More Power To Youth: Six TED Talks to Empower Young Minds

Youth empowerment refers to young people embodying their agency and capacity to make decisions and implement changes in their own lives and in wider society. At its core, it is rooted in the attitudes, cultures and structures that young people participate in within society. When youth acquire the authority and ability to envision, map, execute, critique and challenge their reality, it opens up opportunities to change the world as we know it. The materialisation of youth empowerment can lead to unparalleled social benefits, including reduced unemployment, poverty eradication, lower crime, improved governance, better education, and more sustainable national growth and technological development. Since youth empowerment is not an outcome but an attitudinal, structural and cultural process, it can (like most things related to “social change”) get a little complicated. If you are an aspiring young leader or if you work with the changemakers of tomorrow, these six TED motivational talks related to youth empowerment will set you thinking, and hopefully, empower you on your journey ahead.

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

1. “BEING YOUNG AND MAKING AN IMPACT” – by Natalie Warne

At 17, and passionate about social causes, Natalie Warne decided to forgo university and to advocate on behalf of the humanitarian aid organisation, Invisible Children. During this time, she succesfully led a nationwide campaign that got featured on CNN and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Presently a film editor in Los Angeles, Warne shares her inspiring story and the message that no one is too young to change the world. You can watch the talk here.

2.  “MY WISH: ONCE UPON A SCHOOL” – by Dave Eggers

Accepting his 2008 TED Prize, author Dave Eggers asks the TED community to personally and creatively engage with local public schools. He shares how his 826 Valencia tutoring centre inspired others around the world to do the same. You can watch the talk here.

3.  “KIDS CAN TEACH THEMSELVES” – by Sugata Mitra

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own, and went on to teach other children. In this talk, Mitra raises an important question: what else can children teach themselves? You can watch the talk here.

4.  “HOW TO EDUCATE LEADERS? LIBERAL ARTS” – by Patrick Awuah

A liberal arts education is critical to forming true leaders, claims university head Patrick Awuah, because it builds decision-making skills, an ethical framework and a broad vision. He left the US and his career at Microsoft to found Ashesi Unversity, a liberal arts school in his home nation of Ghana, Africa. In this talk, he speaks passionately about dreaming, doing and leading. You can watch the talk here.

5.  “A WARRIOR’S CRY AGAINST CHILD MARRIAGE” – by Memory Banda

When Memory Banda’s sister reached puberty, she was sent to a traditional “initiation camp” that teaches girls “how to sexually please a an” and got pregnant at the age of 11. Banda, however, refused to go. Instead, she organised others and asked her community’s leader to issue a bylaw to prevent girls from being forced into marriage before the age of 18. Banda, now an advocate for girls’ rights in Malawi, shares her incredible story in this talk. You can watch the talk here.

6.  “WANT TO BE AN ACTIVIST? START WITH YOUR TOYS” – by McKenna Pope

McKenna Pope’s younger brother loved to cook, but was reluctant to use an Easy-Bake Oven because it was also a toy for girls. So at 13, Pope started an online petition for the American toy company Hasbro to change the Easy-Bake Oven’s pink-and-purple colour scheme, and to market it as a unisex product. In this talk, Pope makes the case for genderneutral toys. You can watch the talk here.


Jay Boolkin is passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. He believes that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and is enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission. Jay was selected as a 2015 Myer Innovation Fellow, one of Australia’s top 50 young social entrepreneurs by the Foundation for Young Australians, and the Young Entrepreneur Finalist in the Sydney SHINE Awards. He blogs at Social Good Stuff and is the founder of Social Change Central and Promise or Pay. Email him at jay@socialgoodstuff.com or connect with him on Twitter.