a climate plan from the beginning of 2023.

Maija Kuivalainen

In 2021 Maija was elected as a youth climate delegate of Finland for 2021-2022 and she also became elected as a city councilor in her home city of Joensuu. At the EU youth forum, her initiative received praise and support from experts and, in May 2022, Maija received a grant from the project NUBF - Nordic Youth in Sustainable Communities and thanks to it, eight Finnish young advocates were able to take part in the UN Stockholm+50 environment conference in Stockholm in June 2022.

The voice of young people is still discriminated, youth-washed in our societies. The eco-crisis affects especially the future of young people, and we have to solve it together — intergenerationally.

Young people have the energy and the ideas, older people have the experience and the wisdom. We need to connect these strengths to succeed and that's why I found the Idea of All-In.” 

Maija’s idea of a Nordic youth climate network was also strengthened through different training sessions she co-steered together with different organizations like Finnish Nature League (camp counselor training), JEF Finland (youth advocacy & ecocide), SYL, i.e., the national Union of University Students in Finland (ecocide and climate advocacy). 

The vision of Maija’s initiative is to connect different advocacy groups and people, jointly fixing the causes of inefficiency and building an influential All in -network that truly creates change and makes decisionmakers responsible to deliver. 

Maija Kuivalainen

In Maija’s words: “One of the main problems of Finnish environment and climate advocacy has been that the actors are working in silos. Together with All in-network, those members could jointly fight to solve the triple planetary crisis – climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and the root causes of these crises like overconsumption, inequality and lack of common regulation. Once the network would have been built, it could be a significant asset to solve any societal problems, as ecocrisis is interlinked with all the aspects of our societies.” 

From her perspective, influential communities need more decision-makers and wider connections. Actors from different backgrounds who commit to changing the culture of politics as well and genuinely strengthening cooperation across generations as well as across borders. All in is open to all influencers and those interested in influence. The target group is especially Members of Parliament and Finnish decision-makers in the European Union, as well as companies and various stakeholders. 

When asking Maija where she stands today, she firmly shares:

“I would build operations with the support of Ashoka's mentoring and influencer network. By preparing together with the all-in activators who commit to the network, a strategy and roadmap for achieving our goal.” 


What’s ahead 

Through this project, developed in partnership with The Louise and Göran Ehrnrooth Foundation, Panashe and Maija will take part in a four-months mentorship program, receiving tools for development and access to Ashoka's international network of leading social entrepreneurs. 

During the program, experts in communication, strategic consultants, and key experts from the social innovation field will support the two winners of this year’s award to further develop their ideas and scale up their impact. In addition to the two laureates, the top finalists of this year’s edition will also get visibility and access to Ashoka's global network, participating at impact entrepreneurship events and Ashoka’s key community gatherings. 

You can learn more about the award in this short film:  


About Ashoka

Ashoka is a forerunner in the world of changemaking, being the world's largest network of social entrepreneurs and changemakers, established in 1980 operating in over 90 countries worldwide. We identify and support system-changing social entrepreneurs and emerging young changemakers with the mission to build an Everyone a Changemaker world, building and cultivating a community of Fellows, Young Changemakers, Changemaker Institutions, and beyond who see that the world requires everyone to be a changemaker – a person that sees themselves capable of creating large-scale, positive change in one way or the other. 

Ashoka in Finland was established three years ago with the aim of strengthening the Finnish changemaking and social innovation ecosystem. At Ashoka Nordic, we want to select and support social entrepreneurs; empower children and youth growing up as changemakers; and unleash our partners potential. 


About the Young Changemaker of the Year award 

The Young Changemaker of the Year award is one tool to strengthen the ecosystem and to both empower youth in Finland as well as to support young changemakers in making positive change in society. The winners of the programme get (among other things) visibility, mentoring for four months and a very unique access to the global Ashoka network of 3800+leading social entrepreneurs in over 90 countries. 

The selection process starts with someone nominating a candidate they think would be suitable for the programme – this means that someone in their own network has seen their potential and wanted to support them on their journey). Afterward, and based on the information from the nominations and applications phase, the evaluated candidates go through an evaluation process based on seven criteria: ethical fiber; entrepreneurialism; new idea; innovative solution; cooperation; social impact and coaching. 

After in-depth interviews with the top 10 candidates, a jury selects the two laurates of the award. The jury members who are joining us this year were:  

  • Anna Fromond, an entrepreneur, founder of Cigale & Fourmi, investor and member of the board of the Louise och Göran Ehrnrooth Foundation. 

  • Arto Sivonen, founder of Måndag, an impact driven facilitator and an urban activist. 

  • Amanda Sundell, Amanda is the Director of Ashoka Nordic with a background as a social entrepreneur. 

  • Bo-Erik Ekström, Member of Ashoka Nordic's advisory board in Finland, Bo-Erik has been conducting management consulting for more than 30 years 

  • Jesper Ryynänen, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of GraphoGame, an education technology company from Finland. 

  • Bambi Dang, Co-founder and CEO of Finest Future, startup ecosystem developer, entrepreneur, startup mentor, and equality advocate. 

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